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Whatever You Think About Property Lawyers, Think The Opposite

Lawyers in general are considered a bad lot. There are so many lawyer jokes going around and the best is still the one about a thousand dead lawyers being buried under the sea to begin with, in true British humour.

The famous Bard Shakespeare also captured the consensus of the day regarding lawyers in his Henry VI play in which he wrote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers!” The infamous line uttered by the actor taking on the role of a crook on stage is ironic because the play is made out to denote that clean hands have been making lawyers look bad for centuries.

And, that sets the tone for this article. Are all lawyers really that bad? And is this even more so for those who deal with property transactions?

As a lawyer myself, this article was written to defend my fellow legal brethren. They are as human as anyone looking for livelihood in the world. We toil through law school, suffer everything as much as the next student, had to go through the job hunting process, tolerate bad bosses, uncompromising customers, high expectations from parents and society and be regulated by our own police – the Bar Council.

And, all this while, we are trying to live a normal life trying to get married, get married, have kids and go through the pain of adult life, sickness and death.

Just imagine that. Oh, you will argue that lawyers are paid well enough to have better standing and expectations from all of those who have to supposedly suffer when dealing with them.

The perception is that lawyers are always scheming and want to charge high legal fees. They are known to intentionally lose cases, don’t have an inkling of what they are doing or will do anything to get a case.

On the other hand, when it comes to property lawyers, there are many who just can’t balance the expectations put on them by their customers. These include their failure to understand the whole transaction; liasing with the other side’s lawyer; dealing with property agents; asking banks to issue letters; extracting documents in the bank’s safekeeping deep in storage to be given within a specified timeframe; negotiating further extension of time due to other parties’ lackadaisical attitudes; losing crucial documents and the inability to find the file kept in their own vaults.

Okay, enough of problems. Let’s get behind the scene and understand why you need to work with your property lawyer and don’t treat them like your lawyer like your enemy. Due to my books and articles in news portals, I am always referred to by the public when they have problems with their property lawyers.

The first thing I will ask them is, “Have you tried to talk to them and ask them where the hold-up is.”

The second thing is to enquire if there is a possibility of the lawyer being in the wrong. You can ask the lawyer to do a chronology based on what has been done since getting the instruction from you to process the transaction.

There are so many types of property lawyers and different transactions that they have to handle for their customers. Maybe it is not common knowledge but the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) 1966 states that each party in a property transaction involving a property developer must have its own lawyer. This means that a housing developer and a property purchaser must be represented by a lawyer in the Sale & Purchase Agreement (SNP) that they sign. If the purchaser decides to”use” the property developer’s lawyer, a usual term bandied around, they have actually given up their right to be represented by his or her own lawyer.

And as the joke goes, that’s when the argument starts. This also is the case when it comes to sub-sale transactions. Each party must be represented by a lawyer. If the lawyer you have appointed never told you about this and didn’t ask you to sign a disclaimer that you have agreed to be unrepresented, they have just broken a rule set by the Bar Council.

This is basically the problem so everyone seems to think badly of lawyers.  

However, do they choose their lawyers carefully? Have they checked the track record of their lawyers?

In all my nearly 20 years of practice, people seem to make do when choosing property lawyers carefully when they are given the chance to “not pay their own lawyers”.

There’s that saying about peanuts and monkeys that comes to mind now.

~By  Khairul Anuar Sharudin

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