“Experience Matters, Knowledge Counts”
After over 40 years of legal practice, 25 of which was with the Portland office of Davis Wright Tremaine, a large well-respected international law firm, on February 1, 2010, I opened my own solo real estate law practice, with my main office in Portland and a home office Bend, Oregon.
One of the major reasons for downsizing is that it permits me to handle a broader range of clients. While I continue to represent businesses and industry groups, as a sole practitioner, I can also serve smaller clients who may only need some advice or a document drafted up. Thanks largely to the length of my practice, there isn’t much in the real estate industry I’ve not encountered. For a summary of the type of transactional documents I’ve drafted over the years, and the real estate disputes I’ve handled, go to this link. That experience translates into savings for my clients; in most cases, I don’t need to research an issue or call other attorneys for advice. Below is a sampling of some of the wide-ranging real estate legal service programs available at QUERIN LAW, LLC that are designed to meet the needs of all clients, ranging from the first- time home buyer to the sophisticated real estate investor, and everything in between.
Distressed Transactions. Although this portion of my practices is (fortunately) winding down, there still are folks facing tough decisions regarding their homes or real estate holdings. While none of the options may seem particularly appealing at the time, the biggest challenge for most consumers and investors is securing the correct information – information that can be relied upon. In the Internet community, it seems everyone is an expert. The result is information overload – and not everyone can be right.
This is most evident in the distressed housing market, where homeowners need to be able to make informed decisions, but don’t know where to turn. At present you may not need a lawyer to negotiate with your lender, your creditors, or anyone else; you don’t need documents drafted; and most of all, you don’t need litigation. In many cases, a Realtor® is already helping you – but most good Realtors® know where their expertise ends and when it’s time to recommend that you secure competent legal advice. Frequently, you may need just an hour’s consultation with an experienced real estate attorney in order to verify whether what you’ve been told by friends and others is correct, incorrect, or somewhere in between. That’s where QUERIN LAW, LLC comes in.
I can review your available alternatives, focusing primarily on the potential tax issues,1 personal deficiency liability, and credit consequences of each choice. Subject to the terms of a written Limited Representation Agreement outlining the scope of the consultation service, and your completion of a Client Intake Form, I may be able to help – and most likely can do so in an hour. No hidden fees, no gimmicks – just good legal advice mixed with a dose of common sense and 40+ years’ of real estate experience.
General Real Estate Consulting. It may be that your need for legal representation demands more than a consultation. You may be one of those fortunate individuals who survived the last several years with a minimal amount of damage to your balance sheet. Perhaps you may believe that today’s marketplace finally holds some potential opportunities, as we enter an expanding and exciting real estate environment. This has been most evident since 2012, when homes actually began to appreciate. But exploring them requires legal guidance and insight. You’ll need someone with a long view, “whose been there and done that.” I can help by providing ongoing legal advice, consultation and evaluation of alternatives. In short, I will help you brainstorm and vet ideas. I never tell clients what to do – but I do give them the basic information to assist in making an informed decision in this increasingly regulated and litigious real estate environment.
Lawyer Case Evaluation. This service is for the attorney in need of assistance in evaluating an actual or potential case. What laws, practices, or other considerations come into play? Chances are I am familiar with the issues, and possibly the players. The lawyer is the client. I will provide the analysis and evaluation to assist you in making the best strategic choices along the way. I can act in a limited capacity, providing initial evaluation, or work in tandem with the attorney-client, being available for consultation every step of the way.
Brokerage Case Evaluation. Similar to the Lawyer Case Evaluation Program, this service is for the broker or firm that is confronted with a potential lawsuit, mediation, arbitration, or Real Estate Agency investigation, and needs assistance in evaluating the downside risk. What are the statutes and regulations that apply? What are the applicable standards of care in the brokerage community? Were they violated? What are the potential sanctions? Are there any known experts in the field who should be lined up immediately? Chances are I’m familiar with the issues, the players and the experts. The broker or firm is the client. As with the Lawyer Case Evaluation Program, I can provide the analysis, evaluation, and assistance to help decide upon the best strategic choices along the way. I can act in a limited capacity, simply providing initial evaluation, or work in tandem with the broker or firm (and their attorney, if applicable), being available for consultation as needed.
Full Service Representation
My legal experience spans most aspects of Oregon real estate practices – from litigation, mediation, and arbitration, to real estate transactions. Although I no longer litigates cases in court, I did so for 38 years. For the last thirty years I have represented the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors® (and its predecessor organizations) and for the last twenty years, I represented Oregon Real Estate Forms, LLC, the sole forms provider for Realtors® throughout Oregon. With years of an active real estate litigation and transactional practice, I believe I know the ins and outs of drafting bullet-proof documents for my clients. For a sampling of my transactional and litigation experience, see, Experience at a Glance for residential matters.
As noted in my biographical information, I’ve spoken to thousands of Realtors® and other industry members on all aspect of real estate transactions, regulations, and litigation. It is this experience I bring to the table in my full service representation to clients. See, Engagement Letter & Fees.
Expert Witness – Real Estate Licensees (Defense Only)
In today’s world of litigation, especially when a claim has been brought against a real estate licensee, it is imperative that counsel first secure an expert opinion as to whether the licensee violated any state or federal laws, rule or regulations, including applicable standards of care. If not, there is no case. Who could be more familiar with these issues than someone who’s advised and represented client, written the industry forms, and counselled its members for over 40 years?
I can provide a thorough review of all relevant transactional documents, consult with the lawyer and their client, and issue an opinion that may have to be defended in court or arbitration if the matter cannot be settled.
I can provide that extra layer of protection to buyers, whether they are first-timers or seasoned investors. It is designed for purchasers of detached single family homes, condominiums, townhomes, and other planned community residences. The Program is available to sellers as well. Significantly, my representation commences only after the transaction has been “signed up”; I do not interfere with the Realtors’® important tasks of (a) bringing buyers and sellers together and (b) helping negotiate the price and terms of sale. I’m not a “deal-killer.” Rather, my goal is to help smooth the path for a successful closing while minimizing risks along the way. See, Engagement Letter & Fees.
“Unbundled” Legal Services
In today’s legal environment, the biggest objection most people have to lawyers is the billable hour. Yet, upon closer examination, this objection may miss the point. The real culprit is not the “billable hour,” but lawyer efficiency – that is, how much can get done in that hour? The goal is to get the maximum amount of work performed for the most affordable price in the most efficient amount of time. This is why I’ve adopted the motto: “Experience Matters, Knowledge Counts.”
For example, if you have a garden-variety adverse possession issue, do you want to pay an attorney to “research” the law applicable for your case? Or worse, do you want to be charged for you attorney to consult with another more seasoned practitioner to learn the applicable law? While there is a time and place for legal research, if your attorney cannot confidently, intelligently, and quickly, grasp the issues and explain how they apply to the facts of your case, perhaps you’re not paying for legal “advice”, but for your attorney to learn the law.
One of the services I can perform for other lawyers and firms, is the ability to give quick, high quality opinions, direction, and assistance in real estate matters. The lawyer is the client; they simply carve out a defined task from their client’s project – such as reviewing and evaluating a disputed earnest money agreement, analyzing a real estate case headed for arbitration, or performing some other issue beyond the time or expertise of the assigning attorney. I can prepare an analysis of the issues, a summary of talking points, and return the work to the assigning attorney. No muss, no fuss. The benefit to the assigning attorney is that he or she secures over four decades of real estate insight and experience at an affordable rate. Whether the cost is passed along to the client is up to the assigning attorney. And there is no risk of losing the client – all dealings are with the attorney and absolute client confidentiality is preserved. It is a truly a win-win proposition – with the assigning attorney retaining the client while enhancing his or her skill-set for the next time a similar project comes along. See, Engagement Letter & Fees.
Mediation is the process of dispute resolution involving the use of a professional “neutral” who attempts to assist the parties in reaching a resolution that will resolve the dispute. Mediators cannot “force” the parties to settle. As a result, most mediators act as “facilitators,” studiously avoiding assigning “fault” or “liability.” Mediation permits the parties and their attorneys to describe their version of the dispute, and after a thorough discussion, the mediator gradually narrows the issues down to a point where they can be “monetized” into a settlement sum that all parties can live with. (Some say the best settlement is the one where neither party is happy with the outcome, but they are just glad it’s over….)
I represent clients in mediating all manner of real estate disputes. Or, I can assist the lawyer in preparing for mediation, reviewing the current status and strategy. He or she will make sure the issues have been examined and the confidential mediation statement accurately and persuasively outlines the pertinent arguments.
In summary, whether you use me to personally represent you in the mediation, or just on an advisory basis, I know the rules and the ropes. I can help at every stage of the process, either as your legal counsel, an expert witness, or merely assisting your present attorney, as needed. See, Engagement Letter & Fees.
Arbitration is simply a less formal form of court litigation.5 it has its advantages and disadvantages. Some complain that since it is final and essentially “non-appealable”, the process prevents parties from taking the matter to a “higher court” –as if climbing up a series of rungs in the litigation ladder is a useful tool in getting resolution and finality for disputes.
The reality is that due to the high cost of litigation and the delays caused by crowded court dockets, only a very small percentage of disputes ever actually reach the inside of a courtroom. The vast majority of lawsuits end up being settled, but not before there has been a significant expenditure of time and money. This is time and money that might be better applied toward settling the case.
I am acutely aware of this process, having arbitrated many real estate cases. If your case won’t settle, despite your best efforts, and the other side is determined to take the matter to arbitration, I may be able to help give you the winning edge. As with mediation, I can act as your legal counsel or simply associate with your attorney to strategize and brainstorm. My evaluation will be honest and to the point. If there are weaknesses in your case, I’ll tell you. I will help you decide whether to “hold ‘em or fold ‘em.” See, Engagement Letter & Fees.
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Litigation means court. It also means that the parties, perhaps despite their best efforts, have failed to find a middle ground.
I recognize that some cases simply have to be tried. There may be no middle ground. The best approach, however, is to explore all other reasonable alternatives first. The reason is simple: Before a case is filed in court, you retain control over the outcome. You can directly, or indirectly – through your attorney – propose any solution you think might work. But once a lawsuit is filed, the parties give up a significant portion of their own control, and the court system takes over. It can be a grindingly slow and frustrating process. Pleadings, such as complaints, answers, motions, etc. have to be timely filed, matters have to be scheduled for hearing through the already overcrowded court system, and virtually no judge makes a decision without setting it down for a hearing – frequently weeks away. If the judge takes the matter “under advisement” it means that a written decision will likely be rendered – frequently at some unknown date in the future. While court scheduling varies from county-to-county, in the tri-county area (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas), it can take a year, depending upon the matter, its complexity, and the availability of witness, parties, counsel and judges.
If your matter will require going to court, I will likely associate with another attorney for some or part of the proceedings.
My practice does include consultation on matters in court or headed to court. I can refer counsel, or associate with your own attorney. By the time your case gets to court, you’ll know that you’ve likely explored all other reasonable methods to resolve the dispute, and it’s now time to take the gloves off. Although I regard court as a “last resort” – I recognize that in some cases, it’s a necessary one.
Real Estate Agency Proceedings
The Oregon Real Estate Agency regulates the professional activity of all real estate licensees throughout Oregon. All of the applicable regulations are found in Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 696 and Oregon Administrative Rules Chapter 863.
I am intimately familiar with these statutes and rules. Over my legal career, I’ve instructed Realtors® about their application, and on risks to avoid. I’ve taught pre-licensing and post-licensing real estate classes. Over the years I’ve given seminars to thousands of brokers, discussing tips and traps essential to their professional success. As legal counsel for the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors®, the Portland Board of Realtors®, and the Washington County Association of Realtors® before that, I’ve defended the rights of real estate licensees before the Real Estate Agency for over 40 years. See, Engagement Letter & Fees. Back to top ↑
Transactional Commercial and Residential Work
I can assist in handling almost any type of residential or commercial transaction, ranging from the sale or purchase of a home to more complex commercial transactions. However, i do not render lender opinion letters. If I can’t assist, I’ll refer you to those who can. Here’s just a sampling: EXPERIENCE AT A GLANCE Residential Transactions and Disputes. See, Engagement Letter & Fees.
I’ve represented the interests of commercial and residential landlords my entire legal career. However, this involvement did not start in the courtroom. Over the years I have participated in the review and drafting of several landlord-tenant laws found today in Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 90, the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Law. As legal counsel for Manufactured Housing Communities of Oregon (“MHCO”), the primary Oregon landlord industry association for manufactured communities, I’ve drafted all of their statewide landlord-tenant forms for thirty years. I know the law, knows the forms, and have spent considerable time in the courtroom defending the rights of Oregon landlords.
1 I am not a CPA or tax attorney and do not render specific tax advice or tax opinions. Although I am very aware of the general tax issues arising upon the transfer of ownership of property that involves cancellation of debt. I always recommend that owners of distressed property review with their CPA or other tax advisor the specific tax consequences arising in their particular situation.
2 Note: I am not licensed in Washington. Complex commercial or tax work in Oregon and Washington will be referred out.
3 This is subject to certain restrictions, depending upon the client’s requested scope of work.
4 See, Unbound – How Entrepreneurship is Dramatically Transforming Legal Services Today. By David Galbenski, 2009. I confine my practice to virtually every aspect of these disputes, except, as explained above, when they enter the courtroom. In some matters, I may be able to make a referral to other qualified attorneys. See, Terms of Engagement & Fees.
[Rev. April 2019]