The list below represents some sample questions that you may want to ask prospective attorneys. Of course, not all the questions will be asked. You should select those that are of greatest interest to your association. After you’ve made your selection, be sure to use the same questions for all interviews in order to have a valid basis for comparison.
HOA Attorneys: Fees and Expenses
1. Explain the rates you charge and any particular billing methods you use, such as hourly, fixed fee and contingency.
2. Will you provide a fixed fee quote, if requested?
3. Explain the rates charged by others in your firm who will be working on association matters.
4. Is there a minimum time unit used in making time charges (e.g., .1 , .25)?
5. What out-of-pocket expenses do you bill for and how are these determined?
6. Do you bill for travel time and if so, how and at what rate?
7. Do you offer a retainer program(s) and, if so, what is the cost and what services are covered?
8. Do you provide any “free” or no charge services? If so, what?
9. Do you ever forego attorney fees? If so, under what circumstances?
10. Do you bill for calls from owners?
11. Do you implement any procedures to control fees and costs in litigation matters?
12. We don’t really have a lot of money for legal fees. How can we maximize the money we spend?
1. How frequently do you bill and when is payment due?
2. How do you itemize or explain the services for which you are billing?
3. Do your bills classify each matter separately?
4. Is there a procedure in your office for handing questions regarding a bill? What if a billing dispute cannot be resolved?
Attorney’s Office Organization and Function
1. Describe how your office or firm is organized. Who would be assigned to handle the association’s legal work? Would associates and legal assistants be used? What would your personal involvement be?
2. If you delegate our legal work to someone else in your firm, whether it’s an attorney or paralegal, who will be responsible for reviewing that work?
3. Does your firm support employee community involvement, and/or does your firm sponsor participation in community activities and charitable activities?
4. What is your policy regarding continuing education for your employees?
1. Do you or your firm belong to CAI?
2. What organizations are you involved in within (and outside of) the community association industry?
3. What other professional organizations do you or your firm belong to?
Community Association Experience and Involvement
1. Describe your experience in handling the kinds of legal problems our association faces. (e.g., collections, covenant enforcement, document amendment, litigation, etc.)
2. Do you have first hand experience with _______________? Does anyone (else) in your firm have first hand experience?
3. What percentage of your practice is devoted to the representation of association clients? Your firm’s?
4. Provide us with examples of proactive advice you have given to an association client (i.e., that has prevented or avoided a more serious legal problem from arising.)
5. Describe your involvement in the community association industry outside of representing association clients.
Community Association Law
1. Describe your practice and qualifications in community association law.
2. Do you or any of the attorneys in your firm specialize within the area of community association law?
1. Describe any philosophical or practical approaches you have in the representation of association clients.
2. In your opinion, what makes a good association attorney?
3. What do you see is the role of the association attorney?
4. What in your view makes for a good relationship between the board and the association attorney? How does the association manager fit into this?
5. What is your opinion of ADR (mediation, arbitration) versus litigation? Do you have actual experience using ADR techniques? Please describe.
1. Do you offer any education opportunities to your association clients such as seminars or workshops? Do you charge for these?
2. Do you provide your association clients with a newsletter or other written training or educational materials?
3. Do you have a website? Do you include educational information on that website?
1. For emergency purposes, are you available by phone after 6:00 pm?
2. If you are going to be unavailable, how do you communicate that to clients?
3. Who will handle our legal needs if you are unavailable?
4. Does your firm ensure there is an attorney available to speak to within at least 24 business hours of a telephone call and if so, how?
1. Do you prefer faxes, emails, or phone calls?
2. Do you give clients your cell phone number?
3. How do you communicate bad news to clients?
1. If you are unable to meet a deadline, what do you do?
2. Do you guarantee a time frame for returning telephone calls or email and if so, how long is your guaranteed response time?
1. Do you (or your firm) carry malpractice insurance? Have you had any claims made against you (or your firm)?
2. Do you meet with boards annually for a legal review of the association?
3. Can you provide us with references from existing association clients, prior or former clients and attorneys who were adverse to you?
Management Company and Vendor Relationships
1. Do you represent other associations that are managed by our manager (or management company) and, if so, how many?
2. Do you represent management companies, vendors/suppliers, developers or others associated with the community association industry?
1. How would you describe your people skills?
2. What do you believe distinguishes you from your competition?
3. When clients have worked really well with you, what made the relationship work?
4. How do you handle owners who are chronic debtors?
5. Describe a legal issue you dealt with that you are particularly proud of.
6. Describe a legal issue you handled that had a disappointing outcome.
7. Describe what things you or your firm could/would do for us that would keep us from having legal problems.
Specific Questions Regarding the Association
1. Do you have any questions or comments based on your reading and review of the association’s documents?
2. Regarding the state statutes that govern our association, what is our reserve requirement? Do we have to hold open meetings of our board? How much notice must we give before a meeting?
3. Regarding the federal statutes that affect our association, can we require renters of condominium units to obtain approval before installing a satellite dish? Does the Fair Debt Collection Practices act apply to us? To you? What class of scarred creditor should be in a Chapter B bankruptcy plan?Share