Managing Expectations on Transaction Timelines

Managing Expectations in Transaction TimelineMore often than not, transactions that I’m involved in end up closing later than the date that the client initially targeted at the beginning of the process. Many clients that do a lot of deals are understanding about this and mentally build in extra time, just like homeowners don’t expect renovations to happen precisely when contemplated. However, many of those who are less experienced at deal-making can be disappointed and express displeasure to their attorney.
The temptation on the part of the attorney (and I’ve certainly been guilty of this) is to point the finger elsewhere, e.g., the other side took longer to review the draft than I took to prepare the draft, you (the client) took a lot of time to get back to me, etc. The better approach on the part of the attorney, I think, is to try to take control over what is controllable. Part of that is to regularly follow up with whomever owes you something.

However, an underrated source of delay in transactions is getting approvals and consents from necessary parties. If the only people that needed to do anything were the principals and their attorneys, most transactions would get done very quickly. But for significant transactions, you need to obtain the approval of the board or similar body and perhaps shareholders/members, depending on what is being done. Additionally, the company may need to obtain an approval or waiver from parties to contracts. In most cases, these third parties are not as much personally invested in the transaction for which their approval is sought. And they can create hiccups by demanding changes to the documentation as the price of their consent.

The attorney cannot of course eliminate all delay caused by these factors, but it’s important to manage the expectations of the client who thinks that expediting a closing means “getting everyone in a room.”  It’s usually not that simple, and the attorney needs to explain what could cause delays and propose a plan for managing the process.