Ed Attention: This is the first in a series of articles about changes in legal practice in different regions.
In the pre-COVID period, commercial real estate lawyer Brian Lewis could download a subdivision platform to City Hall and see that it has been processed on the same day.
Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland Real Estate, Development and Finance Group Chairman Lewis of Seattle PLLC said: “You can finish this work in one afternoon.” “You can write your check and then walk out of the recorded platform. This may take about four hours. .”
Those days are over.
“Now, you have to take it down, put it down, and wait. The subdivision doesn’t exist until it’s finished. You have no choice. You are only at the mercy of this process.”
Although Lewis’s company records as much as possible electronically, this is not a platform choice. Lewis said: “The turnaround time is a few weeks.” “Not bad, but slower.”
Commercial real estate practitioners like Lewis are at the mercy of many things in the new pandemic reality-from record and permission barriers to the continued suffering of retail businesses and the landlords who serve them.
Many developments have forced these lawyers to adaptAfter suffering the initial shock, they have also adjusted their daily work to a large extent to the new normal.
John A. Goldstein advises and advises clients on commercial real estate and financial transactions nationwide from the Chicago offices of Greensfelder Hemker and Gale Providing consulting services, he described an experience similar to Lewis’s-at the disposal of a government office, its personnel have moved to work at home.
“We are using virtual notaries, and the processing of documents is much slower than usual. Therefore, the company must provide more guarantees for the title company to ensure that there is no lien.”
Of course, recording is not the only government interaction that takes a long time. Goldstein said that when building codes and residence permits are delayed, this creates a domino effect. If the landlord cannot complete the expansion, the landlord will not be able to collect rent and may not be able to pay the lender.
He said: “Government agencies are trying to figure out a way, but this is uncharted territory in every respect.” “We have never encountered such a thing.”
“Everything is virtual,” said Alan Nochumson, the founder of PC, Nochumson, a four-law firm real estate company based in Philadelphia. “Zone adjustment committees are all virtual. We were unable to file a lawsuit within a short period of time, but the city adjusted it later.”
A new online product allows practitioners to file, but despite this, the process of obtaining approvals and differences is still difficult.
Nochumson said: “Many times, you need a warm body to talk.” “Sometimes, it’s hard. I get a reply for every 10 emails sent.”
Despite the delay, Nochumson reported that his company is busy, and that the clients of the real estate developer are busy. He suspects that this is suppressed energy, because in the early stages of the pandemic, no transactions took place. Recently, he helped a bar to partition and obtained goods from a pizzeria. The company expects to resume normal activities.
In the early days, Nochumson became increasingly worried because most of his work involved district committee hearings.
Before things started again, “I did a lot of marketing and told my clients about the government and told them what they needed to do,” Nochumson said. “I tell my clients,’You must be prepared.'”
Many people accepted his suggestion and are ready to continue after the restrictions are lifted.
“In the first two or three months [of the pandemic] He said that more is to keep people calm and understand the situation. “
“Business as usual”
The recording and permitting process is not the only thing that takes time. Although Goldstein reported that commercial real estate was still being purchased and sold during the pandemic, the transaction took longer to complete because no one was trading on the spot. Everything is via email. In some cases, cars in parking lots have been closed.
Goldstein said: “These things were unheard of before.”
Nevertheless, Goldstein’s approach is consistent. The influx of new types of transactions filled the gap, and he was satisfied with the technology that allowed remote work.
He said: “After the initial shock, this has become a daily routine.” “Business as usual.”
Working from home does produce wrinkles. Goldstein said that in the past, his company had held lunch meetings to discuss customers or marketing or executive administrative work.
“Now, those who work remotely don’t want lunch meetings-they have to feed their children.”
Lewis described similar changes in his approach. He said that the number one difference between these pandemics is that he hasn’t seen customers for nearly a year. Instead, he used e-mail, phone calls and Zoom meetings.
He said: “There is no reduction in communication, but there is no face-to-face communication.” “I used to meet with customers once every three months or so.”
As the meeting progressed, notarization was out of reach. Washington State passed emergency legislation to authorize virtual notaries, and companies must purchase certain software.
Although Lewis has not personally used it, his colleagues report that the system requires multiple verifications. The state’s complex notarization laws (for example, any lease longer than one year must be notarized) will not make it easier.
He said: “Our company finds it difficult to manage.”
All in all, the commercial real estate market in the Seattle area has its place. Lewis said: “We are running into this wave.” “Anyway, many people think we should make some kind of correction.”
Judging from the overheating of the office space rental market and the prevalence of many construction projects, the epidemic may have accelerated this correction. This has proven the many cranes on Seattle’s famous skyline, but Lewis’ bankruptcy has not appeared to be significant rise.
Lewis said: “Before it was hit, the weather had been very hot, but this did not make it into trouble.”
Elizabeth M. Bennett is a business journalist. When she covered the courts in Delaware, she entered the legal press. This rhythm inspired her to go to law school. After several years as a practicing lawyer in the Philadelphia area, she camped in the Pacific Northwest and returned to freelance reports and editing.