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It can be a big waste of time for both you and the lawyer if you aren’t prepared for your first meeting. Since real estate lawyers usually charge by the hour, being unprepared will also end up costing you money, because it will take longer for the lawyer you hire to get up to speed on your legal matter.
- First of all, the lawyer will want to know who you are and how you can be contacted. The lawyer may also ask for a personal and business background. The lawyer will clearly want to understand your relationship to any business and will want to be comfortable that you have the authority to speak on behalf of any organization. Therefore, you need to write down all this information in a logical matter and have it available for the lawyer.
- Sometimes, a lawyer try to speed the information gathering process by sending you a questionnaire to fill out filled out before your meeting. If this happens, be sure to fill out the questionnaire and send it in to the lawyer’s office before the meeting. Also send along copies of any available documents that may be requested in the questionnaire.
- Before you get too far into a meeting or conversation, the lawyer is going to want to know about possible conflicts of interest. He or she will want to know the names of banks or financial institutions that you are having problems with. If the lawyer or the lawyer’s firm represents anyone on the other side of the fence, he or she will have a conflict and will usually not be able to represent you.
Written documentation is especially important in a business setting. So even if a lawyer doesn’t ask for documentation beforehand, it is still a good idea to bring a copy of all documents relevant to your situation to the meeting. Spend some time thinking about what you may have on hand. Try to organize the documents in a logical manner before you meet with the lawyer.
- It is absolutely essential that you bring a copy of any and all documentation relating to the real property at issue. If you are a homeowner, bring the purchase agreement and escrow documentation. If there is an issue with your mortgage, you would want to bring the loan agreement, title policies, insurance policies, a promissory note, a security agreement, guaranties, “UCC” filings, deeds of trust, mortgages, and notices of default.
- If you have a problem with a lease, documentation would include the lease itself. In all instances, there may be truth in lending documents and other forms that you signed. Be sure to bring all of these, too.
- Bring any information you have to evidence payments that were made (for example, bank statements, canceled checks, money order receipts). If you’re involved in a foreclosure proceeding, bring a copy of all foreclosure documents that you’ve received.
- Bring the originals and a copy of correspondence that you may have sent to or received from the financial institution
- Bring any photographs that pertain to the situation
- Dates can be critical. Get a calendar and mark down dates of when things happened and when you received any notices or other documents. Bring the calendar to your meeting to use as a reference.
- If anybody guaranteed a loan or a lease for you, the lawyer will want to know who the guarantor is. You should have this information available, as well as a copy of any guaranty documentation.
- Your lawyer will want to know who you talked with, including the names of any representatives at the financial institution. You should have names, addresses, and telephone numbers available.
- Letters, memos and other correspondence relating to the problem
- Diagram out your problem. Drawing out a picture before you meet with your lawyer may be the best thing you can do. It will help you to organize your thoughts and it will help your lawyer understand what you want to do. Identify parties and contractual relationships.
Your lawyer will ask you about your expectations. Be prepared to give your lawyer good business reasons for what you want to do. Never pursue a legal issue just for the principle of the matter.
Prepare a list of questions to take with you to your first meeting. In theory, no question is too silly to ask. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to scare a lawyer out of representing you. Some questions you might ask a business lawyer would include:
- If you are looking at a lawsuit, ask how much litigation experience the lawyer has:
- How many cases has he or she handled?
- Has the lawyer taken any cases to trial in the past year?
- How many of his or her cases have settled?
- Has he or she handled arbitrations or mediations?
- What does the lawyer think about arbitration or mediation?
- What percent of his or her practice is in the area of expertise that you need?
- Does the lawyer usually represent plaintiffs or defendants?
- What problems does the lawyer foresee with your case?
- If you are hiring a lawyer to review or negotiate a contract, you would want to ask similar questions about the lawyer’s background:
- How much of his or her work is done in this area?
- What paperwork is involved and how long will it take to finalize?
- How would the lawyer go about handling your situation? What is the process?
- How long will it take to bring the matter to a conclusion?
- How would the lawyer charge for his or her services?
- What is the lawyer’s hourly rate?
- What would the estimated fees be for your matter?
- Would the lawyer consider doing the work for a flat fee?
- Would a contingency fee arrangement be possible?
- Does the lawyer advance out of pocket costs?
- Would there be a retainer payable up front? Would any unused portion be refundable?/li>
- Would the lawyer handle the case personally or would it be passed on to some other lawyer in the firm? If other lawyers may do some of the work, could you meet them?