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How to Hire Your Next Commercial Real Estate Attorney

Choosing the right commercial real estate attorney is crucial for the success of any real estate transaction. The right attorney can help you navigate the complexities of real estate law, ensure compliance, and protect your interests. Attorneys also play a vital role in drafting, reviewing, and negotiating contracts, conducting due diligence, and providing legal advice tailored to the specifics of the real estate sector. Because of this, it is very important to initially select the right attorney to work with you. In this article, we’ll discuss the main points behind hiring a CRE attorney.

Note: This post is based on a 2020 podcast episode featuring Ronald Rohde’ explaining his personal advice for hiring a CRE attorney. You can find that original post here.

CRE Attorneys

Understand Your Legal Needs

The first step to hiring a commercial real estate attorney is to complete analysis of your legal needs. Think about your project and what specialization within commercial real estate law it pertains to. These specializations can include areas like land use, zoning regulations, leasing agreements, property sales, acquisitions, and more. Each area demands specific legal expertise that can significantly impact the outcome of your project. For example, a lawyer specializing in land use and zoning would be crucial for projects requiring municipal approvals or facing community resistance.

Additionally, it’s important to distinguish between lawyers skilled in transactional work and those proficient in litigation. Transactional real estate lawyers are experts in drafting and negotiating contracts, handling the legal aspects of real estate transactions, and ensuring compliance with relevant laws. These skills are vital for smoothly processing real estate acquisitions, leases, and sales.

On the other hand, if your project carries a risk of disputes or legal challenges, a lawyer with a strong background in litigation may be necessary. Such a lawyer can defend your interests in court or through alternative dispute resolution methods, handling cases that involve breaches of contract, zoning disputes, or tenant issues.

Only once you understand what your specific legal needs are should you begin looking for a CRE attorney.

Identifying and Selecting the Right Commercial Real Estate Attorney

Finding the right CRE attorney is a comprehensive process that starts with identifying potential candidates and concludes with a hiring choice based on key factors. Begin by gathering referrals from industry contacts who have first-hand experiences with lawyers, supplemented by professional directories and online searches to broaden your options and find specialists suited for your needs.

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential attorneys, evaluate each one based on their professional experience, client feedback, and standing in the legal community. Look beyond basic qualifications to consider their success in handling similar cases or transactions, as insights from reviews and testimonials can provide a clearer picture of their professionalism and client satisfaction.

The final decision on hiring, however, extends beyond credentials and to the quality of the attorney-client relationship. It’s key to meet potential lawyers to assess their communication style, grasp of your specific needs, and their case management approach. These interactions will reveal if their professional demeanor aligns with your needs and expectations. Since trust is so important in this business relationship, you should feel assured in the attorney’s capacity to manage sensitive details and make important decisions. These elements are the most basic requirements in choosing an attorney who is not only competent but also well-suited to your situation.

What Should You Value in a Commercial Real Estate Attorney?

When it comes to hiring a CRE attorney, understanding and prioritizing the aspects of speed, quality, and price is also necessary. These three factors often compete against each other, and while it would be ideal to maximize all three, practical constraints usually require prioritizing one or two, depending on the specific demands of your transaction.


Speed is critical when facing tight deadlines. This could include rapidly approaching dates for due diligence completion, contract signings, or court filings. Prioritizing speed means your CRE attorney must be prepared to act quickly and efficiently, delivering fast responses and expedited services. This may, however, increase costs, as quick turnarounds often come with premium fees, and it may even affect the thoroughness of the work if not managed carefully.


High-quality legal work can mitigate risks, provide comprehensive solutions to complex problems, and ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Prioritizing quality is essential for high-stakes or complex transactions that require meticulous scrutiny and expert handling. This might mean a higher cost or longer timelines, but the trade-off is a reduced risk of legal complications down the road.


Finally, competitive pricing can be a priority for budget-sensitive transactions. It’s important to note, however, that focusing on cost may lead to compromises in the speed or quality of the service provided. When looking at more budget resources, make sure to check what services are included in a fee and what might constitute additional charges. Opting for less expensive legal services might be suitable for more straightforward, low-risk transactions, but it can prove risky for more complex deals.

Making a Decision

In making your decision, consider the specifics of your transaction and what is most at risk. For instance, in a high-value deal where a legal misstep could be costly, prioritizing quality might be more important than saving on immediate legal fees. Conversely, for a straightforward property acquisition with no apparent complications, prioritizing cost-efficiency might be more appropriate.

Ultimately, your choice should align with your strategic goals and the particulars of your real estate deal. By carefully weighing these three aspects—speed, quality, and price—you can select a CRE attorney who will provide the best balance for your needs, ensuring effective legal support tailored to your transaction’s unique demands.


Overall, hiring the right CRE attorney involves understanding your needs, making an informed hiring decision, and managing your relationship effectively. Make sure to maintain open communication, set clear expectations, and establish mutual understanding to create a productive working relationship.

To support your journey, we also offer a range of other free resources to teach you more about all aspects of the commercial real estate field:

These resources will help ensure you select the right professional to support your real estate endeavors, enhancing both your understanding and execution of legal frameworks in commercial real estate.

About the Author: Born and raised in the Northwest United States, Spencer Burton has over 20 years of residential and commercial real estate experience. Over his career, he has underwritten $30+ billion of commercial real estate at some of the largest institutional real estate firms in the world. He is currently President and member of the founding team at Stablewood. Spencer holds a BS in International Affairs from Florida State University and a Masters in Real Estate Finance from Cornell University.