If you don’t choose your law firm for its copier, why does your law firm charge you for copies?

Many years ago, when I was with a larger firm, a client told me, “I don’t mind paying your fees, but why do you charge me for copying and postage?”  I took his comment to heart.  Since the original Alterman Law Office opened in 2006 we haven’t charged clients for ordinary copying and postage.  (We do pass through the cost of large outside copying jobs and certified mail.)  It’s our policy to this day, and it inspired this sedate yet slightly edgy advertisement.

We like “Landlords.” Here’s why.

A tip on drafting leases:  Embrace the “Landlord” — no, not that kind of embrace.  Embrace the word.  

William Nickerson, in his classic work on investing in real estate, recommended using the terms “Lessor” and “Lessee” in leases.  He thought that “Landlord” sounded like a relic of the feudal era, and that it offended tenants.  

He may have been right about the effect on tenants, but he was wrong about the effect on contracts.  If you use “Lessor” and “Lessee” to identify the parties to a lease, you’re much more likely to mistake one term for the other when you’re proofreading the agreement.  No one mistakes “Landlord” for “Tenant,” but casual readers can easily mistake “Lessor” for “Lessee.”  It’s a whimsical mistake to make — unless you’re the “Lessor” to whom the lease assigned maintenance and repair responsibilities that you wanted to be the tenant’s responsibility, and that your tenant now wants you to fulfill.   

Don’t be afraid to be the “Landlord” in the lease: it’s a lessor evil (sorry) than being mistaken for the tenant.

A bad contingency clause can produce a dissatisfied buyer

Almost every real estate sale agreement includes some contingencies: conditions that, if not met, will allow the seller or buyer to cancel the sale. The two most common are a financing contingency and a property inspection contingency.

Be sure when you’re writing a contingency that you identify what the contingency actually is. Don’t write “Buyer’s obligation is subject to Buyer obtaining a property inspection,” or (even worse) “This transaction is subject to Buyer obtaining a property inspection.” The actual contingency isn’t the inspection, but the buyer approving the inspection. What if the buyer obtains an inspection, but doesn’t like what the inspector has to say?  The buyer has satisfied the contingency, but is dissatisfied with the property, and likely to be dissatisfied (or worse) with the attorney or agent who drafted the contingency clause.

Instead, write “Buyer’s obligation is subject to Buyer obtaining and approving a professional inspection of the property on or before _______, 2018.”   When the actual contingency is the buyer being happy, say so.