Vermont Bar Journal
Summer 2008 - #1.
The Vermont Bar Journal #174, Volume 34, No. 2 SUMMER 2008
Uncle Bob Wants You by S. Stacy Chapman, III, Esq.Whether you want to believe it or not, "the face" of the practice of law is rapidly changing--and the changes are not necessarily for the good. Advancements in technology which were originally designed to improve the quality of legal services to clients and resources available to attorneys, now pose very real challenges to the future viability of law firms not only in Vermont but throughout the country.
Regardless of whether you are a solo practitioner or a member of a larger firm, the future challenges to your practice will be significant. In Vermont, we have already seen massive changes in the practice of real estate. Ten years ago, there were still a fair number of Vermont-based banking institutions that made both commercial and residential loans within the local communities. In commercial situations, local attorneys represented either the financial institution or the borrowers and provided services such as drafting loan agreements and security instruments, and performing title searches with appropriate certifications. Today, however, as a result of mergers and acquisitions, loan documents oftentimes are produced from an outof- state headquarters on "one size fits all" bank instruments. There is limited opportunity to negotiate the language contained in the loan documents and borrower's attorneys are often requested to offer certifications that go far beyond what was routine in the past. The result is a decrease in the need for local bank counsel and an increase in the potential exposure for liability on the part of attorneys representing commercial borrowers. Likewise, in the practice of residential real estate, the "dot com" lenders have increased and Vermont borrowers find themselves having to comply with underwriting requirements that have little or no relevance to practical matters involving the ownership of real property in the state of Vermont. The days of a local bank officer conducting a closing have long since passed and currently, lending institutions (especially the online lenders) require that a borrower's attorney act in the dual role of settlement agent and borrower's counsel. Once again, the result is increased...