Without further adieu, here are ten (10) questions a buyer can consider asking an attorney before hiring them to complete a residential real estate transaction in New York:
- Is real estate your primary practice area?
Obviously, there is a benefit to hiring an attorney who specializes in real estate. That attorney will most likely have more experience than other attorneys who do not specialize in real estate.
- How many closings have you completed?
An experienced real estate attorney should complete dozens of closings each year. If the attorney is not completing many closings, that may indicate that this is not a primary practice area, the attorney is partially retired, or another reason that may affect the buyer’s decision to hire that attorney.
- How do you recommend scoping due diligence?
Over time real estate attorneys learn about many properties and see many issues including construction defects, environmental, title, survey, and other issues. Listening to the client, learning about the particular property being transferred and tailoring the due diligence to that particular property are critical skills. When it comes to due diligence there is no “one size fits all” approach and a good attorney can help ask the right questions.
- What is your fee structure?
Before hiring an attorney, it is important to know what their fee structure is so that there are no surprises. Keep in mind that while fees are important, hiring the right person for the job, and hiring an attorney who is efficient, accessible and responsive to your needs, are paramount.
- Can you please provide any testimonials and/or references?
This is a common question and most experienced attorneys should have positive testimonials and references ready at their fingertips.
- What other areas of law do you practice?
An attorney who practices in related areas such as Trust and Estates or Construction Law may be able to offer better quality service on a wider range of issues. For some buyers this is the first time working with an attorney and the buyers may be looking to form a long-term relationship with the attorney, similar to a primary care physician. If the client has legal matters outside the attorney’s comfort zone, the attorney can provide a referral to a colleague who they know and trust.
- Which attorney will handle my matter?
At some firms, the partner may complete the intake but then hand the file to an associate. If the client establishes a rapport with an attorney and expects that attorney to handle the matter, then that should be discussed at the outset.
- Do you have time to handle my matter?
Most good attorneys are busy. However, an attorney who is too busy, e.g. due to an upcoming trial or travel plans, should be candid with a buyer so they know what to expect in terms of timing, any blackout dates and responsiveness.
- What is your strategy for resolving problems or disputes should they arise?
This is a very important question. Many deals go smoothly but some do not. Having an attorney who is able to identify issues and resolve them amicably will put the buyer in a better position for success.
- Do you enjoy what you do?
An honest answer may not be what you expect. The legal profession can be challenging. Navigating adversarial situations and resolving complex problems on a daily basis can be rewarding and exhausting at the same time. The purpose of this question is not necessarily to find an attorney who is enamored with their profession as much as it is to learn more about them as a human being. Choosing an attorney to represent your interests on what is often the biggest transaction of your life can seem daunting. Listening to the attorney speak on a more personal level may help break the ice and build mutual trust and rapport.
Please keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. This list is a guideline only. Each buyer is different, and each property and transaction are different. It is important to have the initial consultation with the attorney and ask the questions that are important to you to determine if it is a good fit.
For more information about our practice and the attorneys who are ready to assist you, please do not hesitate to call us at (914) 338-8050.
Betensky Law PLLC
The Empire Building
26 Village Green, Suite 4
P.O. Box 22
Bedford, New York 10506-0022