Thursday, August 9, 2007

Real Estate Fire Drills

The anonymous Atlanta associate, The Snark, has written a very clever and witty post on fire drills at law firms when corporate deals blow up (free sub. required).

You might say, "How can there be real estate fire drills? The land (or the building, etc. etc.) is not going anywhere." Trust me, there are. Just because the real estate is not there does not mean that there are possible penalties or defaults for not closing on time, or other backup deals waiting for you to mess up, or lenders deciding to draw a line in the sand, or interest rate commitments expiring, or 1031 tax-deferred exchange deadlines arriving.

I've been through more fire drills than I can count. At first they are stressful and even a little scary. Then they become fun and interesting and maybe even -- to the extent it is possible -- exciting. But with time, and especially if you go from one fire drill to the next with little or no break, they become tedious, mind-numbing and question whether you should ave gone to the fire academy instead of law school, since most fire drills rarely leave time to practice much real law.

Unlike my last comment on The Snark, where I didn't agree with much of anything s/he wrote, today's commentary is spot on, with one possible exception. This is the paragraph:

The more common BigLaw fire drill happens when a partner goes into panic mode, either because: a) she is bored (see above) and needs a little excitement; b) she is angry that she was recently de-equitized in order to help the firm pay for associate raises and wants you to earn your keep; c) she suspects that her client’s merger may be blowing up in her face and the (legal) world may be coming to an end; or, less commonly, d) the merger really is blowing up in her face and the world (all of it) really is coming to an end.

I would add an (f): the client either (i) just called wondering why nothing has been done on the matter all week or (ii) has been or is on vacation or has just forgotten to call, and wants to update the partner on all the things that had to be done on the deal by yesterday. Even partners are not immune to client fire drills.