LAW, MONEY, & ELDER LAW: To all young lawyers

By Monte Korn

Now that you have graduated from law school and passed the bar, you have a very important decision to make that will determine where you are going the rest of your professional life:

1) Do I want to be a trial lawyer and try civil law cases and probate law cases to make a living for the rest of my professional life?

2) Do I want to be an office attorney and prepare wills, trusts, and other legal documents to make a living for the rest of my professional life?

3) Do I wish to use my legal training to make a living for the rest of my professional life?

After trying a lawsuit in the lower courts, I went to the Michigan Supreme Court to determine "The law of after-acquired title in the state of Michigan." The case of Korn vs. Fields:

Supreme Justice Black asked, "Are you trying to tell us that you can sell a piece of property to a third person in Michigan, even if you don't hold title to that piece of property?"

"Yes!," I answered. "And if you can't deliver the title you will be liable in damages between the difference in the sale price and the market value of the property."

I walked out of the Supreme Court feeling that I had established the law of after-acquired title in Michigan in the case of Korn vs. Fields. Instead I set the law of after-acquired title back 100 years in the case of Korn vs. Fields which was later over-ruled.

But that case taught me a lesson: I would no longer try cases or take cases to the Supreme Court. Hundreds of hours of legal sweat and tears wasted by a stupid, wrong decision of a handful of men who could decide cases the way their hearts (not their legal minds) went!

I was determined to find another way to make a living, and felt that real estate might provide the opportunity to make more than a decent living.

A short time later I bought a 17-unit building on the Wayne State University campus for $35,000 with $5,000 down. I used the rents to remodel every apartment and put new sinks and appliancs in every unit. Soon every unit was rented for $300 a month.

After 10 years I sold the building to my caretaker for $100,000 with payments of interest of 10% annum. Within 10 years my caretaker got a mortgage and paid $100,000 to purchase the 17 units.

I purchased the 14-unit building next door for $43,000, and remodeled the units making them look clean and new. The furnished units rented for $300 per month with all utilities paid. The building sold 10 years later for $100,000.

I purchased 40 units at 70 West Warren for $90,000 and remodeled same. The building was taken for the widening of Warren. Price: $267,000.

I then built the Denway Circle Apartments in Portage, which sold for approximately $800,000.

The point I wish to make is that in practicing legitimate law and taking a case to the Michigan Supreme Court I made approximately zero! But that was a great learning experience and directed me to making a fabulous living from the buying and selling of the land.

I bought a square mile of Charlevoix and subdivided it into 10 acre parcels and sold all units from $8,000 per unit to $20,000 per unit.

Conclusion: You can make a living practicing law and trying lawsuits, but you can let your legal training help you make an exceptionally fine living the world of business.

The choice is yours. Good luck young lawyers and young businessmen, wherever you choose to go. Be happy and fulfilled in whatever you choose to be or do...

You have only one life to live. Enjoy it!


Monte M. Korn is an attorney practicing law in West Bloomfield, has been a member of the State Bar of Michigan since 1942, and is a member of the Probate and Elder Law Sections of the State Bar.

Monte Korn is the talk show host of "Open Line with Monte Korn" on radio station WNZK am690 every morning at 11 a.m. He can be reached at (248) 933-4334.

The material in the above article is the research of Monte M. Korn. The Detroit, Oakland County, and Macomb County Legal Newspapers have no responsibility therein.

Published: Fri, Aug 12, 2011