If you don't already have a list of prospective real estate lawyers, a great place to start your search is on the internet.
Once you have a list of lawyers, take a few minutes to make sure that you are looking for the right kind of lawyer. Keep in mind, for example, that there are different types of real estate lawyers, so you need to look for one with expertise where you need it. Subcategories of real estate law include:
• Residential, Commercial, Industrial , Agricultural and Landlord-Tenant
Other lawyers specialize in construction law or environmental law. Expertise in one of these areas does not guarantee expertise in another.
Next, find out everything you can about the lawyers and then do some initial screening to whittle down you list to three or four prospective candidates:
• Look at the biographies and Web sites for the lawyers and their law firms. Do they appear to have expertise in the area of business law that you need? Do they have any information on their Web sites that is helpful to you?
• You will probably want to hire a lawyer with at least a few years of experience.
• Lawyers who represent landlords, contractors, developers, banks and financial institutions may not represent consumers with problems in this area. So if you are a borrower or a consumer, look at the profile for the lawyer and his or her firm to see whom they primarily represent. If you can't tell, call the lawyer's office and find out.
• Look for a list of representative clients. Are they the types of clients that you would want your lawyer representing? Does the lawyer represent other businesses or people in situations similar to yours?
• Search the Internet under the name of the lawyer and his or her law firm. Can you find any articles, FAQ's or other informational pieces that the lawyer has done that that give you a level of comfort?
• Ask other people if they have heard of the lawyers and what they think about them.
• Contact your state bar association or go to their Web site to find out if the lawyer is in good standing.
• Check out the yellow pages of your telephone directory. Does the lawyer advertise? If so, do you find it compelling? Helpful? Tasteful?
• Check out the archives of your local newspaper. Has there been any publicity about the lawyer or the cases that he or she has handled?
• Look to see if a lawyer is affiliated with associations that cater to your legal issues. For example, most bar associations have sections in real estate law and other related categories. Having a lawyer who is involved in a chamber of commerce or other local organizations may also be a good sign, depending on the your legal needs.
• Unless there are special circumstances, you will want to hire a lawyer with a local office.
• Before you hire a lawyer, ask for references. You would want to talk to people who could comment on the lawyer's skills and trustworthiness. Ask if it is okay to talk to some of the lawyer's representative clients. A residential real estate lawyer, for example, should be able to give you the names of a few real estate agents, contractors and escrow companies.
• Ask about conflicts of interest. Does the lawyer represent any opposing parties? Does the lawyer represent any of your competitors?
• Ask for a copy of a firm brochure and promotional materials that the firm may have. Crosscheck these materials against your other sources and references. Ask to be provided with a copy of the lawyer's retainer agreement and have it explained to you before you decide on retaining the lawyer or the lawyer's law firm. You may end up paying a lot of money to the lawyer who you retain so make sure you understand what you are signing up for.
Consider any special needs you have. For example, could you benefit from a lawyer who speaks a language other than English?
There are basically two types of real estate lawyers: those who handle lawsuits (called litigators) and those who primarily handle contract matters (called transactional lawyers). Some lawyers do both, but most of them tend to specialize in one area or the other. If you are involved in a lawsuit or may end up in one, look for a litigator. Otherwise, a lawyer who handles transactions may be your best bet.
If you would like the chance to work with me or one of my fellow real estate investor coaches and our advanced training programs, give us a call anytime to see if Dean's Real Estate Success Academy and our customized curriculum is a fit for you. Call us at 1-877-219-1474 ext. 125