8 Questions To Ask Any Real Estate Attorney
"Selecting an attorney based on pricing alone was the single largest mistake I made in the entire process... I wasted months of time and energy that I'll never get back"
We asked Adam Turk and Seth Davidoff, two attorneys at Fentin, Goldman, Turk & Davidoff, to help us come up with the most important questions to ask before hiring any real estate attorney. They provided us with a number of different diligence resources for buying or selling in the New York market and had some great suggestions on questions to ask.
1) What other areas of law do you practice other than Real Estate?
Are you familiar with new construction? If they litigate and must attend court often, they may not be available during many periods of the day, especially the mornings and early afternoon. This is not to say they are a bad attorney; however, in today’s real estate market every second counts. You want your attorney to be responsive to the other parties especially during work hours. New construction condos and foreign purchasers present an entirely different set of issues than a typical real estate transaction. If your lawyer is not familiar with them or does not do them often, they may make common mistakes that can cost you additional fees.
2) Will you work on my file and attend the closing or will my file be handled by your secretary/paralegal/associate?
You want to know what you are paying for. You might be hiring a great attorney, however, their paralegal might not be as great and they are the one working on your file.
3) Will you reply to my emails in a timely fashion?
There should be no reason why an email can’t be returned within a few hours. Your attorney should be responsive.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-265-4900 to speak with an attorney
4) Does your legal fee include due diligence and what exactly does your due diligence entail?
Many lawyers charge heavily discounted rates and provide low quality work. Regardless of the price of the property your attorney should conduct a full due diligence review.
5) What is your legal fee?
Some lawyers might set their fee very low and then stick you with additional charges at closing. They may upcharge for printing, phone calls, attending a closing, or travel. Most lawyers will charge the actual cost for Messenger and FedEx charges and nothing more. There should not be printing fees or travel fees. Get their fees in writing even if it is just a simple email.
6) Do you own or are affiliated with a title company?
A title search needs to be conducted. Often an attorney may own the title company, or their spouse, and will provide a low legal fee while grossing up title charges to make extra money. The New York State bar association has deemed this behavior unethical, but unfortunately the practice continues with many law firms.
7) Do you and your firm have Professional Liability and Fidelity Bond coverage?
If so how much? Often attorneys either do not have coverage or their coverage is not sufficient. Real Estate Transactions in New York can be quite expensive often prices are in excess of the lawyers liability limit. In a scenario where an insurance claim is warranted there may not be sufficient funds to cover damage.
8) Do you and your firm have secure email and a secure computer network?
What are your security protocols? A lawyer has an ethical and legal obligations to exercise the vigilance needed to protect client data. In order to do that, an attorney must either have the competence to evaluate the nature of the potential threat to the client’s electronic files and to evaluate and deploy appropriate computer hardware and software to accomplish that end, or if the attorney lacks or cannot reasonably obtain that competence, to retain an expert consultant who does have such competence. Unfortunately, many solo or smaller law firms lack the resources necessary to adequately protect your personal information.
Jacob Davidoff, Esq.
Adam Turk, Esq.
Residential Real Estate Attorneys
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