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February-March 2023 | Volume 16 - Number 1

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What’s Past is Prologue: ATG’s Battles to Preserve the Lawyer’s Role in Real Estate Transactions

ATG’s Hard-Fought Successes of the Past Position Us to Face Today's Challenges

Peter J. Birnbaum photoIt’s been my pleasure to reconnect with so many of you at our recent Town Hall gatherings. These meetings cover important issues facing our profession, how ATG and our devoted members can meet these challenges, and how our history prepares us to build the future together.

We’ve been hosting Town Hall events since I started at ATG almost 42 years ago. Throughout the years one thing has remained the same: ATG and our attorney agents are unified in our mission to preserve the role of the lawyer for the benefit of the public. As a collective we are a powerful advocate for consumers and the profession.

Through collaboration with the Illinois Real Estate Lawyers Association (IRELA) led by John O’Brien and the Association of Real Estate Attorneys (AREA) led by Kelli Fogarty, we are a formidable force that can effectuate meaningful changes to benefit consumers and the profession. 

​I have had the privilege to be a part of ATG’s storied history and with it a career that has brought immense personal satisfaction and gratitude. Coming from that perspective, we see two challenges that could pose an existential threat to the practice of real estate law:

  1. The emergence of programs that offer real estate salespeople the opportunity to make money as title agents—even where the vast majority of real estate salespeople lack the training and skill to perform these services.
  2. A small minority of the real estate bar are offering “free” or deeply discounted legal fees while obfuscating the fact that they are earning title fees or charging “junk fees.”

Working with IRELA, AREA, and others we will address these challenges in the legislature, the media, with regulators, and in the courts if necessary.    

Do Today’s Lawyers Know Our History?

To those not as familiar, it is a history worth revisiting because today’s existential threats remind us of our early battles to survive.​

I begin with statements that reflect our past, present and future:

  • ATG’s Mission and Purpose: To preserve the lawyer’s role in real estate transactions for the benefit of the public.​
  • ​But for ATG: Lawyers would be out of the real estate practice.​
  • Working Together: We will preserve and protect your role long into the future.​

Dating back to Abraham Lincoln’s years of practicing law, lawyers have written title opinions to evidence good title to buyers. In the early 1960s, lawyers were being pushed out of representing clients who were buying or selling homes.​​ Title companies and brokers told consumers they didn’t need lawyers because they could take care of this “simple” transaction.

​​Our founder Stan Balbach and a group of downstate lawyers saw it differently. Understanding our history will show how it shapes our response to the current environment. Read more... 


► Also in this article (click Read more, above): 

- Consumers Need an Advocate
- ATG: The Original Disrupter
- Real Estate Agents as Title Agents
- Collaborating with IRELA and AREA to Take Back the Profession



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[Last update: 2-27-23]