Abrams: Why don’t real estate attorneys retire?

abrams-jeff-mug.jpg Abrams

By Jeffrey A. Abrams

I have been practicing law for more than 35 years, and I love my work. It is not a job but a pleasure to help people. People ask me when I might be retiring. I respond, “Why would I retire? I get to work every day with my friends who are my clients, they are all sophisticated, bright and fun to be with (well, most of them,) I am helping them make and protect their money, I can work remotely almost seamlessly, and most of them appreciate what I’m doing for them. Why would I want to retire?”

I compare my life to the litigator friend who can’t retire soon enough. Litigators are usually battling other attorneys with huge intensity – more likely than not, they need to “win” and defeat the other attorney to achieve a favorable outcome. In our real estate world, while we may “battle” the other attorneys, we have a common goal to get a deal done and make everyone happy. Not so much for litigators.

There are other well-known Indianapolis real estate professionals who worked most of their lives or who are working today and have been doing it much longer than me. I knew Melvin Simon, who worked as long as he could before his health declined. He loved his work. He worked with his brother and son and he witnessed his son drive the company to a whole new level of success. Every parent would cherish that opportunity.

All of us in the real estate industry — accountants, brokers, bankers, contractors, developers, investors and attorneys — spend each day challenging our minds to come up with creative solutions to everyday real estate problems. These challenges are fun. They are invigorating and they are rewarding. It is not getting easier as we struggle with governmental regulations, municipalities and neighborhoods trying to resist change, development and redevelopment. Real estate lawyers ask themselves to generate solutions to difficult questions and scenarios. I love looking at perplexing situations that have delayed a transaction to derive a solution. The creative attorneys will usually get to the finish line with a satisfied client that will make all parties in the community proud when the real estate is finally developed or redeveloped. There is no better feeling than to have formulated a unique solution to a problem that has put the brakes on a development.

Time is money for everyone in this industry, and delays can easily jeopardize the consummation of a deal. Unforeseen events could occur. A lender who is ready to fund a loan leaves the bank for another job. A key prospective tenant’s corporate executives decide expanding in Indianapolis is not such a great decision, so they pull the approval of the deal. If you find yourself being pushed by an attorney to get documents executed and to get a deal done, embrace the challenge, for there may be hidden reasons behind the aggressive attitudes. It is also hugely rewarding when the deal gets completed for a number of reasons. If you are involved in a transaction, you get to tell your supervisor, co-worker or partner the deal closed. As important, if the deal closes, you got paid, because almost everyone gets paid something when a deal closes.

When you see the “experienced,” “seasoned” (or as some might suggest, “old”) real estate attorney on the street and start up a conversation, don’t ask him or her when he or she might be retiring, but ask him or her what deal he or she closed recently and what’s next in the pipeline. Most real estate attorneys will be more than happy (subject to attorney-client confidences) to talk about their successes and future successes, because that’s why we enjoy the practice.

Jeffrey A. Abrams is a partner in the real estate and environmental practice group at Benesch Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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