Lawyers Amiright? (insert tired lawyer joke here)

After the recent experience of one of my clients purchasing their first home,  I was inspired to write this note on finding good lawyers to handle the legal end of financing. 

Without getting into too many details, this particular lawyer originally quoted these folks a price $1200 to complete their purchase – pretty standard. By the time the lawyer asked for the bank draft, which is meant to cover the down payment and closing costs, my clients discovered that the legal fees had ballooned to over $2500.

Shocked, they asked me to review the statement of adjustments and trust ledger their lawyer had provided and yeah, it was shocking. This lawyer had consistently inflated normal transactional costs such as title search and ‘software transaction charge’, included fees for services that are not even applicable to the transaction and even created some fees out of whole cloth. 

At the end of the day, my clients had been overcharged to the tune of $1400. Of course, all of this came out mere days before closing so the clients had no choice but to eat the additional cost, not having enough time to flip their deal to another reasonably priced lawyer.

This is not the first time we’ve seen this and it begs the question; how does one choose a good lawyer?

  • Reviews – a busy real estate firm works with hundreds of clients in a year. If they are committed to service and fair pricing, this should be reflected in their reviews.
  • Personal referrals – ask friends and family who they used and if they had a positive experience.
  • Show no fear! – Strictly speaking, lawyers are not in the customer service industry and some people are intimidated by the prospect of dealing with them. Just remember you are PAYING them to perform a service, there is nothing wrong with asking these questions. In the cautionary tale above the staff at the firm in question were very hazy on details. If you get hazy responses from your lawyer, maybe it’s time to think about finding another.
  • Ask your Broker – Although your choice of a lawyer is totally up to you, brokers work with lawyers all the time and typically have a good sense of who is, not only, fairly priced but also efficient in practice.

Like any other industry, there are good lawyers and bad lawyers. Mortgage financing can be stressful at the best of times, but a good lawyer (like a good broker) should be working to ease that stress, not add to it.