Do You Need a Commercial Real Estate Attorney?

By Jim Lieberthal, Cutler Commercial

Commercial lease and purchase contracts are legal contracts and may be confusing to the non-attorney tenant or buyer. In fact, unlike residential contracts, which use standard and regulated forms, it’s rare for a tenant or buyer dealing with multiple landlords or sellers for commercial real estate to see the same contract twice. Most landlords, sellers and real estate brokerages use a form they either modified themselves or had a law firm skew in their favor. This is why you shouldn’t hesitate to use an attorney to help decipher the favorable points from the not-so-favorable points.

Commercial Realtors are not attorneys, unless of course they have a law degree in addition to real estate credentials. However, in most cases commercial Realtors are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice to their clients. If they do start to play the role of attorney, a tenant or a buyer needs to be on high alert.

However, commercial real estate agents can negotiate and be on the lookout for specific deal points, which can save their clients hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a purchase or over the term of a lease. But when it comes to the legalese of language, tenants or buyers should contact an attorney if there are questions or verbiage concerns.

One thing for tenants and buyers to keep in mind when consulting with an attorney is to make sure all fees are negotiated up front. Attorneys are notorious for killing deals, and it’s easy for them to overanalyze a contract and redline the thing to death. This could be a concern because most landlords or sellers have an attachment to their documents and don’t like to see too much modification. Moreover, both parties are not interested in paying attorneys thousands of dollars to see a document go back and forth many times. This can easily slow down the process and could affect the final terms of the deal.  A good commercial real estate agent can help mitigate the process and protect their clients while saving them money in attorney fees and keeping the deal alive.

Some areas in which commercial real estate agents can add value when dealing with their tenants’ attorneys are:

1. Discuss the contract and try to nail down the key points of concern.

2. Guide the tenant or buyer on how to work with their attorney to promote efficiency.

3. Make sure legalese is managed by the attorney and negotiations are managed by the commercial real estate agent.

4. Establish an attorney budget and stick to it.

If the first round of redlines isn’t accepted by the seller or landlord, connect both parties’ attorneys on the phone to hash out final deal points quickly.


Jim Lieberthal has invested and worked in real estate since 1997 and commenced his brokerage career with Cutler Commercial in January of 2002. He now specializes in office, industrial leasing and sales in the Scottsdale market. He has completed tens of millions of dollars in sales of commercial buildings and has established a multitude of industrial and office listings consisting of almost 1 million square feet. Contact: 480-529-6400;