|What questions should I ask a prospective lawyer?|
When you are looking to retain a lawyer, it is really important to determine in advance what your expectations are. Remember, you are buying a service and whenever you are buying something you should keep in mind the adage: "Price Quality Service - Pick Two" because no one can deliver all three.
Questions related to the quality of the end result- that is, good marketable title- are essential because that is ultimately the most important aspect of the transaction. The types of questions in this category relate to the experience of the lawyer and his or her staff. A more experienced lawyer should be able to anticipate potential problems and deal with them more effectively than a less experienced lawyer simply because he has run into these problems before and knows how to deal with them. However, this is only a general rule as some new lawyers are extremely competent and some older lawyers are extremely incompetent. In any event, experience is a factor to be considered.
to price are often the first questions that clients ask prospective lawyers.
I can't tell you how many times in the first few years of my practice
I have had prospective clients call me because they are buying a property
and ask for a quote on fees. Some of them really were price shopping,
but often it was just a case of not knowing what other questions they
might ask of their potential lawyer. What a client should be asking for
is the total cost including fees and disbursements and land transfer tax
and under what circumstances additional fees may be charged. For example,
we rarely charge additional fees simply because problems arise during
a particular deal where the problem relates to the vendors and their title
to the property because that is what we are paid to deal with in the first
place. However, we will charge additional fees when the problem arises
because of some issue related to our client, such as the need to prepare
powers of attorney, clearing executions against our own client, preparing
second mortgages and that sort of thing. My personal belief is that a
client should neither go with the lowest or the highest priced lawyers
because with respect to the lowest priced lawyers you get what you pay
for and with respect to the highest priced lawyers you are throwing your
money away because there really is an upper threshold as to quality -
that is, you either get good title or you don't- and there is also an
upper threshold as to service.