By Aaron Y. Strauss, founder and partner, A.Y. Strauss
Sometimes, a real estate lawyer will earn a coveted reputation in the real estate community as a “dealmaker”.
The term is used by many, but rarely explained. What is the “special sauce” that makes some real estate lawyers become known as dealmakers — and why are dealmakers so critical to transactions?
In short, dealmakers are the ultimate transaction quarterbacks, standing out from their peers by displaying a potent mix of technical legal ability, strong business sense and excellent interpersonal skills.
Here are five characteristics that define the essence of a dealmaker:
A dealmaker is responsive and present.
Dealmakers are the consummate professionals who understand their role in the transaction and keep the ball moving forward at all times.
They return calls from all parties promptly and are never out of reach for more than a few hours. They smoothly control the flow of information and successfully command the transaction from start to finish.
If circumstances require an extended absence, a dealmaker will let the decision-makers know in advance and provide an alternate point of contact to avoid unnecessary delays. Dealmakers do not subject others to the frustration of working with an attorney who always has an excuse, does not deliver on time, or is always unavailable when the client calls.
Dealmakers do not make excuses — they get the job done. Dealmakers are present, not distracted in meetings — giving full attention to the transaction in front of them.
A dealmaker is agile but knows when to stand firm.
The best dealmakers always strive to adopt a win-win approach to negotiations, where both sides feel as though they have won; however, their clients’ interests remain at the forefront.
They see the big picture and keep the conclusion of the deal as the goal at all times; therefore, they may be inclined to advise their clients to drop certain points that may be theoretical in order to win more points that have practical significance.
Their sharp business skills enable them to straddle the fine line between legal and business decisions and help their client’s quantify, to the extent possible, the business risks and exposures of any particular position.
However, especially in the real estate world, which is filled with strong personalities, dealmakers have the personal presence and confidence to take a hardline position if required. The dealmaker knows how to command respect and stand firm and won’t back down from the right positions.
A dealmaker understands the elements of speed and momentum.
All deals have a rhythm and tempo like any other process—how these are managed makes all the difference.
The dealmaker is like a racecar driver heading for the finish line; he knows how to deftly navigate the transaction’s turns, understands when to accelerate and when to apply a bit of the brake to make the ride as bump-free and efficient as possible. This might mean performing tasks that might be outside the scope of a real estate attorney’s job but that keep the engine running smoothly.
It might mean proofreading and editing documents at 2:00 a.m. if necessary, versus someone who waits until the next morning to assign such duties to the secretary (which causes a delay).
Dealmakers instinctively understand that momentum in a deal is everything, and, when appropriate, will move the ball forward at every possible opportunity.
A dealmaker connects with and understands people.
A good dealmaker has a high level of emotional intelligence. This intangible, difficult-to-quantify attribute is revealed artfully in several ways. Dealmakers possess charisma and know how to build trust and rapport among the various parties.
They know when to joke and when to roll up their sleeves and get serious. They are empathetic and understand their clients’ biggest fears and the true motivations of the various decision-makers, both expressly stated and implied.
A dealmaker strives to create valuable opportunities for clients.
Dealmakers understand the business maxim that “people don’t really care how much you know until you show how much you care.”
They understand that clients can sometimes view their counsel as interchangeable parts and therefore want to be known for delivering not only documents but also value on the business side.
To that end, dealmakers are driven networkers; they consistently take time out of their busy schedules to proactively introduce their clients to one another to help facilitate future deal-making opportunities and cultivate strategic alliances.
Dealmakers are “go-givers” and invest in relationships for the long term; they understand that by creating opportunities for their clients, they will inevitably create opportunities for themselves over time. And of course, more deals.