Volume 18, Number 3
April/May 2001


Earth-Shattering Issues

Jennifer J. Rose

Each time I fly over America, the landscape below never fails to mesmerize me. Neat rectangles of farmland, azure postage stamps of swimming pools, spaghetti loops of freeways, oil refineries, and iridescent toxic waste dumps force my thoughts to the Manifest Destiny, the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo and the Mexican-American War, the Louisiana Purchase, and Seward's Folly. Dirty thoughts all, and all focused upon real property.

We have more than a romance with real estate. It's more than a roof over our heads, it's more than a sanctuary of all that's private, and it's more than merely the environment. Real property strikes at the very core of our existence, and we've been ready to die for it. Think for a moment whether anyone would've cared about Erskine Caldwell's book if it had been titled God's Little Debenture, whether Scarlett would've pined away for a Pentium instead of Tara, if the Oklahoma land grab had been a rush for the PalmPilot VII, or what the impact might've been had the Yanks promised 40 shares of Xerox instead of 40 acres and a mule.

When the ground somewhere underneath Seattle rumbled and shook on the final day of February, Windows XP, Starbucks' latest latte, and Amazon.com's layoffs fell off the front pages of our minds as thoughts went to bricks and mortar, cracked bridges and roadways, and matters of genuinely earth-shattering concern. Whether real property involves a shantytown dwelling, a tarmac, or the 70th floor of the World Trade Center, it's all a piece of the planet.

Stan Cohn, a New Orleans litigator and marathoner, took the reins as issue editor for this issue of GPSolo, contouring the editorial board's brainstorming sessions to a range of lead articles that delivers something for everyone, from the real property naïfs to the mavens. He tracked down the best authors for each piece and put the polish on the final product. As usual, Stan did a remarkable job.

This issue brings you the dirt on the practice of real property law. It's more than reading an abstract and cranking out a form deed. Construction law can involve anything from arguments with a contractor over remodeling a kitchen to building the Sears Tower. What lies underneath that grassy knoll counts, too, as underground storage tanks have become harbingers of pitfalls. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Resource Conversation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are just part of the alphabet soup of federal environmental liability issues posed by every real estate transaction. Even a simple transfer of the house to one spouse in a divorce action is fraught with tax implications. Lead paint is no longer an issue limited to slumlords; it's a problem everywhere. And so, too, is mold. Simply keeping up on the law can be a full-time job for many lawyers, and that's where legal assistants have become more valuable than ever in a real estate practice. All of these topics and more are brought to you in this issue of GPSolo.

jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo, is a lawyer and writer living in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. She can be reached at jenniferrose@abanet.org.

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