By Andy Rieger
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — A piece of land, like a family, has a history. But unlike a family’s genealogy, what happens to that property is well documented. Ownership changes. Plats. Mortgages. Restrictions. Covenants. Probates. Liens. Foreclosures. Divorces. The instruments are all on file at the courthouse.
Carl McFarland knows them well. By his own estimate, he’s examined about 25,000 abstracts in his legal career.
“I probably missed a few but it’s at least that many,” says McFarland, 72, one of only a handful of local attorneys whose practice area is primarily to examine titles to property and give ownership opinions for clients like banks and abstract companies. “I make a living but I don’t hit a lot of home runs,” he says of the work which can be tedious and stressful. There’s yet to be a television show about the exciting work of title attorneys.
He’ll lock the door at his Eufaula Street office next week, closing shop on 42 years of representing clients through Norman’s booms and busts. A retirement reception, with clever invitations that looked like a page from an abstract, was held at Legends Times Two, legally known as (Lot 3, Block 10, of Defective Title Addition, located in the City of Norman, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, according to the recorded plat thereof.)”
“I decided to kind of hang it up while I’m still healthy,” he said. “It’s getting busier and everybody’s in a hurry these days.”
The quick turnaround demands put added stress on the abstract reader who is making sure the property really belongs to the seller and there are no hidden mortgages, liens or missing heirs that will surface after closing.
“You could be reading something and you could miss a mortgage and you would pay for it,” he said.
McFarland can name most of the city’s developed additions and the city’s founding fathers. The courthouse records are a treasure trove of information about our city’s past and he’s visited them often.
“It’s something you have to learn. You can’t just come out of law school and say I want to do that,” he said.
He plans to spend more time with his wife, Phyllis, children and grandchildren, his 1954 Ford and his motorcycle. They’ll travel some. “I like to keep my feet on the ground,” he said.
In his early years in Lawton and in Norman, he worked in newspaper circulation. He came to OU after graduating with the first four-year class at Cameron University.
He arrived at OU and started law school at mid-term. The only problem was the spring courses were usually the second part and he and others had to take the second class before the first.
The legal profession has changed immensely since he began practicing in 1972. More lawyers. More laws. He estimates there were fewer than 50 local lawyers when he started. Today, the county bar numbers in the hundreds.
“I don’t get to know them like we used to,” he said. “I barely get to know the judges.”
In retirement he won’t miss the stress of a solo legal practice.
“I’ve been here a long time and I’ve enjoyed it for the most part but it’s time to check out while I’m still healthy.”
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