To find a good evictions lawyer, you need to do a little legwork.
First, go to the District Clerk’s office for the county where most of your properties are located. Evictions are filed in District Court. Ask the clerk, “Can you give me the names of the three lawyers who filed most of the eviction lawsuits within the last six months or so?”
Emphasize you are not asking for a recommendation, just the names of the ones with the largest volume of evictions. Court personnel are not allowed to recommend attorneys. On the other hand, the lawyers with the largest volume are most likely to have the experience, forms, procedures, and staff depth to handle your evictions promptly and inexpensively.
Make an appointment with each attorney BEFORE you need to hire someone for an eviction. Make it clear you want to interview them so you can make a hiring decision. Most attorneys will not charge for an initial interview whose purpose is to assist you in making a hiring decision. Do not be embarrassed to ask if there will be a charge.
Ask each attorney to describe the eviction process to you, how quickly one can be obtained, and what can go wrong. Usually, you will find yourself feeling most comfortable with one attorney. That will probably be the one who:
- Listens to your questions without interruption and responds with an answer that makes sense. Avoid attorneys who seem to want to “sell” you on their services, but never have a true conversation with you. Interrupting, or failing to give direct answers to direct questions, is a bad sign. Excessive use of legalese or jargon is a bad sign.
- Demonstrates a mastery of the subject matter and can discuss it with you in the meeting. An attorney who constantly mentions the need to engage in research, or who always uses vague generalities, is probably not the person for you.
- Explains his or her hourly billing structure and charges for routine tasks such as uncontested evictions.
- Provides you with some free advice about policies you can implement to improve collections and avoid or streamline evictions.
- Responds to your request for proof of malpractice insurance with proof of insurance, rather than making you feel uncomfortable for asking.
When you find the attorney you plan to use, make sure you have a legal services contract that spells out responsibilities, billing rates, and turnaround times. Ask the attorney to provide you with a checklist of documents he or she will need for an evictions lawsuit. Finally, remember that just like any other relationship. communication and mutual respect are essential to success.