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How to interview a closing lawyer

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There are good closing attorneys, mediocre ones, and ones you will wish you never met.  How do you tell the difference before hiring one?

[Editor's note: This story was originally published in 2011.]

Here's a great list of interview questions plucked from a thread on StreetEasy's forum:

The firm

  • Besides real estate law, what else do you do? (Best answer: Just real estate. Worst: Personal injury.)
  • How much experience do you have with my kind of transaction?
  • Are you part of a practice group or a solo practitioner? (Best answer: Group.)
  • Will you handle my file and attend the close, or will a paralegal, secretary, or first-year associate? 
  • Who handles the documents and how? Are rider changes made by you or a paralegal? If a paper needs to cross to the other side, does it go by PDF or messenger?    
  • If a leak develops, who handles the new point of negotiation, you or the broker?
  • When will you not be available (e.g. religious holidays)?

Fees

  • Do you charge at contract signing, or all up front?
  • Do you take a retainer? If yes, under what circumstances is it nonrefundable?
  • Do fees include due diligence, and what will you do for due diligence? (Best answer: Yes fees include due diligence, and your lawyer—not a paralegal—will go to the managing agent's office to read the financials for the last two years and the minutes for the last four years. For buildings less than five years old, read the offering plan. Send a questionnaire to the managing agent asking about the reserve fund, the percentage of owner occupied units, issues around leaks, noise complaints, fireplace complaints, bugs, maintenance arrears, proposed building repairs, and more.)

Intangibles

  • Gauge the response time to your questions. Slow isn't good. It could cost you your deal. 
  • How comfortable do you feel with this person? Go with the good vibes. 

 

 

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