Why choose a seat in Commercial Property?
In my commercial property seat induction, my supervisor described the day to day dealing of matters as an act of balancing rotating plates on sticks and trying not to let one crash. With the help of the other parties in each transaction, you need to ensure each plate keeps spinning, giving it a nudge where necessary. They all spin at different speeds, some slow and some fast but you cannot let one ground to halt - so there you have it, a seat in commercial property.
Ultimately, it comes down to where your interests lie. If you are interested in the rental market, investment property or development, then this seat may be a great choice. Your interest will be matched with commercial, savvy clients and fluid transactions. It is, of course, a document heavy seat and you will find yourself reviewing (at speed) leases, agreements, legislation, special conditions and all of the fine print.
The transactional nature of the work allows each party to benefit. Buyers and tenants acquire property whilst sellers and landlords receive an income. At the end of the day your client is embarking on an exciting new venture and you are assisting in getting them there, which feels rewarding.
The commercial aspect of it can be intimidating but it is the foremost reason I chose the seat. As a trainee you are probably not a home owner, let alone a business owner. You don't have to worry about coming in without integral knowledge about the property market but your supervisor will appreciate you showing an interest in the property market. You may have worked in a bar once - which is commercial property, right? Maybe you watched The Wolf of Wall Street and then stayed up all night googling investment properties in North London.
As law students, we are taught to build on our 'commercial awareness' but here it is a commercial interest that will make the seat worth while.
You may carry out work for a major retailer, restaurant chain or assist a start-up company with their first lease. I have assisted developers acquiring land from the MOD, conducted research for a pitch to a high-street household name and recently reviewed a lease being granted to a major bank. On a daily basis I deal with lenders, brokers, agents and councils. In my experience, the clients already have a general grasp on the legal process, which sets commercial property clients apart from those in other areas of law. The clients are trying to balance their commercial interests against the legal risk, which is where you come in.
This is how every seat will be described to you - the work is varied. There are only so many transactions in commercial property so you need to enjoy them but the law itself is already varied and complex which is why you are here in the first place.
Each client will be different but more significantly, you will encounter different hurdles to overcome in each transaction. You will deal with countless types of properties, from office buildings to pubs, airports, shopping centres and development land. I will say that commercial property is a rounded seat choice in that it allows you to collaborate with other areas of law in the transactions, with corporate and employment being the biggest contenders.
For the love of drafting
The most surprising aspect of the seat has been how much I enjoy drafting. It is exciting to draft a clause specific to a transaction which both suits your client's commercial interest and protects them. It is even more fun trying to agree it with the other side. When a document comes back marked up from the other side, you can see prima facie what the solicitor is trying to achieve for their client. Sure, you may all be thinking I don't get out much - but I do.
If for no other reason, it is certainly worth choosing the seat to develop a strong skill-set for other transactional and commercial areas of law. I have listed the four skills you will use and improve the most in this seat:
- Attention to detail: You learn to read documents thoroughly and attention to detail is essential. Property legislation is chock-full of double negatives and application to very specific situations. One word can have a massive impact on your client, be it the way rent is reviewed in a lease or when a tenant is entitled to forfeit.
- A commercial sense: You will learn to approach a transaction with both a commercial and legal sense. (#commercialawareness)
- Drafting: Leases, agreements, simple contracts, detailed clauses – you will get the drafting experience you need in this seat.
- Prioritising: I refer you to the above picture. Guess how many transactions you will be dealing with at one time? Go on.
There has not been a day in my commercial property seat that has fallen short of exciting. If you would like a seat where you get the opportunity to embrace the pressure and feel the buzz then this is the seat for it. It will align you with a great skillset for your next seat and open your eyes to a very current commercial market you may not have otherwise had the chance to experience.