Stay In Your Lane With Johnny Merritt

Episode 429: Stay In Your Lane With Johnny Merritt

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REIS 429 | Real Estate Law


There is wide room for creativity in real estate, but we must never forget the importance of staying in your lane where the learning curve is not as sharp. Real estate lawyer Johnny Merritt shares this sentiment with Mitch Stephen. In this conversation, Johnny shares his journey into corporate and real estate law – a career he has been in for almost 30 years. Having done pretty much everything in real estate except for entitlement work, Johnny has a passion for helping his clients avoid litigation as much as possible by giving them some of the sagest counsel you can get anywhere. Johnny is all about win-win solutions, and he delivers nothing but the best kind. Since 2017, he has been working in the Austin, TX scene with Hajjar Peters LLP. Listen to this episode for some excellent advice from one of the best in the field.

I’m here with Johnny Merritt and he’s up in the Panhandle, a little place called Dimmit. He saw me with my cowboy hat on and says, “Why you wouldn’t take it off.” He says, “Let me get my cowboy hat.” He’s got his cowboy hat. “I’m going to wear my hat too.” He came by with his cowboy hat a little more honest than I did. I worked my way up to mine. He was born in a cowboy hat. All transparency here, I bought a ranch years ago and decided I liked that lifestyle. I’m from Texas and we’re no stranger with hats but it took me a little while to grow into one, but I like it now. You have to fight me if you want to take it off me.

My dad always said that if somebody spits on you or knocks off your hat, it’s time to fight. You got the right attitude there. Way to go.

Not before. I’ve seen a man get his hat knocked off. I’ve seen some teeth fly. You don’t knock a man’s hat off his head. You’re a real estate attorney and a corporate attorney. Tell us a little bit about your background, how you got to where you’re at, give us the bullet points, and then we’ll go down this pathway and see where it leads us.

First of all, thank you for letting me be on your show. I’m thrilled. You have 425 published shows, three books, impressive what you have accomplished, Mitch. Let me correct a little something that you said. I did grow up in a little town of Dimmitt. I grew up on a farm and ranch, became an attorney, and practiced law in the Panhandle for about twenty years. I have relocated in Austin. When I graduated from law school, Mitch, the one thing that I was determined that I would not do is be a litigator.

In the late 1980s, that’s exactly when the savings and loan crisis occurred. When I spoke to some law school classes, what I tell them typically is you end up doing what comes in the door, and surprisingly, the federal government hired a little law firm in Amarillo to handle the directors’ and officers’ liability cases all over the nation. I did that for ten years and then I couldn’t stand being a litigator. For years, I’ve focused on corporate law and real estate. I love what I do and have done that for the last many years.

Where’d you go to school at?

I’m a Red Raider through and through.

In your real estate law side, what stuff are you seeing? What do you handle? What’s your business look like on the real estate side?

I’ve done about everything, Mitch. When I was in the Panhandle, I did a lot of farm and ranch purchases and sales, 1031 exchanges, leases, dairy purchases and sales, and feedlot purchases and sales. Now that I’m in Austin, I’ve done a lot of residential development. Not much residential itself but residential development work and commercial real estate. I’ve continued to learn a lot of things. I’ve had an exciting career, want to keep learning, and continue to do different things.

No truer words have been said, but real estate is a huge bag. It has so much in it that you damn near have to even limit what you’re going to do inside that bag because there’s so much stuff. Do you specialize in any certain group of things?

I don’t do any real estate. I don’t do any of the work where we’re getting permits in Austin and the entitlement work. Most of my work is the client is bringing in at the beginning to determine what is the best structure for us to purchase this real estate. We’ll work on the contract to purchase it. I’ve been lucky to be involved in almost every aspect other than entitlement work. I have no interest in doing entitlement work. Force leaders’ attorneys love to do that and are good at it.

Win-win situations are always best for both buyers and sellers in the long-term. It’s a hard lesson in real estate that many never learn. Click To Tweet

Can you explain entitlement work to me? I’m a firm believer that if I don’t understand something, I raised my hand and like, “I don’t know what that means.”

I say the same thing, I’m not exactly sure what all it is. Let me tell you what I understand. When I first moved to Austin, there was about 160-acre tract of land. It was incredible, nicely located land that continue to be agriculture land. It had the agriculture exemption. Some clients of mine found it. It’s near where the Apple is developing their new location. My clients were lucky enough to purchase that land. We’ve hired an attorney that is helping them determine the steps that need to be taken to permit it for multi-purpose development, multi-family locations, and commercial locations. You got to have certain requirements for green areas and you’ve got to get the water to it. It’s all of those things that you have to work with municipalities and county governments to make sure that you properly develop the land.

I wouldn’t want to do a lot of that myself. That sounds like hard work.

I have become an experienced attorney when sometimes I can say, “I don’t know.” As a young attorney, you can’t say that, but when you’ve been at it for 30 years when a client calls, you can say, “I don’t know.” I can tell you the same way in real estate. Well done.

I try to specialize in what I do, but as you say, you always got to keep growing. I get this question all the time. I’d like to hear your opinion. What is the best entity to buy and sell real estate?

You should not do a C corp, the traditional corporation, because you can’t get capital gains treatment there. That’s an absolute no. The best is the limited liability corporations. That’s where most of my clients purchased their real estate because it does provide you the limited liability. It also provides a good and easy means of transferring the percentage ownerships. You don’t have the personal liability that you would have with a general partnership. It’s not as cumbersome as a limited partnership.

I love the long way. I had some property in a C corp when I sold it. I got double-taxed on it. I had done almost everything else in LLCs. The first time out, I took an attorney’s advice that wasn’t a real estate attorney and they weren’t thinking that for. He wasn’t a good attorney.

The first time I heard it was a client that came to me who had a C corp. I was a young attorney and I learned from that experience. That’s how we learn.

The title of my first book, Failing Forward To Financial Freedom. I’ve fallen down many times. My nose should be flat.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with John Maxwell. He is a great leadership teacher, and he has a book called Falling Forward. I noticed that in your book. I love that.

I buy things in a land trust and my LLC is the beneficiary of the land trust. The liability reasons to own the land trust went away a long time ago. It’s not for that. The best thing for liabilities, to begin with first and foremost, is don’t do crap to people you wouldn’t want done to you. That’ll keep you out of a lot of problems. Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. If you buy a property and then you find out there’s nuclear waste in the backyard, that’s your problem. Don’t try to sell it to someone else and not tell them. You got to be straight.

REIS 429 | Real Estate Law

Real Estate Law: The best entity to buy and sell real estate is an LLC, because you won’t have the personal liability that you would have with a general partnership and it’s not as cumbersome as a limited partnership.


I couldn’t agree more. One thing that I’ve learned as I’ve got older, we tried to negotiate great wins on every real estate transaction. Of course, we liked to have wins. Frankly, what I’ve learned is when you can negotiate win-win situations for both the buyer and the seller or the landlord and the tenant, that’s even better because a win or a defeat might be still good for short-term but it’ll come back and bite you at some point. I love what you said.

If you leave that gate open, the cow is going to come through it at some point in time and it may be way down the road when you need that cow to come through that gate so you keep all your gates closed and let everybody know. Do it the right way.

This is most appropriate for your audience because what I have observed through the years is that’s a hard lesson in real estate and many people never learn it. There’s this thought that you’ve got to win on every transaction and negotiation. Your audiences will be well-served to think about, would it be better in the long-term if I let this be a win-win situation? That’s a critical issue particularly in real estate.

I have a lot of private money. I have about $26 million in private money on the street. I had to write a check to all of them. A ball on money non-recourse, wrappable, they got a first lien position, always buy with a title policy. This is what I tell my private lenders. I got two rights every day. If you make this loan on this house, I’m only going to borrow a maximum of 65% of what I can seller finance it for but I only average borrowing 58%. Part of the secret to my longevity and my success was that I never over-leveraged anything. I get in the house. I don’t start taking money out, suck it, running up my debt, and all that up to close to what a property is worth.

As a matter of fact, I tried to go the opposite way and I please myself for decades and it’s still the same. One of the things, when I sell my seller finance houses, we’re not required to, I don’t provide a title policy to my buyers but I had a title policy when I bought it. They’re being informed of the wraparound debt in the wraparound mortgage documents. How much I owe, who I owe it to, and all that stuff. I’m clear. If a title issue comes up that falls on my side of the line, I got to solve it. It’s not their problem and it’s always been that way and it doesn’t happen often.

I still got an interest in that property, I still defend my title with my own title policy, we know that they’re buying those warranty services for utilities. They got many outs that it’s hard to get a title company to perform on anything but that’s not my buyer’s problem if I have a problem. That’s my problem. I got to go take care of it no matter what. Do you use land trust much? Are you familiar with land trust? I like to talk a little bit about them.

I don’t use land trusts. I never have. Early on, I had a client who wanted to protect his family. Good, old, gentlemen, had very great success, and he set up a bunch of trusts. This was before I came on the scene, but when I came on the scene, it’s about the time close to his debt and the trust created a lot of headaches that were unnecessary. I shouldn’t say this but it’s the truth. I’ve got a natural distrust of trust if you will because they can hamstring you if you’re not careful.

Land trust is a little different than the traditional trust, living trust, or any of that. It’s the way of holding title. Mostly, I do it for anonymity reasons and ease of transfer. The fact that I haven’t been to a closing in years. I got a trustee, you can go do my closings, and sign the papers. At the end of the day, I’m the bottom line of the whole thing. It’s not for asset protection reasons. Other than it does allow for a certain amount of anonymity. I don’t like it when an attorney can type in my name and see that I got my name on 500 properties.

I understood. I need to study land trust more then. I hadn’t had a reason to look at them.

I made my own, they’re fill in the blank and I don’t have to charge one but then a lot of title companies didn’t want to use them. Banks don’t understand them. It’s like an asset protection. You’re going to set up so much asset protection that you can’t hardly move and it costs a fortune at the end of the year. The tracking of everything is horrible that at some point, you got to say, “How about I be a good guy, treat people right, and not get into lawsuits.” The number one thing, if I’m getting a lawsuit is let’s settle. My first lawsuit didn’t even take to court. I’m not even going to it.

God has a way of taking care of us. My determination not to do litigation, that’s the federal government walked in the door. That’s what I did for ten years. It was good for me. Let me tell you, after ten years of working and being a litigator, I couldn’t agree more. I will avoid litigation as much as possible because frankly, forgive me, my litigated partners, but it’s the truth. It’s a transfer of wealth from the disputing party to the attorneys. That’s what it is. I use mediation quite a bit for my clients to avoid even having disputes to get to the litigators because it gets too expensive. It’s too slow. I appreciate your comments.

Litigations are just a transfer of wealth from the disputing party to the attorneys. Avoid going through one as much as possible. Click To Tweet

You were talking about ways to navigate a market during a crisis. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Real estate has been very interesting. We’ve gone from a complete crash to a complete recovery. For some, not all, we’ve gone from people wanting to be in downtown urban areas to people wanting to be out in the country. It’s been a very odd time. I was talking to an appraiser and he was saying it’s the first time ever he’s seen both sellers and buyers’ market at the same time. It’s a sellers market because prices are up and it’s a buyers market because of interest rates. What I’d say on navigating is learn as much as you can.

Listen to podcasts. Read everything you can get your hands on. After you do that, stop and think. Sometimes, we get so busy that we don’t take the time to think about what we’ve learned. One thing I regret of being on your show is I’m talking too much. You don’t learn when you talk, you learn when you listen, and when you read. I had a client tell me that I thought was good advice. I’m going to get in this other market. He said, “It’s important to stay in your lane.” I want to hear your comment on it.

It took me a long time to learn that because every shift in your strategy that you do or if you move completely out of your strategy to another strategy, there’s a whole another learning curve. If you’ve been in a lane for a while, you’re neither having everything that can happen to you happen to you and you’re learning from it in real-time or you’re fortunate enough to be talking to people that are in that business because you’re in that lane and they’re telling you what happened to them so you can make notes. Makes sure you safeguard against that or learn to recognize when that’s coming down the pipe.

Staying in your lane is a big one. Don’t always look to the other side. You go to the one seminar. They make it sound good. The reason why I wrote this book was because I went to the seminar and I said, “Someone needs to write a book about what happens after the seminar.” They didn’t tell anybody about all this other crap. They only told me about the big fancy cars in the boat. They didn’t tell me about people stubbing their toe and putting a lawsuit on me because I had to rent property and my step was 1 inch higher than the other three steps. They didn’t tell me about that.

I’ve listened. I’m going to quote you on that. That’s good stuff. The only other thing I would say that’s a little bit inconsistent with that is, in times of crisis are great times of opportunity and creativity. Some young people that can think creatively as some of us with more gray hair can’t think about, you have that experience curve that’s difficult to overcome. Most of the time for some creativity. We’re seeing the video showing of land, the electronic showing of the land like we’re doing the Zoom. It’s a game-changer and it will never go back. I do think that there are opportunities here for some creative thinkers.

Somewhere out there is a whole bunch of books. I didn’t invent the saying but I took it as my own. I liked to put it in my books when I have to autograph books. I say that laughingly because I don’t know why in the world anybody would want my autograph but it seems like if you write a book, they could make you sign it. I always put “Wealth come from chaos.” It’s from an anonymous source but when I read that sentence, I looked back at like, “What am I doing this? There is a chaos.” The chaos that I delve in a lot of times, they would call it grave dancing. People have bad things happen to them. I didn’t cause the bad thing.

Someone is going to get this property whether it’s me or someone else. I can’t help that. If I could find them before they made something and coach them, I would but it’s too late. It’s already in foreclosure. Whatever they did or happened, someone is going to buy this house. I look at the chaos and I don’t think anybody making any money isn’t solving some problem. If there’s got to be a problem or something to overcome, that’s why they invent products to overcome some hardship or something that people don’t want to go through. That’s what we do. One of my frustrations with the real estate business attorneys in general, and this is not a slam against the attorneys, I’m only saying for the audience out there. I went to talk to people about seller financing homes and they said it was illegal.

I said, “It’s not illegal. It wasn’t in their area of expertise so they didn’t want to mess with it or didn’t want to look it up. There’s a legal way to do it.” They assumed that I was wrapping pre-existing loans from Wells Fargo or something. I’m not doing a wrap without permission. I was doing a wrap with permission from my lenders. They know I’m going to wrap the note. It’s in my loan agreement. The whole basis of our relationship is they’re going to loan me the money, I’m going to owe them a payment, then I’m going to sell that thing on a note and I’m going to collect from them but I don’t have to pay my lender off. They make a payment to me. I make a payment to them. They don’t make a payment to me.

I had a foreclosure attorney one time, all he did was foreclosures and evictions. I thought, “That’s all he does. He must own a ton of properties.” Me and my partner asked him one time, he said, “How many properties do you have, Robert?” He goes, “I wouldn’t touch this stuff. Too much liability.” I’m thinking, he wouldn’t touch a real estate. There are all these different attitudes. There’s a lot of gray in the law.

I hope you’re doing a talk to some other attorneys, and you’re not looking for a yes, man, or someone will take your money, but you need to find someone that says, “We can do this. Tell me how and why we can do it. I had these other people telling me I can’t and tell me how you’re going to defend me if it comes up. Explain to me.” I don’t want someone to say yes so they can get my check. They got a reason how they’re going to defend me. A lot of that was going on. Dodd-Frank came out because there are 2,500 pages and nobody knew what it said.

REIS 429 | Real Estate Law

Real Estate Law: The attorney’s role is to answer the questions that business clients ask, not to replace their business decisions.


Let’s go back to my statement a while ago of staying in your lane. It’s a very well-deserved knock on attorneys. What we forget about is the legal part of a transaction or a business. There’s a long formula for the success of that business. There’s only a very small part of that that relates to legal. The legal advice is whether or not you do it, it’s the risk associated with doing it. What attorneys sometimes often do is they think that they need to replace the business counsel or business wisdom of their clients.

That’s not our role. Our role is to answer the questions that our business clients have asked us about and to say we don’t know if we don’t know, but it’s certainly not to replace the business decisions of our clients. I sit and I go to several board meetings and often, one of the chairman of the board will say, “Johnny, what do you think on this issue?” My answer is, “I can answer that question if you want me to but you’re surrounded by smart businessmen. That’s not my role here.” Be careful about finding attorneys who think that they are smarter in your business than you are.

Sometimes it pays to pick a specialist. You can’t go up to a general practitioner doctor and say, “I need you to do heart surgery.” He’s a doctor but that doesn’t make him qualified to do heart surgery. It’s a specialization and you got to find those people that are tuned into what you do. Somewhere, there’s an attorney that’s passionate about whatever it is you’re into. There’s an attorney that’s all he does or that’s what he’s done for years. He can tell you more about it and knows the case law and knows everything. I also like an attorney that says, “I don’t know but I can find the answer. Let me go see the case law. Let me go find out what’s been going on in the last couple of years. What are the rulings on this?” A lot of things are gray especially when you don’t have any rulings yet. When the law comes out, you don’t have any rulings.

Two comments on that if I may. First of all, what’s even more important is an attorney who cares. I had a situation with a family that I represented for years but I had a younger attorney that came to me and said, “There’s no law to do what they need to do.” It’s because of the situation there. I was not going to go to the client and tell them that. We found a way to accomplish what they needed to accomplish.

That’s fine. I agree 100%. When I have students on the higher levels and they’re doing business in a different state, I don’t know the laws of that state so I’ll get them counsel with them and say, “What time can I speak to you and your lawyer on a three-way call so I can explain exactly what we want to do?” The student can’t explain it like I can because I’ve been doing it for years. I’m making sure the attorney understands exactly what we want to do. Is the best way to do this in North Carolina? Is that a contract for deed?

How long is the foreclosure process? Can you even get a person out of a house within a reasonable amount of time in your state? Tell me all this stuff. Is a contract for deed considered a sale or like in Ohio, the first five years is an eviction unless they reduce the principal balance by 25%? What are we up against here? How can we figure out this business? I used them to like, “Tell me how to do it where you’re from? How are they doing it there?” Sometimes the answer is, “I want to live here.”

I’ve got a client that’s very successful business. We’re buying three retail stores in Colorado because I know their business, they want me to handle it, but I’ve got local council. I hired Colorado council because I need their help to tell me what there is in a contract for deed. In Texas, you don’t buy residential property and funded through a contract for deed. That’s a real mistake. I had to clean up a mess for a high-level attorney here in Austin that didn’t know real estate well enough. They did a contract for deed, we got a real problem and if you haven’t given the multitude of notices that are required by the Texas Legislature. You’re right. Find people that know what they’re doing.

I’ve had people tell me even middle stage, “Will contract for deeds illegal in Texas?” It’s not illegal. The reporting requirements are stiff and if you missed the mark, you could be in trouble. You better know what the year-end reporting is and how you got to handle it because you only got 30 days to handle it every year. You need to know that. The way I look at that ism the foreclosure process is so good in Texas, are good enough that you don’t need to do that. Go ahead, put them on, and go through the foreclosure. In other states, it’s not like that. In Florida, if a seller finance buyer wants the lawyer up, it can be six years before you get them out of their judicial, foreclosure. It’s a whole different thing.

I couldn’t agree more with everything you said.

I can’t tell you how many times I, my partner, and my office say, “Run this by the attorney quick.” We make any changes or we see anything that happened in a contract. Contracts are living documents to us. They’re always improving to try to shield us from the next thing that we didn’t see coming. How do you write that into the thing so that can’t happen again? Someone has a request to be careful about changing legal documents without the council because you don’t know what you don’t know.

I’m thinking back of an earlier comment that you said. I’m going to tie it with your comment. You said, “I’m a bottom-line guy.” That’s what real estate people are. The problem for attorneys is we don’t provide anything very sexy. For the real estate developer, we don’t provide the plans and architecture. What we do provide is advice on changes to contracts whether or not you use a contract for deed for residential in Texas. What does that mean? How does that happen? Because of the compensation system we use in the State of Texas, there are all attorneys. We discourage clients from calling.

The greatest client is the one who’s in it for the long haul. Click To Tweet

You think about picking up the phone and I’m on the phone with them for six minutes, I get a bill for $350. Do I need to contact that attorney? We need to find a way to encourage communications with our clients. I want to change the paradigm and I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do that but I’m looking forward to trying. Good for you for thinking that that’s important enough. For instance, if that client would have contacted me about the contract for deed, I’ll say exactly what you said, “We can do it but you’re going to have lots of reporting requirements and here’s what they are. Why don’t you instead finance it and transfer it to them, get a deed of trust? We would have saved them tens of thousands of dollars.”

My understanding is if you fail to report, it’s $200 a day to the value of the property or something. The reason why people are scared of contact for deed is because the penalty is stiff.

The legislature wanted to protect the purchasers who had paid lots of money and the pendulum swings in the Texas legislature. Things go too far. A little advice can save a lot of money but I know why people are discouraged from calling attorneys. I completely understand it.

It crosses my mind and I like to throw it out there. I’m involved with Texas100.org and we’d go up there to lobby for common sense real estate laws all the time. We’re teamed up with a Seller Finance Coalition but we go up there to lobby or to confront unreasonable laws or laws that they’re thinking and discussing so that we can get reasonable legislation. Sometimes, after fighting for something, that doesn’t even affect us as seller financiers but if they start getting unreasonable laws, it starts to have momentum and they start making laws that they don’t know what they’re doing.

We’re talking to Ted Cruz about seller financing. He said, “If you guys think about it and if you make it too hard on the seller financiers, the inner city is going to die because who’s going to buy these $30,000, $40,000, and $50,000 dilapidated crack houses and go out there. If you’re going to make them have to be such a high level that no one wants to do it then these crack houses are never going to get bought.” He’s like, “We never thought about that.” I said, “Yes because that’s not what you do. That’s why we’re here. Can we loosen up a little bit?”

This may not be timely but we have legislators and regulators who are saying, “We need to help tenants and we need to help them not lose their homes.” Nobody can disagree with that but what about the financier who bought that house who has to make monthly payments. What happens when January 2021 comes along and that tenant instead of owing $500 a month, all of a sudden, owes $6,000? I’m glad we have people like you in the business who go talk to legislators and regulators because they often don’t understand the consequences of what they’re doing. We’re going to live that in the landlord-tenant arena with mortgages as well.

We got that letter saying they suspended foreclosures indefinitely., Why do they have the right to move the burden to another human being? The contract was signed. It was clear. I don’t like that anyone is struggling. You didn’t solve anything. You moved the problem to another man.

If you’re going to solve the problem, you’ve got to think about what other problems are you’re creating and there’s got to be some type of resolution to that soon because it’s going to create problems for the tenants, landlords, and financiers. There’s going to have to be some solutions to that. That is a great example of what you’re talking about. It’s about the need to be interacting with legislators and regulators. What they’re thinking about is what’s politically expedient, not what the impact of that political decision may be.

They may also be thinking there are a lot more tenants than there are apartment owners and we need the boats. There’s a saying in that business as far as Texas100.org goes that we repeat all the time talking to new investors saying, “You need to get involved. You need to become a member. You need to start seeing what they’re talking about doing up there.” It’ll scare the living hell out of you. If you don’t get it organized, they may say, “I don’t rent properties. I don’t want to finance your properties.”

I said, “If we don’t get a coalition together now, they will be you tomorrow. You won’t have an organization to fight your problem. We have to go up there and try to negotiate all for all the different strategies.” There are some people out here that know about this business and you’re not thinking about a few things. This is unreasonable or it doesn’t make sense for certain reasons. The saying is that, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the table.” You’re on the table. They’re dividing you up.

We’ve got a different world now. I worked in Washington back in the Reagan-Tip O’Neill days. They fought tooth and nail during the day. We would walk out of that congressional office building and the police would be everywhere. We always knew what was happening. President Reagan was there having a whiskey with Tip O’Neill. It’s not like that anymore. It’s a tough environment. It’s even more important, frankly, to be involved now because they don’t get along.

What is your favorite customer? When you’re right in the zone where you’re supposed to be, what customer do you have? What does the client look like to you?

REIS 429 | Real Estate Law

Real Estate Law: If your client doesn’t want to work with you anymore and you’re not brokenhearted by that, you don’t have a strong enough relationship and desire to represent that client.


I’ve been at this long enough. What I understand is the greatest client is the long client. It’s the one that’s in for the long haul. One that is hardly long enough that I know what Mitch does. I know what Mitch is interested in. He doesn’t like his business because I’ve gone out and I’ve looked at his business. I’ve helped him with his contract. When Mitch calls, what he is interested in doing and what he’s not doing. Frankly, if you go back to the history of the practice of law, that’s what it was like. We were counselors. We’ve got away from that and become hard guns. I don’t like that.

I’ve been extremely blessed with clients who have been with me for years so when they call and they’re buying stores in Colorado, they’re from Texas but they make one call and they know that I’m like the doctor internist. If it’s a hard problem, I’ll help them because I know what they want and I’ll guide the heart surgeon but I know to call in the heart surgeon. It’s a different answer than what you expected but it’s the absolute truth. Relationships, loyalty, love, caring, and being brokenhearted. If your client doesn’t want to use you anymore, if you’re not brokenhearted by that, you don’t have a strong enough relationship and desire to represent that client.

The only reason I like to run it through the show notes is you’ll figure out that it came from this show and you might be amazed at how many people might call over the time and you’ll never know. It might be nothing because these shows are evergreen and people go through. Someone might need exactly the counsel that you have.

One thing that I have learned from this pandemic and I’ve learned lots of things. My assistant, who’s been with me for years, who’s incredible walked in and her husband had been relocated from Austin, Texas to Boise. My assistant is now working for me from Boise, Idaho. I told her husband, Brian, I said, “Brian, I’m happy for you, kind of.” I meant every word that I said, but the point is I appreciate having the opportunity to be on the show because I’m going to limit my practice mostly to Texas except when I have an existing client going elsewhere but I’m not limited to Austin, Amarillo, or Fort Worth. It’s amazing what we can do throughout the State of Texas now. Particularly, if you have the attitude that I do, if I need local counsel, I’m getting local counsel. I appreciate the opportunity to be here and to talk to you.

It’s been a pleasure. Do you ever get to San Antonio?

I live 1.5 hours from San Antonio. We get to San Antonio. In fact, in downtown, I went and bought a black cowboy hat. We love San Antonio.

There’s a long time guitar picker troubadour named Billy Mata. He’s been at that store for a long time. I love to go to that place. You think you’re going to go in and buy a hat. It’s not that simple. There are 1,000 different styles and there’s only one that’s right for you. You’ve got to figure out what it is and it’s not easy.

For your audiences, if they happen to read this, I hope that they understand that I wasn’t planning on a hat. Although it’s October 2020 and I’m wearing a straw hat, that’s only because I didn’t have a chance to wear the right hat. Please forgive me and not judge me based on my hat.

The other thing is he’s his own man. He wears his own hat anytime he wants to. It doesn’t matter what hat he wears. Don’t knock it off his head.

My dad was born in 1916 and there are lots of rules about wearing a hat. You got to be careful.

I appreciate you being on here. If you want to have a counsel, tell him what you’re about, what you’re into, and if it’s a good fit, I’m sure he’ll impress you. If it’s not right, he’ll advise you to find a better fit someplace else and he can even help you get there. I get the sincere feeling from Johnny here that, if he can’t do a good job, he’s going to try to direct you at someplace that will. Am I correct?

Yes, thank you. I’m honored to be on your show and thank you for giving me the chance to learn from you.

I appreciate it. I’d like to thank everybody for tuning in. We’re out of here, boys and girls.


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About Johnny Merritt

REIS 429 | Real Estate LawJohnny joined Hajjar Peters as a Partner in January, 2017, after expanding his law practice to Austin in 2015. Johnny brings almost 30 years of legal experience to the firm. Johnny focuses his professional efforts on transactional work, consisting primarily of business acquisitions and developments, real estate purchases, sales, and development, and structuring business organizations.

Having been raised on a farm and ranch in west Texas, Johnny is an experienced attorney who combines a broad range of skills with a commitment to integrity, hard work, and values that you would expect from a farm-boy. Johnny is an active member of Austin Ridge Bible Church and is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

Learn more at www.johnnymerritt.com.


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