- Luke Korkowski
How to Hire a Real Estate or Business Lawyer (Part 2)
You're looking for a lawyer, but you don't know what to look for. How do you screen for someone smart, decent, and knowledgeable and avoid paying a ton of cash for a weaselly waste of time?
Lawyers are typically -- not always, but typically -- smart people who are short on tact. They aren't all rude, necessarily, but keep in mind what it is that a lot of attorneys do all day. Many of them deal only in disputes.
Litigation attorneys, whether handling civil or criminal matters, emotionally are always on guard. They argue, they posture, and push hard on behalf of their clients. It is extremely difficult to do this day-in and day-out and still maintain, say, a therapeutic communication style.
Transactional attorneys can also be gruff. They tend to be curt in their communication style and don't always take the time to really listen to clients.
On the one hand, this is understandable. Lawyers bill for time, mostly, so time spent chatting or listening -- especially if that time isn't billable -- is time spent not doing some higher value (or billable) work.
On the other hand, clients who have hired an attorney are usually under some kind of stress. A smart lawyer will develop good interpersonal skills in order to bring some emotional relief to the client. A little compassion, a little listening -- these things can go a long way.
Generally speaking, the number one complaint by clients against lawyers is that their lawyer failed to timely and effectively communicate. This is a well-known issue in the industry, but for whatever reason some attorneys just do not excel in this area.
Because I work in both a sales profession (real estate brokerage) and in law, I can see the stark differences from one to the other. Real estate agents use tons of friendly language and lots of exclamation points. They're usually super-responsive and keep in touch well. You know the type: They tend toward the sales-y.
Lawyers seem to be socially-impaired grouches by comparison: No exclamation points, short and to-the-point emails, wooden conversation. When you find a lawyer who knows how to speak like a normal human, you've found someone who may be able to relieve some of your stress, which is really what a lot of folks want from their lawyer.
The main job of a transactional attorney is to reduce your uncertainty. This takes not only technical lawyer-ish skills but also effective communication.
Where to Find Attorneys
Finding a lawyer can be hard. You can check Yelp, the state bar association (like HSBA.org in Hawaii), Google Local, or specialty sites like Avvo.com.
Don't trust the various "rating" systems, as those tend to favor the platform hosting the reviews more than they benefit the consumer. However, reading the reviews themselves can be quite useful.
Of course, the age-old way to find a lawyer is to simply ask around among your friends. If you're lucky enough to have friends who know a decent attorney, have them make an introduction.
Many lawyers don't want to talk to you without a fee. It's common to charge $100 or more just for a 30-minute consultation.
I've never been a fan of this. I figure that you and I need to get to know each other before anyone has committed money, and 30 minutes isn't a lot to give a new client prospect.
When you're looking for an attorney, if you can afford paying one or more initial consultation fees, then fine. Plenty of good lawyers won't talk to you for free. But my recommendation would be to find those who'll give you at least 30 minutes without charging you.
Understand that lawyers can't really give you legal advice during the initial consultation. The best practice for attorneys is get a written, signed legal services agreement or letter in place prior to dispensing advice. This means you can expect more of a general, get-to-know-you conversation during the initial consultation than a here's-the-answer-to-your-question situation.
Why Hire a Transactional Lawyer
If you need to sue or defend in court, then it's obvious that you'll need a lawyer for most situations; that is, you need a litigator.
But if you're buying a house, selling commercial property, writing a lease, buying a business, or starting your new venture, sometimes you can be tempted to do things yourself.
Personally, I'm a big fan of a do-it-yourself mindset, if you're trying to learn. However, the error most people make when trying to handle transactional legal matters themselves is that their motivation isn't to learn but to save money.
When that's your motivation, you often don't in fact put in the work to know what you're doing. I've seen this result in shoddy work and, sometimes, hugely increased costs or risks. The reason you need a lawyer is because you don't know what you don't know.
So let's at least have an open conversation first, and then you can decide the move that best fits you.
Get in Touch
If you have question about hiring a lawyer, or about hiring me as that lawyer, give me a call. My number is 808-492-0590. We'll chat for half an hour at no charge.
If it's not a fit, no sweat. If it is, then we'll get to to work solving your problem.