By Matt Maurer
In many respects lawyers are similar to any other trade or profession that you will need to retain as part of your investing business. There are good lawyers and bad lawyers. However, unlike a carpenter or a painter, it's very difficult for most people to recognize if their lawyer is underperforming.
In fact, you may not even know that you’re using a bad lawyer until many years later, if ever. This is because most people do not have sufficient experience dealing with lawyers to be able to differentiate the bad from the good.
To help ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth, here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a lawyer (or evaluating your current lawyer):
1. Find a lawyer who works with property investors – or better yet, who is a property investor
A good lawyer is a problem solver. Like a sick patient and a doctor, you come to the lawyer with a legal problem and they resolve it. A great lawyer will solve problems you may not even know you have yet.
A lawyer who is familiar with the business of property investing will be able to be proactive and offer solutions and ideas as to how to protect and further your business interests without you having to first identify a problem for them. As an added bonus, lawyers who act for investors have a solid network and can often put clients in need together to make deals happen.
2. Find someone you like
Ideally, you want to build a long-term relationship with your lawyer and have them become an integral part of your business operations. Finding someone you like and who has a compatible personality goes a long way in helping to build that long-term relationship.
3. You get what you pay for
Lawyers who practice exclusively in residential real estate law typically operate on low margins and rely on volume to pay the bills. In order to maintain low margins these lawyers often rely heavily on their clerks and fall back on the title insurance that you’re buying to cut corners on analysis. You may pay less hiring the cheapest lawyer on the block, but you’ll almost inevitably end up getting less value for your money at the end of the day.
4. Avoid Yes-Men and Yes-Women
Many people come to a lawyer to help solve a problem and already have a pre-conceived notion of what the solution should be. Many lawyers are willing to go to great lengths to appease their clients in order to win their business, and avoid pointing out the folly in their client’s thinking in order to avoid angering the client.You’re paying for your lawyer’s opinion and advice; make sure you find a lawyer that gives you an honest analysis and doesn’t simply tell you what you want to hear.
5. Get online
In this day and age every lawyer worth their salt has an online presence. Read their bio online and find out what experience they have and which professional associations they are involved with. If you’re lawyer practices litigation, look to websites such as Canlii.ca to see if they’ve been involved in important cases and what those cases entailed.
Matt Maurer practices commercial litigation at Minden Gross LLP in Toronto (mindengross.com/our-people/details/matt-maurer). He regularly advises property investors and real estate professionals in all aspects of their businesses and specializes in dispute resolution. He can be contacted at 416-369-4322 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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