If you’re new to real estate investing, hiring an attorney to handle a real estate issue can be pretty daunting. Here are some major concerns that I often hear from newer real estate investors from all over the country.
The first item that people have a concern about is billing. So you need to begin by learning the various ways that attorneys bill their time. Most attorneys will bill by the hour, yet some are going to suggest a flat fee for more routine matters such as reviewing a contract, a lease or a loan-closing package. Regarding more adverse items is going to be an hourly rate. So make sure that you consult with your attorney about his billing practices and understand what your case is going to entail with that billing. And most importantly, make certain that you get a written agreement between you and the attorney. That’s called an engagement agreement and we need to have that in writing.
The second-biggest area of concern is an attorney’s availability. A big complaint among clients’ concerns is an attorney’s response time. You know you need to ask your attorney to explain their policy for returning a phone call, a text, or an email, and don’t hesitate to ask before you hire. I have a 48-hour email response rule. And so my clients are going to hear from me within 48 hours of an email. But I’m going to suggest to you that I’m not the greatest when it comes to returning a text. So email is my preferred method.
The third item is rapport. Does the attorney that you’re dealing with make you feel comfortable, and are they confident in your situation? Have they made an effort to clearly explain your legal options? Really good chemistry will ensure a better relationship and give you a more positive result for your legal matter. So it’s really important that you can develop a rapport with the attorney.
Another item is understanding. Does your attorney show an interest in your goals? Do they explain the process in a language that you can understand clearly? Do they do this with a sense of respect and compassion or do they just quickly bark at you and hang up?
The most important item for me is experience. You need to know that your attorney can clearly explain their area of expertise. You know it’s important to find an attorney who specializes in the area where your problem lies. There are so many areas of law—the American Bar Association (ABA) lists 85 specialties, and most attorneys will happily explain their experience in the field that they specialize in. But don’t go to a criminal attorney or a probate attorney if you need a real estate attorney.
Interviewing an attorney
The last item is to take the time to find the right attorney for your needs. Most attorneys will offer to give you a consultation. So I always suggest, if you’re looking for an attorney, interview the top three attorneys that you’re considering and go in for a consult and be ready to describe your concerns and needs. Take notes and come prepared. Ask good questions. It’s important to establish a rapport with your attorney. If you’re out of state, just make a phone call and hopefully that will give you the sense of confidence you need.