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What About This, What About That?

Many years ago, I had a client with an overly inquisitive nature. If I said a contract clause required action within 20 days, he’d ask, “What If it takes me 21 days? What if I forget and ask for an extension on the 30th day? Is there any benefit to doing it in 18 days? Can you see any way that 20 days can trip me up? Do you think there’s a reason the attorney put 20 days in and not 15 or 30? Is it possible to negotiate for more time? Do you think we’ll need more time? Should we ask now or wait until we see how it goes? Does it look bad to ask more time? Do sellers expect buyers to ask more time? How often do your other clients ask for more time?”


Now imagine sitting with him for over three hours as he dissected and questioned every clause in an 11 page contact. I was in dread every time I sent him a letter, as his inquiry-filled phone call in response could easily consume 60 minutes. Though I tried to be sensitive, he relentlessly sucked all the energy out of my brain and then my body (whatever his diagnosed or undiagnosed problem, he was a highly functioning corporate executive, referred to me by his co-worker).


At closing, it seemed like Mr. Question Mark was on his way to shatter and exceed the record for most questions asked before signing a single document. “How many of these documents are really necessary? Can we eliminate any of them? Why are some in triplicate and others have five copies? Do you know why some pages need initials and others don’t? Does anyone from the bank read every page? Do you think this is a good interest rate? Should I have taken out a 15-year mortgage instead? Is there any specific order to signing these documents?”


 I was already stressed and starting to feel the tension rise in the others around the closing table.  Suddenly, the real estate agent sitting in the corner stood up and bleated, “Please just sign!” He ceased talking and did just that.


It turns out that the agent was his mother’s best friend. She apologized to me afterwards, saying, “I’ve known him for 30 years, ever since he was a little boy. I don’t know why I snapped now. ”


I’m grateful she did.




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