Excerpts from students’ final journal entries:
Neighborhood Development gave me the opportunity to use my legal expertise to serve the greater good. That is exactly what we as future professionals should be doing.
Outreach is something that no other class I have taken has enabled me to do. Outreach—the importance of it, the value of it, and the opportunity to engage in it—is how this class personally enriched me.
The single most impactful thing I participated in this semester was the title search. It seemed so simple and is something that I have done hundreds of times over my real estate career but this time I saw from a different angle. While searching through deeds I notice some very bad “lawyering”. There were obvious misspelling of names and the formatting on some deeds was horribly unprofessional. Then I noticed that I was researching deeds and documents that were created by attorneys that were no longer alive! What we do as real estate attorneys lives beyond us. It was impressed upon me how important it is for my work product to be professional and free from errors because my name will be in the public records for perpetuity. So now every time I notarized a mortgage or check a legal description or deed for correctness I am aware that what I am doing goes beyond the few seconds it takes me to put my stamp on the mortgage. So I consciously make sure my writing is legible and my stamp is straight and in the correct location. It is something that to the outsider seems ridiculous and a waste of time but to me I do not want someone down the road to research one of documents and equate my name with unprofessionalism.
By attending various meetings in the city of Little Rock this semester I was able to learn a lot about city government. I am ashamed to say that I have lived in Little Rock for almost three years now and prior to this class, I had very little knowledge of the various committees and boards in existence, and had never attended any of the meetings. After visiting the Board of Directors, Zoning and Planning Commission, and a few other meetings, I was completely surprised. I learned a lot about the very specific boards and commissions and how they affect the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Little Rock. I definitely want to find some way to become involved in city government because I now appreciate the importance of being an active part of what is happening around me (where local government is concerned).
The other concern was how to make the contracts user friendly. The back and forth was how to include what was needed to protect the parties without making the contracts so long and in-depth that the parties could not, or would not, read the document. Drafting a document that by definition and implementation is legal but making it so parties without legal training was difficult. It, however, was a very good exercise to undertake. To being able to look behind the curtain and see exactly what goes into putting together a contract and not just filling in blanks on a form was enlightening. I feel that drafting an agreement from beginning gives a person more insight to what their client really needs and takes the shackles off and allows the attorney to draft a better document for their client.
This class has given me a better sense of what goes on in real estate transactions. There are many things that we have discussed that I have never even thought about. In fact, I have been slightly concerned about my ability to draft any type of document. I did not get the opportunity to take a drafting class during my three years of law school. However, this class has helped me to overcome that concern. Although I know that I have a long way to go in drafting a good, final, and useable product, I am now more confident that I can get to that point.