We’ve discussed the importance of a real estate attorney in conducting due diligence. It is important to take a step back to discuss how to approach hiring an attorney. You can rely on your real estate agent for a recommendation, but it is up to you to conduct your own interview and make the final decision on whether or not to bring him/her aboard.
We provide a roadmap to help you in this very important decision.
What is his/her specialty?
Unfortunately, real estate may be one of many legal niches he/she practices. Many lawyers have multi-tiered practices and include a hodgepodge of areas, such as real estate, family law, bankruptcy, and personal injury.
Ideally, you want your attorney to focus exclusively on real estate. However, in the event he/she has more than one practice area, you want to make sure your lawyer spends most of his/her time on real estate. You can ask how many real estate clients he/she has versus other areas.
Can you speak to your lawyer directly and are they responsive?
In bigger practices, it is not uncommon for a lawyer to have a support staff. You want to obtain assurances that you can reach your lawyer when an issue comes up. While a lawyer may promise that this is the case and that he/she is always personally involved in all issues, a referral check can quickly let you know if this is the case. You can also ask them if he/she was responsive to questions.
Additionally, you should ask to meet the lawyer’s team.
How much does representation cost?
The attorney’s fee is typically paid at closing. In order to avoid unpleasant surprises, you will want to understand the total cost upfront. Typically, the fee is flat from $1,500 – $3,000, but there are costs involved that get passed on to you. These include basic office and administrative expenses, such as copying and printing. Many lawyers state their fees and costs at the initial discussion, which are agreed upon in writing.
In your interview process, you should find the lawyers’ fees are all in a narrow range. You should approach any outliers with skepticism.
What kind of work can I expect?
The due diligence process in New York City takes on added meaning. Your lawyer needs to examine the building’s financials, board minutes, and offering plan for your co-op or condo purchase. This is on top of the normal contractual work.
Therefore, it is imperative that you ask how much experience he/she has with co-ops/condos, and what his/her process entails.
These are the major issues, but there are still other things to cover. You may have unique circumstances that you will want to ensure your lawyer can handle. In this case, ask if he/she has ever confronted this in the past, and how it was handled.
Exploring these areas should give you the information you need to make an informed decision. However, do not underestimate your need to feel comfortable discussing things with your lawyer. At the due diligence stage, communication with your lawyer is likely increasing, and you should feel confident in his/her ability to handle the job and that your case is important to him/her.