If you are thinking of buying, selling, mortgaging, or title transferring a home, it is important to choose the right real estate law firm to work with. A real estate lawyer is a big help when navigating this often-confusing process, but so are the law clerks working in the office. You may have heard the term “law clerk” before, but what exactly does a law clerk do in Ontario and what is the difference between a law clerk and a lawyer? You may be surprised to learn that they play a very important role in each and every real estate transaction. Keep reading to find out how.
What Is a Law Clerk in Canada?
What is the job description of a law clerk? A law clerk is a legal specialist whose role is to support lawyers by preparing legal documents, maintaining files, and conducting research. In a real estate law firm, a law clerk typically does the following tasks:
- Completes title searches and notifies the lawyer of any encumbrances or other issues with the title;
- Reviews deeds, affidavits and agreement of purchase and sale;
- Manages and prepares important documents for real estate transactions and closings, such as tax certificates and confirmation of insurance, and writes cheques for disbursements;
- Registers mortgages and is usually the point of contact when clients have questions about their mortgage closing;
Oftentimes, when you call your lawyer’s office with questions about your real estate transaction, you’ll be speaking with one of the law clerks since they do the majority of the work on a transaction in real estate. This is why law clerks are required to have extensive knowledge about real estate law and the local community.
The Difference between a Law Clerk and a Lawyer
The main differences between a law clerk and a lawyer are the level of responsibility and liability level of legal education. A law clerk is the right-hand person to the lawyer. They have a general understanding of the law, practices, and procedures involved within their particular field of training and specialization. They help lawyers save money and work more efficiently by taking on routine legal and administrative matters and assisting lawyers with more complex matters. However, the lawyer is ultimately responsible to the client and is expected to have the legal knowledge to resolve legal issues and properly represent the client in all legal matters. In fact, there are legal requirements mandated by the Law Society about this arrangement. By-law 7.1 of the Law Society’s rules state:
By-Law 7.1 governs the circumstances in which a lawyer may assign certain tasks and functions to a non-lawyer within a law practice. Where a non-lawyer is competent to do work under the supervision of a lawyer, a lawyer may assign work to the non-lawyer. The non-lawyer must be directly supervised by the lawyer. A lawyer is required to review the non-lawyer’s work at frequent intervals to ensure its proper and timely completion.
[1.1] A lawyer may permit a non-lawyer to perform tasks assigned and supervised by the lawyer as long as the lawyer maintains a direct relationship with the client
[5.3] Real Estate – A lawyer may permit a non-lawyer to attend to all matters of routine administration, assist in more complex transactions, draft statements of account and routine documents and correspondence and attend to registrations. The lawyer must not assign to a non-lawyer the ultimate responsibility for review of a title search report or of documents before signing or for review and signing of a letter of requisition, review and signing of a title opinion or review and signing of a reporting letter to the client
Can a Law Clerk Handle Real Estate Deals for a Client in Ontario?
Law clerks are well educated, professional and vital to the process of closing real estate transactions. That is why, at Zinati Kay – Real Estate Lawyers, we are proud to have a team of dedicated and experienced law clerks have been with us for a long time. However, it is important to remember that it is lawyers who are legally entitled to handle real estate transactions in Ontario. It is the lawyer who is insured, who is aware of how to solve complicated legal matters, is responsible to the lender and the owner for ensuring that the right assurance of title is obtained and is ultimately accountable to the client.
Why You Should Always Meet a Lawyer when Closing a Real Estate Transaction
Some law offices do not ensure that in addition to benefiting from the professional work provided by the law clerk, that you also meet a lawyer when you sign and complete your documents. At Zinati Kay – Real Estate Lawyers, we believe that you should have the opportunity to sit and meet with a lawyer when closing your transaction as this is who you have hired to be responsible for one of the biggest purchases and transactions of your life. From our perspective, it is critical and highly recommended that you still meet with a lawyer during the process of buying, selling, mortgaging, or title transferring a home so that you can put your questions to the person ultimately responsible for handling your transaction and best suited to answer any difficult issues that may have come up during the process.
Having a real estate lawyer review your documents with you as part of the closing process makes a big difference when buying or selling a home since they can help you sort out the difficult parts of selling or buying a home and help you understand your rights and obligations. From legal requirements and contracts, to conditions and terms regarding the property, there is a lot to sort through. They will review your paperwork and advise you of which decisions are the best to make.
Here are some other benefits of working with a real estate lawyer:
- Security and filing: Since there is a large volume of paperwork when buying or selling a home, lawyers can help you review this information and offer legal advice.
- Pre-existing conditions: Since there is so much involved when transferring a property, certain aspects can easily be overlooked. These unforeseen stipulations can affect the selling price of a property, but an experienced lawyer can help you avoid any mistakes.
- Loan modifications: Real estate lawyers have connections and can work with different lenders and parties to give you an advantage.
- Protect your rights: With the help of a real estate lawyer, you can have peace of mind in knowing they will protect your interests. They do not have any agendas or personal interests, except to help you get the best results for investing in their services.
- They will be able to address complicated legal problems right away: This is the central job of the lawyer and you should have the opportunity to have a lawyer address these issues with you directly.
- Confidence and comfort: We find that when a client meets a lawyer as part of the closing process, they have greater confidence in the transaction and are comforted about any uncertainties that may have arisen.
Contact Zinati Kay – Real Estate Lawyers for Professional Service
If you are looking for a professional team to help you get through these challenges, consider Zinati Kay – Real Estate Lawyers. We are a full service residential real estate law firm with three lawyers on staff. We work with some of the best law clerks in the industry to ensure your transactions are well-researched and managed with complete discretion from start to finish.
What makes us the best choice for your real estate law firm in Toronto? For one, we provide fixed closing costs to buyers and sellers when they buy, sell, mortgage, or title transfer their property. Secondly, when you come to our office to sign your paperwork, you are actually signing with one of our lawyers. The benefit of this is that you have the opportunity speak directly with a lawyer and have your questions answered before you close. Many real estate law firms in the GTA don’t do this—instead, you work exclusively with a law clerk throughout the entire process and may never actually speak with a lawyer at all.
At Zinati Kay – Real Estate Lawyers, we’ve been in business for 25 years and have closed over 21,000 real estate transactions. We provide professional service and reasonable real estate lawyer fees and have thousands of satisfied clients to prove it. If you need any assistance with selling your home or condo, contact us at 416-321-8766 for more information about our services.