This section provides brief answers to questions you may have about our services. Please see Tools
for substantive information related to your business or work.
How can a land use attorney help my architect?
Deciphering land use codes can be a complex matter. Our land use attorneys are thoroughly familiar with local codes and have themselves written many code provisions. We apply legal principles of interpretation, and our in-depth knowledge of court cases and administrative rulings. We thus combine our expertise with the technical knowledge of your architect. In doing so, we can spot and resolve issues before you submit for permits or commit to a specific design.
We are also trained and skilled advocates. We provide advice to architects on how best to present your project and point of view. Local government staff and elected officials are well aware of our firm's considerable reputation and experience.
How does a land use attorney fit within my project team?
Our land use attorneys are comfortable coordinating with you and others on the team to achieve your goals. Our role is a complementary one. Each team member provides his or her own expertise. We find that our role can be especially useful in identifying "due diligence" issues for potential property purchases, developing the appropriate permit strategy at the outset of a project, and helping to resolve issues that emerge during the permit process. Of course, we are also there to assist with any appeals or litigation.
What should I bring to my first meeting with you to discuss land use issues?
The type of information we need will vary based on the circumstances. However, we find that we can use our initial meeting most productively if you bring the following information with you:
- Location of the property, including address and maps.
- Information regarding the physical characteristics and existing conditions of the property, such as site plans, photographs, topographic or sensitive area maps, and environmental studies.
- Copies of title documents, including surveys, title reports, easements, leases and other recorded documents.
Information about proposed uses, including, for example, site plans, architectural profiles, elevations, and other drawings, proposed signs, and technical specifications for unusual uses.
- Copies of past approvals and permits, with relevant conditions.
- Copies of pending applications for approvals or permits, or other communication with agencies having jurisdiction over the proposal.
- Schedules and other information regarding timing.
- Financing information, including legal entities involved in the proposal, financing requirements, liens, and tax records relevant to the proposed use.
- Information regarding neighbors and community organizations with a potential interest in the proposal.
I already have a real estate broker assisting me with my commercial property purchase. Do I need to see an attorney?
Real estate brokers and agents specialize in finding buyers and sellers of property and putting them together for successful transactions. They are also attuned to market conditions and can help you receive or pay a fair value. However, real estate brokers and agents are not allowed to practice law and generally cannot provide you the advice and services you need for structuring commercial real estate transactions, drafting and negotiating the necessary documents, reviewing title issues, and protecting your legal interests in connection with properties that you buy and sell. These are jobs for an attorney. Our Real Estate Group attorneys face these issues every day. It is usually better and ultimately more cost-effective to work with an experienced attorney from the beginning of the transaction rather than after problems have arisen.
The real estate agent I am working with has found space that I would like to lease for my business. The agent says that the landlord uses a standard form lease. Do I need an attorney to review it?
We certainly recommend it. And not because of self-interest, but because your interests are at stake. There is no "standard" lease form. The forms provided by landlords are simply the ones they like to use to best protect their interests -- not yours as a tenant. You should be certain that you have competent advice on any legal document you sign, including leases.
Standard forms also cannot address the many non-standard issues that arise in transactions. While an agent can advise you as to the business terms of your deal, a knowledgeable agent will usually suggest that you have your attorney review the actual terms of the lease to be sure that your interests are protected. For example, rent is not the only cost under a lease and generally, no matter how standard the form appears, there are points that can be negotiated, which can save you money over the term of a lease. Our Real Estate Group attorneys routinely draft leases for both landlords and tenants and can help you assure that the lease accurately reflects the agreed business terms, and that costs and liability are fairly allocated. The money you spend now for an attorney to review your lease can help you avoid unexpected costs and liabilities that may arise during the term of the lease.
What is your approach to legal fees?
Although our client list includes many large companies, we frequently work with individuals, families, small developers or community groups. We are very sensitive to costs. We staff matters appropriately, working closely with clients to determine what part of a project they want us to handle and what part they can appropriately handle themselves. Whenver possible, we also make extensive use of skilled paralegals with significantly lower billing rates than attorneys. Sometimes you need our full-blown efforts and leadership on a project but other times, you need just a little advice. We can provide whatever level of service you need and help you chart the best path to follow. Because of our considerable expertise and years of experience, we provide that advice in a very cost-effective manner.
HCMP attorney contacts for this area:
T. Ryan Durkan
Melody B. McCutcheon