Posted by gary on December 14, 2000 at 11:20:31:
In Reply to: tenant.net advertisers posted by Chelsea on December 14, 2000 at 09:30:15:
Well, I agree with you in general. There is no question that landlord-tenant law is very specialized, and you need a good lawyer when much is at stake. Never try to fight an eviction yourself, for instance.
But as in any field, there are good, bad and indifferent lawyers. In the case of the lawyer I mentioned, he may indeed be a very good one. But my tenants assn. was dissatisfied. I'm not mentioning the guy--no point in that--but what follows is an indication of the problems you can run into with a lawyer.
To begin with he indicated, at the outset, that the retainer would probably be sufficient to pay his total legal fees. That was an improvident promise as it turned out the legal fees way exceeded the retainer.
Then, when the DHCR said we had to pursue individual, not building-wide cases, he turned out boilerplate paperwork but charged us each for individual work. That led some of us to believe that we were overbilled.
He was abrasive and condescending.
He told us we "needed a lawyer" to pursue a reduction in service case before the DHCR. Wrong. The issues were simple.
He made errors and overstatements in the papers that we had to fix.
He was supposedly a tiger for tenants rights, but he recommended we should "seriously consider" a landlord offer that was ridiculous.
Finally, when we fired him, he gave us a hard time getting our files even though he wasn't owed any money. I had to threaten to file an ethics complaint against him to get him to cough up "his" files, which we were legally guaranteed.
After firing him, we pursued our cases individually and ALL of us won, on our own, everything we sought.
In fact, we did much better with a lawyer than without a lawyer. Why? Because the other side's lawyer was paying legal fees and we werent. The LL couldnt try to kill us by worsening our legal fees. Had we kept the lawyer, we would have paid more in legal fees than we eventually all recouped in retroactive rent.
So hiring a lawyer is like hiring any professional--get a personal recommendation if possible.
: I wouldn't advise choosing a lawyer solely because they advertise here either. But I and others have suggested in the past that this pool of lawyers is a good place to start. Why? For one thing, they are specialists in landlord-tenant law -- it's a highly arcane field, and a generalist or someone who is an expert in another field of law is unlikely to have the specific skills you need. Also, it seems to me that helping sponsor this site suggests a commitment to tenants rights. I'm very sure that tenant.net offers no guarantee, but I wouldn't be surprised that if tenant.net received many complaints about a particular advertiser, that firm might be unable to advertise here. (Many newspapers have similar policies for advertising generally, not just for lawyers.) Is that the case, tenant.net?
: All of this does not guarantee that lawyers who advertise here will win every case, or that their clients will be happy with them. As I've said, it's a good idea to check out two or three before hiring one. Personal recommendations are valuable from someone whose judgment you trust. But I wouldn't put much stock on a recommendation from this board from someone you don't know, especially if anonymous, because you don't know the circumstances of their case and it could be self-promotion.
: : I would most definitely NOT choose a lawyer just because he or she advertises on this or any other website. My tenants assn. used to have a lawyer in a DHCR proceeding who in fact is an advertiser here, and we were very very dissatisfied and wound up firing him. A personal recommendation is best but not foolproof.
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