by Nick Gromicko, CMI®, InterNACHI®, Founder, InterNACHI® Legal Team, and Kate Tarasenko
As a home inspector, there will be times when
you’ll need legal counsel. You may need
advice on forming a business, want help with a contract, or require assistance
in defending yourself against a lawsuit.
Here are some tips for how to choose the best lawyer for your situation.
for Choosing an Attorney
1. Take your time.
When choosing a lawyer, take your time to
find the best one – before you actually need one. If a client sues you, your instinct will be
to find a lawyer as soon as possible because you just want the problem to go
away. Guard against the tendency to choose
the first lawyer who answers the phone.
The best lawyer for you may not be able to take your call right
away. Talk with at least three attorneys
before you decide on which one to hire.
2. Decide what kind of lawyer you need.
The law is so complex that it’s impossible for one lawyer to know everything. Most of them specialize, to some extent. Decide on the type of lawyer you need. An attorney who’s competent in small business issues may not be the best choice to defend you in a lawsuit.
3. Identify a few potential candidates.
Once you determine the type of lawyer you need, ask people you trust whether they know any lawyers they can recommend. You may also ask fellow home inspectors for referrals.
Also, consult state and local bar associations, which often have lawyer referral programs.
4. Assess their qualifications.
Once you identify a short list of potential candidates, find out everything you can about them. Most lawyers have websites. Study them. Does the website list the lawyer’s areas of practice? Does it tell you how many years he or she has been in practice? Does it provide the lawyer’s professional biography?
You may also be able to find online reviews through Google or sites such as www.avvo.com. Read any reviews you can find written by the lawyers’ previous clients.
Lastly, every state regulates lawyers and
maintains records of complaints filed against them. In some states, this may be a function of the
bar association, but in other states, this task falls under the purview of the
state supreme court. Check the public
records to determine whether the lawyer you’re considering hiring has been disciplined
5. Interview your top choices.
Call each one and explain what you need. If they can’t help you, ask if he or she can
recommend someone else. If you and the
lawyer decide to meet in person, make sure you are clear on whether you’ll be charged
for that meeting. Contrary to popular
myth, most lawyers do not offer free consultations; the ones most likely to do
that are personal injury lawyers who charge on a contingency basis. Before you meet, ask what you should bring to
the meeting, such as any relevant documents.
Organize them in a way that will enable the lawyer to quickly understand
what your needs are, especially if you’re being sued.
6. Fee Agreements
Once you decide to hire a lawyer, he or she will probably ask you to sign a fee agreement, which most states require of attorneys. Be sure to read the agreement thoroughly and ask questions, if necessary, before you sign it.
Help Your Lawyer
Lawyers lead stressful lives. They have multiple clients and are often
under several deadlines imposed by different judges. Time is precious to them, and they don’t like
clients who consume their time without a good reason. Here are some tips on how you can help your
lawyer serve you best and keep your costs down.
If you’re not certain what kind of lawyer you need, or if you have any legal questions about your home inspection business, contact the InterNACHI® Legal Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.