How to choose property finance lawyer – an insider perspective

How to select property finance lawyer - insights from Amit MajithiaSelecting right property finance lawyer is one of the keys to success in any real estate mezzanine finance transaction. As we are launching now the list of real estate mezzanine financing providers, we decided to talk to the industry insiders from Avamore Capital to get their perspective on the selection of property finance lawyer. Here is what we have learned from Amit Majithia.

With a background as a property lawyer and also as a property developer, I have had the privilege of sitting on both sides of the table. Having latterly worked with many lawyers across Europe as a client has given me a new level of respect for lawyers in terms of their attention to detail across multiple complex transactions, dedication to their craft, and the very long hours they work. However, working with the wrong lawyer for you or one that is not experienced enough in the type of deal you are involved in can in certain circumstances lead to a sense of frustration, and in the worst cases can endanger a deal.

A few basic points to always keep in mind when choosing a lawyer:

  1. Experienced, But With The Right Experience

In large law firms there will be a banking and finance department but smaller firms may not have separate dedicated expertise. For property deals where some element of negotiated financing (i.e. something more complicated than a normal mortgage on a personal home) is required, it is crucial that this experience is available in your choice of lawyer. In the current market where there are still many buyers chasing the right property deal this becomes even more important. It will save a lot of time and energy, if you ensure that your choice of lawyer is experienced in dealing with standard lending agreements including debentures, subordination deeds, inter-lender deeds and personal guarantees.

Having worked for part of my career in Europe the only observation I would make about the legal system in the UK is that lawyers tend to specialise very early on and focus on one sector (and even an area within a sector) – whereas on the continent lawyers have more general experience covering more sectors and once they do specialise it tends to be after several years.

Also choose a lawyer that deals with the value level of your transaction; if they generally have clients that have much larger value deals that will give them more in fees there is a possibility that your transaction will drop down in their priority list.

  1. Commercial, Not Academic

Lawyers are encouraged to use their in-house precedents as the ultimate source of contractual material. It is crucial to instruct a lawyer that understands the balance between reducing risk for their client and the overall goal of completing the deal. Overly academic lawyers who cannot take a commercial view on behalf of their clients can cost extra time, money and potentially introduce a lethargy into the deal which can be fatal.

  1. Cheapest Is Not Always Best

It is always tempting to use a cheaper option, but for a large or complicated transactions, the points in this article should be your primary motivators and not the cost. You will quickly forget about the lower hourly rate if you are spending huge amounts of time on the transaction. You do not want to be left with any doubts about potential pockets of risk either. Always go for the right option rather than choosing an option solely because it is the cheaper one.

  1. Time and Communication

The final point I would like to make is one that is overlooked in initial conversations with lawyers and that is the time-frame which you have to complete and whether the lawyer can devote enough time to comply with this. This point is more valid for smaller firms where there are limited human resources.

Bearing in mind that there are sometimes six sets of eyes looking at, and commenting on, contractual documentation – buyer, seller and lender together with their respective lawyers (and possibly separate tax and accountancy advisors) – quick turnaround becomes very important if the process is not to stall.

It is very important that you not only respect your lawyer’s abilities but also that you feel able to communicate with them. This is important as you need to effectively relay your concerns if required. Remember, your lawyer is on your side and is working in your interests, and they should be receptive your worries and requests for information and updates. Find the medium that is most conducive to communication with your lawyer – whether this is in writing, by email or even in person.

At Avamore, we have the good fortune to work with lawyers that tick the boxes on the all of the points above. If you need any further information on which lawyers to choose, whether for a buy-to-let purchase, a refurbishment or development that you are thinking of undertaking, then please visit The Law Society’s website which has a useful database of over 150,000 lawyers listed by geography and area of legal practice.

This article was originally published on Avamore Capital Blog. Re-published with permission.

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Avamore Capital is a special situations lender that provides bridging and development loans to property traders, property developers, property investors, and other property entrepreneurs. Loan sizes are between £0.5m and £5m with larger loans possible in conjunction with its partners. Avamore Capital provides a flexible approach, quick feedback and very fast drawdown, subject to due diligence.
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