One of the questions that people have asked over and over again is how to select a real estate lawyer. The answer is pretty complex because there is no easy, fits everyone answer. Of course, not every jurisdiction requires that you have a real estate lawyer. However, when one is needed choosing a real estate lawyer involves a large number of variables ranging from experience to personality issues. There are, though, some basic things that everyone should be working from.
The first issue most people focus on is price …WRONG! Price is only one factor and unless the fees of one lawyer are 30% more than another then it should become a minor fact. Why?… It’s simple actually…. by focusing on price you sometimes fail to take into account the more important issues like experience and knowledge. Price should only be a factor when all other things are relatively equal or when the price from one lawyer to another varies dramatically.
The biggest concern we all should have when selecting a lawyer is experience. This is the same as with any other business… you want the best person available to help. It’s not when things are going well that you have to worry it’s when things are going badly… it is at this time that the experience of your lawyer is most important.
How do you judge experience? Again, there is no fast easy answer. There are, however, some basic questions you should be asking. Here are a few of them:
- How many real estate transactions of my type do you do in an average month?
- Who are your assistants, what are their roles and how much experience do they have?
- When it comes time to meet to sign documentation who will I meet with?
- What are the steps that I will have to go through from this point forward and what can you do to make the process easier?
- What are your fees and are they firm quotations or simply estimates?
These basic questions will help you get a feel for the person you are dealing with and will help you make a decision. Do not rush to get answers… make sure that you take your time and get the lawyer to flesh out all answers as much as possible. Once you have armed yourself with this basic information compare your notes and make your decision.
What should you do once you select who it is you want to represent you? There is no easy answer to this but the KEY is simply this… do not wait for your lawyer to contact you unless they instruct you to do that. Don’t assume that your real estate lawyer will know every single thing about the file or what is happening. With so many lines of communication – seller’s lawyer to buyer’s lawyer, seller’s realtor to seller’s lawyer, seller to seller’s lawyer, etc. – the possibilities for one line of communication to falter are always there.
The important thing is for you to ensure that the lines of communication are open on your side. In other words, if your Realtor, the other party or anyone else contacts you about anything to do with the transaction, simply call your lawyer and pass on the information that you have received or have been asked to divulge. What may seem to be a fairly straightforward thing at the moment might have important legal ramifications down the road.