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Before hiring "the" lawyer, ask your questions!

Recently, a prospective client invited me to Bridgehead because she was interviewing real estate lawyers in the area before she made her choice. The gesture was unusual (lawyers don't normally get interviewed before they are hired) but, intrigued, I accepted the invitation. Linda (name changed) had the guts to say, "Hey, I'm a consumer of legal services. I want the service that works for me and I will take the time to do the research to find the right lawyer for me." I was curious to meet this discerning consumer.

I sat down at Bridgehead the next day and listened as Linda went down her list of questions for me - questions she no doubt asked other lawyers she vetted. Linda's rationale for the meeting was, she would rather invest the time up front; understand what she can expect (and what she can't) from her lawyer ahead of time. I thought, "If Linda respects her own time, she will respect mine." It also occurred to me that if Linda is this organized, I WANT to work for this client.

Some questions Linda asked that were helpful in determining whether we are a fit (and that I wish more prospective clients would ask):

1. What proportion of your practice is in real estate (or other area of law)?

2. How long have you been practicing law?

3. How do you charge for your services (per hour, flat fee)?

4. Are there third party fees ("disbursements") that I should be aware of? If so, how much are they, approximately?

5. How often do you bill?

6. Do you take a retainer before starting work on my matter?

7. What are your office hours? Do you offer evening appointments?

8. Do you do house calls?

9. Is your office accessible for someone with limited mobility?

10. How will I be updated with respect to progress on my matter?

Today, I received a call from another prospective client. Debbie (name changed) asked me her questions and I sensed that we were not the right fit for one another. Debbie thanked me for being up front with my answers and we hung up. I spent five minutes on that call. If anything, it is good for both of us to know that Debbie would be better served elsewhere. Better to know now than later.

Plus, it turned out that I will need the additional time because Linda ended up hiring me to help her with her home purchase - and she referred another client my way who has just signed an agreement to purchase a home.

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