Commercial awareness from legal advisers


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Commercial awareness from legal advisers

Reflecting on a recent conversation with a Newmanor Law client, when we posed them the question, what does good service look like to you, we were surprised by their answer. Firstly, although they had worked with different law firms for decades, we were the first firm to ask them this question.

Secondly, after explaining that one of the key aspects of good service for them was a fast response to their communications, whether by email, telephone, text or even WhatsApp message, it was obvious technical legal ability was assumed as a given.

As an experienced real estate solicitor, I have to assume they recognise I would not be a partner in a law firm I helped found, unless I knew a licence from a lease. Interestingly, high on the list of what they look for in their chosen legal advisers is commerciality.

In the current economic climate, I think this is becoming even more important for landlords, developers and tenants in the commercial real estate sector, where profitability is under increasing pressure.

Commerciality is an approach

I’m sure there are a huge number of different definitions for the term ‘commerciality’, dependent on the context or sector, but personally I’m drawn to this one from the Collins Dictionary: ‘commercial quality or character; ability to produce a profit.’

The emphasis is on profit, not knowledge. In the context of the commercial real estate sector, this means leveraging legal expertise to recognise what is important for the client to understand, to get deals done or solve problems promptly.

There may be a lot of small technical issues with a lease or a contract, all of which will need resolving, but some will need addressing more quickly, with more effort, to ensure the deal moves forward along the correct transaction path.

I believe clients in the commercial real estate sector require their legal advisers to explain the best transaction path and the actions needed to get to the finish line. It’s not about spending time resolving legal matters that will have little or no impact on this path – they can be sorted later.

Commerciality is not about technical knowledge; it’s an approach

More than technical ability

This is what being commercial is all about. Clients want a commercial answer to their legal problems not necessarily the most academic or technical. Clients want advisers who understand their business and their objectives. Fewer and fewer appear to want a lawyer who is only interested in displaying their brilliant technical legal knowledge when the issue doesn’t help them get to the desired outcome.

The legal and commercial worlds have changed a lot in a short time and today business acumen is vital for every solicitor advising businesses. Commercial real estate clients want confident solutions to their legal problems and are unlikely to be too interested in the process that delivers these answers.

We founded Newmanor Law to ensure we could meet the changing needs of clients in the commercial real estate sector, where advice must be commercially focused. We work hard to understand the client’s objectives and the context within which the client is seeking advice.

Only then can we tailor our advice to help deliver on those objectives, by defining the most appropriate transaction pathway that will lead them to the outcome they want, in the most efficient manner possible.

Fixed fees drive efficiency

Once we understand why the client is seeking advice, the context within which it is being sought and their ultimate objective, we will explain what needs to be done and agree a fixed-fee. This fee will only change if there is a significant change to the scope of works.

I believe this approach to fees also demonstrates our commerciality and ensures there will be no nasty fee-hike for the client at the end of the project, as can often be the case with many law firms.

Agreeing the cost at the start of the project, also ensures we work efficiently and focus on what really matters to the client, rather than solving irrelevant points to show how technically proficient we are as solicitors.

Newmanor Law is growing and attracting clients with what I believe is a unique combination of commercial awareness and fixed-fee pricing. It is this success perhaps, that makes the strongest argument for law firms to concentrate on commerciality in the real estate sector, rather than just on the technical skills of the lawyers they put before clients.

If you worry that your legal advisers are not as responsive as you would like or lack the commercial insight to develop the right transaction path for you, please get in touch and we’ll talk you through the Newmanor Law approach.