When buying a home, picking the right professionals to work with is every bit as important as picking the right home. A good real estate lawyer makes the road to closing much smoother. Each lawyer fits into one of two groups: litigators (who handle lawsuits), and transaction lawyers (who work out contract matters). Be mindful that not all property lawyers handle the same issues. Those who represent landlords, contractors, developers, and financial institutions may not represent homebuyers looking for help on their P&S agreement.
Search directories on the Web for lawyers in your area who handle real estate matters. Most attorneys list on their site what their practice areas are, and how much of their time they devote to litigation and/or contract matters (i.e. 70% litigation). Before making contact, you'll want to know what their background is. Guide your search by asking yourself questions at each step -- How long have they been practicing? Do they have much experience with real estate matters? Is real estate one of their specialties, or just a practice area they list on their site, but have little experience with? Is it a big firm, or a sole practitioner? Have they ever worked as a real estate broker?
Contact your state bar association or go to their Web site to find out if the lawyer is in good standing, or has any recent or previous reprimands. Look on the Web for any articles, FAQ's or other informational content they authored. Is it insightful? Does it give you a level of comfort with their knowledge of the subject area?
You will want to meet and speak with the lawyer a couple times before deciding whether to retain their services. After dealing with them a few times, ask yourself these questions: Was it easy to reach them by phone or email? Do they return calls in a timely manner? Are they juggling a lot of cases, limiting the time they can consult with you?
You want to have a good personal rapport with any lawyer you hire. Don't forget to ask for references, so you can talk to people who can vouch for the lawyer's skills and trustworthiness (or lack thereof). Ultimately, you want to find a responsive, effective lawyer with experience in the real estate world.