Improving Your Real Estate Practice—or Any Other Practice
By: J. Brad Hickman

On my first day at work after taking the Bar Exam, I eagerly showed up to the office and walked into my supervising attorney’s office, ready to single-handedly draft a contract for a billion-dollar transaction. Instead, the attorney assigned to shape my development handed me the Property Code, and said, “Go read this. And try to memorize a chapter or two.” 

That was it. I went back to my office, Property Code in hand, and started reading. In those first weeks at work, at least one other experienced attorney gave me similar advice. It seemed that the most important work might actually be the most foundational work.

As it turns out, those old guys were right! Ten years into my practice, time spent reading the Property Code has only ever sharpened my ability to meet a client’s needs head-on. Though urgent demands often take precedence, I have found my way back to the consistent practice of tending to the foundation in recent months.

Excited by this effect, I began to read the Texas Bar’s Real Estate Forms Manual. It may be even more worthwhile; the commentary and annotations alone are worth the purchase. It’s now the first place I go when I have a new agreement to draft. Here are some of the benefits I have gained from this habit:

          An ability to take a proactive approach to my practice rather than a reactive approach.

          A helpful aid for modifying and improving my forms.

          An increased working knowledge of nuances that mobilizes me for immediate helpfulness to my clients.

          A better arsenal to improve my clients' position in a transaction that is not necessarily to the detriment of the other party in the transaction.

Reading the Property Code and the Real Estate Forms Manual is helping to hone my practice. And with the newly released edition of the Real Estate Forms Manual, it is the ideal time to take up this exercise. 

Maybe real estate isn’t your thing, but there is certainly a code book or forms manual that you can find helpful. My advice to a new attorney is exactly what was handed to me. Tend to the foundational work, as the most important work.

J. Brad Hickman is an attorney with Sprouse Shrader Smith PLLC in Amarillo whose practice focuses on real estate, business transactions, and the oil and gas industry. He is not part of the Forms Committee, doesn’t get paid by them, and they don’t even know he exists.


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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