All Real Estate Lawyers are NOT the same. Here's what you should be looking for

Think that all lawyers who do real estate closings are the same?

Let me ask you this- do you think that all surgeons are the same? All cooks are the same? All professional athletes are the same? All U.S. Presidents have been the same? Of course not! Sure, most real estate lawyers will probably (hopefully) get you from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ (the closed deal), but the outcome, timelines and level of service you receive may vary greatly (and remember, the level of service you receive is directly correlated to the level of stress you will feel during what is already a naturally stressful time). One thing that will happen early on in a typical real estate transaction is the negotiation of inspection items. Buyer hires an inspector and a few days later, buyer’s lawyer sends a list to seller’s attorney requesting repairs or a monetary credit.  As a seller, it is up to you what to do with these requests, but the input of both your realtor and your attorney will be important in helping you make your decision. Some lawyers will give you the time you deserve to talk it out- others won’t.  A good lawyer will also take steps to gauge the contract based timelines and do everything possible to help - for instance, when mortgage approvals are delayed.  One of the main reasons that you hire a lawyer is for his or her honest advice and experience.  I have been in practice for almost 20 years and have seen it all in terms of other lawyers. Some are very, very good and then others are nothing short of a nightmare for even their own clients.  Many are in between. Just like in any profession.  Investigate reputations of any lawyer that you are considering hiring on review sites like AVVO and Google to see what other people’s experiences have been like. Your lawyer should also have a ready list of testimonials to provide to you upon request. If no one is thrilled enough with the service to leave a two minute review, what is that really saying?

Hiring the Cheapest Real Estate Lawyer in town?

If that is how you like to shop for everything, go for it, I guess. But be warned. Beware of bargain basement lawyers because often you get what you pay for.  I am sorry, but I fail to see how a lawyer can give top-notch service on a $375 case.  If you ask me, lawyers who compete solely on fees are in a losing race to the bottom and often rely on a very heavy volume of cases to make ends meet. In order to meet their demands, well- let’s just say that you should think this one through and probably not expect to even talk to your lawyer personally until you get to the closing. Definitely you need to ask about fee structures anytime you hire a lawyer, but ask other questions too.

What Should I ask a Real Estate Lawyer Before Hiring Her?

Think about what is important to you before you hire a real estate lawyer and after you have checked out their online reviews.  One thing that I would make darned sure of is that I wasn't being pushed off to some paralegal the whole time and that I had actual access to the attorney. Access to the lawyer is more likely to happen at a small botique practice like mine and less likely to happen at the firms that rely on high volume (which is not my business model). Most real estate closings are short lived- two months tops in most cases, but they are fast moving and you will likely require attention weekly, if not every few days at certain critical times. Other questions to ask might be:

  • What percentage of your practice is real estate? (Be wary of "dabblers")
  • Who will work on my case and be my point of contact?
  • For how many years have you been doing real estate closings? (This not the same as "combined experience" at the firm. If someone says 104 years combined experience it does not mean that your lawyer has been doing closings for 104 years. Or if they are, I'd love to meet him or her!).
  • Will you estimate my proceeds for me early on?
  • Can you email me or send me your testimonial sheet? 
  • Will you keep my realtor in the loop? (What you want to hear is YES)

So there you have it. Some things to consider before hiring a real estate attorney. If you have questions about the service that I provide, call me. If I am not around, I will call you back- usually within 24 hours. No obligation on your part. 




Carol O'Connor Cadiz
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Attorney & Owner at O'Connor Cadiz Law: Injury & Accidents, Disability Insurance.
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