The participants (including me) at a recent meeting discussed starting a series of blogs on various legal topics: alcohol licensing and regulation; corporate matters; litigation issues; wills, estates and probate; and real estate, for example. They (excluding me) agreed that real estate is “boring” and is therefore a blogging challenge. The suggestion so amazed me (and, actually, maybe hurt my feelings somewhat) that I could respond neither yea nor nay. I now have some thoughts.
Several years ago my supervising partner told me that he was bored with law practice. I almost dropped the overnight package I was filling with new document drafts on the largest transaction to date in my early career. He simply sat at the conference room table and watched, “encouraging” me that I could indeed make Federal Express’s pick up deadline and that, even if I did not, I would have about an hour to get to their drop-off at the airport. I now realize that assisting (other than by “encouraging”) would likely have helped him feel better. I also find watching others work boring.
Any profession worth the name must engage. It begins with a determination to learn how and why things work as they do and continues with a determination to improve both its inner workings and outer impacts. The determination to do good work well for the right reasons ties it all together.
Take real estate financing, for example. Young Georgia real estate finance lawyers learn to use deeds to secure debt, or “security deeds,” to secure the borrowers’ obligations to repay the loans to the lenders. I suspect that some stop there, never learning how security deeds differ from “deeds of trust” in states like Tennessee or “mortgages” in states like Florida or why Georgia lenders use them. Learning the common law and statutory histories of these instruments ties them to the histories of the respective states. The development continues with the active federal and state regulatory efforts to correct the excesses and imbalances of lending practices throughout the country, especially in the residential area. State bar associations and courts respond to those efforts with new policies and opinions of their own, such as the recent opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court generally requiring lawyer involvement in real estate closings.
Add to that the realization that real estate lawyers can and do add value to society. Everyone lives and works, and derives sustenance from, somewhere; that “somewhere” is real estate. Real estate lawyers work for and with the various players to maximize its societal benefit. Part of the work is to assure places for the widow, the orphan and alien (as the representatives of all those not represented by other voices) at the table.
All that said, real estate law is not glamourous, notwithstanding developers and investors like Mr. Trump. Most of its work is performed in solitude, in the background. It deals with dirt. Yeah, it’s occasionally tedious; but with reminders of history and knowledge that our work can make differences now and in the future, in society and in individual lives, I put the excitement level of us dirt lawyers at least up there with that of tax lawyers.