Selecting A Good Real Estate Lawyer in Canada
If you don't already have a list of prospective Canadian real estate lawyers, a great place to start your search is right here at Canadian-Lawyers.ca. You can do a free search to come up with a list of real estate lawyers by using the Find A Lawyer search box that can be accessed from anywhere on Canadian-Lawyers.ca. (You should see a search box on the right side of your computer screen.)
Once you have a list of lawyers, take a few minutes to make sure that you are looking for the right kind of real estate lawyer. Keep in mind, that there are different types of real estate lawyers in Canada, so you need to look for one with expertise where you need it. Subcategories of Canadian real estate law include:
Other lawyers specialize in construction law or environmental law. Expertise in one of these areas does not guarantee expertise in another.
Next, find out every thing you can about the real estate lawyers and then do some initial screening to whittle down your list to three or four prospective candidates:
- Look at the biographies and websites for the real estate lawyers and their law firms. Do they appear to have expertise in the area of Canadian real estate law that you need? Do they have any information on their websites that is helpful to you?
- You will probably want to hire a real estate lawyer with at least a few years of experience.
- Real estate lawyers who represent landlords, contractors, developers, banks and financial institutions may not represent consumers with problems in this area. So if you are a borrower or a consumer, look at the profile for the Canadian real estate lawyer and his or her firm to see whom they primarily represent. If you can't tell, call the real estate lawyer's office and find out.
- Look for a list of representative clients. Are they the types of clients that you would want your real estate lawyer representing? Does the lawyer represent other businesses or people in situations similar to yours?
- Search the Internet under the name of the real estate lawyer and his or her law firm. Can you find any articles, FAQ's or other informational pieces that the lawyer has done that that give you a level of comfort?
- Ask other people if they have heard of the Canadian real estate lawyers and what they think about them.
- Contact your provincial law society or go to their website to find out if the real estate lawyer is in good standing.
- Check out the archives of your local newspaper. Has there been any publicity about the real estate lawyer or the cases that he or she has handled?
- Look to see if a real estate lawyer is affiliated with associations that cater to your legal issues. Having a Canadian real estate lawyer who is involved in a chamber of commerce or other local organizations may also be a good sign, depending on your legal needs.
- Unless there are special circumstances, you will want to hire a real estate lawyer with a local office.
- Before you hire a Canadian real estate lawyer, ask for references. You would want to talk to people who could comment on the lawyer's skills and trustworthiness. Ask if it is okay to talk to some of the lawyer's representative clients.
- Ask about conflicts of interest. Does the real estate lawyer represent any opposing parties? Does the lawyer represent any of your competitors?
- Ask for a copy of a firm brochure and promotional materials that the firm may have. Crosscheck these materials against your other sources and references. Ask to be provided with a copy of the real estate lawyer's retainer agreement and have it explained to you before decide on retaining the real estate lawyer or the Canadian lawyer's law firm. You may end up paying a lot of money to the real estate lawyer who you retain so make sure you understand what you are signing up for.
Consider any special needs you have. For example, could you benefit from a real estate lawyer who speaks a language other than English?
If your problem doesn't involve a lot of money, consider whether other Canadians have the same issues. If so, you may be able to pool your interests and hire the same real estate lawyer. Or, you may be able to talk to a lawyer who specializes in class action lawsuits. A key here is that the "class" has to be large enough to make it worthwhile for a real estate lawyer to take the case.