If you are involved in a real estate transaction, you likely need to consult with a real estate lawyer. Not only do real property transactions generally involve valuable assets, but real estate is a particularly complicated area of law.
Real Estate law can potentially involve federal, state, and local real estate regulations, insurance laws, and contract laws, and can possibly influence other areas of personal and business life, such as tax and estate planning, retirement, domestic issues, and more.
Due to the unique nature of each real estate transaction, you will want to find a lawyer with an expertise in real estate law. This article will help you identify the nature of your real estate issue, find lawyers who practice in your area, research individual attorneys, as well as the process of interviewing and hiring a real estate lawyer.
How to Categorize Your Real Estate Claim or Transaction
Identifying the specific nature of your real estate transaction and potential or actual legal issue is the first step in finding an attorney that is the right fit for you. Many real estate lawyers specialize in one or two aspects of the law, so you’ll want to find a lawyer who is familiar with your particular issue. Here are four questions to help you narrow down your search.
- Are you currently or potentially negotiating a transaction involving real property, or, are you currently or potentially a part of a court case arising from a real estate transaction?
Most lawyers either deal with the transactional side of the law (contract negotiations and drafting, document or transaction review, etc.) or the litigation side (representing clients in court), so the stage of your real estate issue will narrow down your search.
- Does your issue concern residential or commercial real estate?
The laws and regulations may be different depending on the type of real property, so many real estate attorneys specialize in either residential or commercial properties.
- Is the transaction a lease or purchase, or does your legal issue stem from a lease or purchase?
Attorneys may specialize in either landlord-tenant law or the purchasing of real estate property.
- Does this real estate transaction or legal claim touch on a unique area of law?
There are some types of properties (i.e. agricultural, industrial, new construction) that are subject to additional laws and regulations. Even more, some legal issues can be considerably complex (ex. environmental regulations).
If you are involved in a unique area of real estate law, you’ll need a lawyer who has handled similar claims or transactions.
How to Find Real Estate Lawyers in Your Area
One of the most common ways to find a trusted attorney is through a personal recommendation from someone who has dealt with a similar real estate transaction or claim. For commercial real estate, ask colleagues in your industry for a referral. For residential transactions and claims, seek out friends and neighbors with recent experiences.
Even if you don’t know anyone that can give a recommendation, there are online resources that can help you find a real estate attorney in your area.
Bar association websites are great resources. The American Bar Association has a Lawyer Locator on its website. Similarly, the Colorado Bar Association has an online form for finding an attorney in a specific legal field. Furthermore, your area may have a real estate bar association or committee that can help you find a lawyer who can handle your specific issue.
Lastly, the chamber of commerce in your area will usually have a directory of attorneys in good standing.
How to Research Candidates
Once you have the names of a few real estate attorneys who practice in your area, you’ll want to spend some time online researching the candidates. The attorney’s website or the bar association website should list pertinent information like licenses, bar membership status, affiliations, specialty areas, years of experience, and any awards. Search for any articles written by the attorney, which may give you more insight into their particular concentration areas and their communication style.
How to Interview and Hire a Real Estate Attorney
Even if an attorney looks great on paper, you’ll want to conduct interviews with a few candidates before you make any decisions. If an attorney is unresponsive to your inquiries, take that as a sign to keep looking. Your specific questions for potential attorneys will be dependent on your issue, but in general, you’ll want to ask about following:
- What is their experience with your particular type of transaction or claim?
- How much of their business is related to this type of real estate practice?
- Do they have experience handling real estate transactions or claims in your location?
- If this is a bigger firm, who specifically will handle your business?
- Can you have a list of past clients as references?
- What are their fees and how will you be charged?
- What is their method of communication and how often can you expect to be in contact?
After you decide that you will work with an attorney, you’ll receive an engagement letter or retainer agreement. This document will put in writing the services the lawyer will provide, as well as the fee arrangement. Review the document and ask questions about anything you do not understand before you sign it.
Finding the right real estate lawyer for your needs can involve a fair amount of research. It is best to be thorough with your search.
Learn more about Joe Stengel, and see how he serves his clients with the best possible representation and counsel.