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Five Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer

While I wish I could give you a handy checklist of must-ask questions, what typically leads to the client hiring a lawyer is, in my experience, not so black and white. So, contrary to the blog’s title, there is not a list of five defined questions that each person should ask every lawyer.

Over my 20+ years in the area of commercial real estate law, I have found that it is much more useful for prospective clients to simply talk to me and get to know me, gain a sense of my approach to issues and problem-solving, and learn about the types of matters I’ve handled. I’m never too busy to spend time on the phone, or over email, with someone who is interested in hiring me for a commercial real estate matter. Of course, I have a resume to share, listing degrees from University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School, describing my involvement as co-chair of the Commercial Leasing Committee of the State Bar and detailing my professional experience since 1989. But the heart of the process is much more organic and, ultimately, fruitful, than what a bullet-point list of questions or perusing my resume can provide.

This free-flowing dialogue helps potential clients develop a trust level before we even begin the engagement. I also explain how the shopping center lease negotiation process generally works and share my experience with matters similar to their own. By letting them in on what strategies I might use to accomplish their goals and providing answers to any other questions they may have, I feel they get a better sense of whether we have the chemistry that will work. And, along the way, I listen and pay close attention to their concerns. The engagement is about the client’s needs, not mine. So I take the opportunity to find out about the client and both his big-picture philosophy and his immediate needs. What I learn allows me to identify a style of representation that I believe will work for that particular client.

And while getting to know me, potential clients will discover that over 90 percent of my business is referral-based, with satisfied clients coming back year after year for help with new real estate projects and endeavors. Beyond anything on my resume, I’m most proud of that accomplishment because it speaks to what I value most – the trust of my clients.