What to Ask When Hiring a Tax Attorney (Part 2)

Working with tax attorney

Ayar law here.  And we are back for our second installment of “What to Ask When Hiring a Tax Attorney” mini-series

In the first blog of the series, we discussed what to ask to determine your (potential) attorney’s qualifications.  In this installment, we will address what you need to ask to learn about the attorney’s working (and billing) style.

The information you glean from asking these questions is invaluable – to say the least.  It goes without saying that you need to be informed, prior to hiring an attorney, things like — their fees, how they bill for services, how you will be kept apprised of the status of your case — just to name a few.

By the end of this blog, you will have a better understanding of what types of questions to ask in order to predict your working relationship with the attorney (and the firm); you will also be able to determine the information these questions will yield about the prospective tax attorney.

So, without further ado, read on as I delineate just what questions you need to ask to learn about the tax attorney’s working style and if it is the right fit for you

Key Insights We Will Discuss:

5 Questions to ask tax attorneys before you hire them.

These questions concern what kind of working relationship you can expect should you hire above-mentioned attorney.  (These questions are in no particular order).

(1.) Who will be working on my case?

(2.) Are you the attorney who will be handling my case? If not…may I speak to them?

(3.) How will I be updated about my case?

(4.) How do you bill for services (and what do you bill for, precisely)? How much are your rates?

(5.) Do you offer free consultations? If not…how much do you charge?

1.) Who will be working on my case?

This is a question you will especially want to ask if you are dealing with a larger tax law firm or a tax debt relief company.  Oftentimes, at these companies, they delegate most tasks to CPAs, paralegals, enrolled agents, and support staff. It is important that you are aware of who is handling your case on a day-to-day basis.  If this is the case, you should ask to meet them as well or at least ask for their contact information so that you can speak to them directly should you have any questions or concerns.

If, on the other hand, you go with a smaller firm or solo practitioner, the person you meet with is most likely the one who will be handling your case.  Sometimes, however, these smaller firms and even solo practitioners use paralegals and/or other support staff.  So you should ask this question regardless of the firm’s size.

2.) How do you bill for services (and what do you bill for, precisely)? How much are your rates?

According to social norms, it is not polite to talk about or ask questions regarding money. So, this may seem like an awkward or uncomfortable thing to ask but it is a must.  After all, when all is said and done, you may end up paying thousands of dollars in fees to handle your tax issue; so you have every right to find out how those fees are being allocated.  Specifically, you will want to know the following:

  • Are you being billed on a flat fee basis? If so, what is included in that fee?
  • Are you being billed at an hourly rate? If so, what is the said rate?
  • Does the attorney require an initial retainer? How much?
  • What determines how much a client is billed?
  • Are they billing you for any incidentals such as copying or postage? What about administrative support costs?

While attorneys’ fees may be slightly higher than those of other tax pros, it is well worth it.  Especially in complex matters. I cannot tell you how many times a client has retained me after spending valuable time and money with other tax professionals (such as a CPA, accountant or Enrolled Agent) who, in the end, could not actually perform the task at hand.  After all, you get what you pay for.  And in the end, you want to make sure your matter is taken care of completely and that your hired professional is able to yield the best possible resolution to your tax issue(s).

3.)  How will I be updated about my case?

This may be a question you wouldn’t normally think to ask but one you definitely should ask.  This is especially important if you expect to be updated frequently about your case’s status.  Find out if you are expected to reach out and ask about the status of your open case or if someone at the law firm will be in constant contact with you.

Bear in mind, however, that in some cases, it can take months, even close to a year to hear back from the IRS so you may not hear from your tax attorney for quite some time.  If you have any questions or concerns or just want a status update about your case, though, you should not hesitate to call or email your primary contact person or even your attorney.

The mark of a good attorney is one who communicates well with their clients and makes them feel at ease when asking questions or checking in;  it should take no longer than 24-48 hours (business days) for your attorney or case manager to get back to you.

It is also important that you find out with whom you should be in contact with (e.g. paralegal, support staff, administrative assistant or the attorney him or herself).  Introduce yourself to that person as you may be going back and forth with them over the course of the next several months or even a year.

When signing up with an attorney, be firm about what your communication needs are and make sure they are on-board with those needs.  Otherwise, you may need to look elsewhere for representation.

4.)  Are you the attorney who will be handling my case?  If not…may I speak to them?

When you go into a consultation, it may seem natural to assume that the person you are speaking with is an attorney.  This can be a dangerous assumption and may lead to nothing but trouble.  So it is crucial that you ask.

If the person you are speaking with is not your designated attorney, that is not necessarily a bad sign.  Some firms delegate one primary attorney to meet with all new clients and they then hand the case off to one of their associates.

On the other hand, if this person is not an attorney at all, beware.  The scam artists operating as tax resolution companies (that we discussed in the last blog), often employ salespeople to handle all of their consultations.  Never let a a salesperson tell you what an attorney can do.  They will say just about anything to get you to sign that fee agreement and fork over some cash.  Unfortunately, other than a common sense of decency (which is severely lacking with these companies), there is nothing that legally bars them from doing this.  Attorneys, on the other hand, are legally bound by a code of ethics to be straightforward with you when discussing your case.  They have a responsibility to present all of your options and advise you on which one is in your best interest to act upon.  They will tell you what they can do for you and what is beyond the scope of their abilities.

Ask to speak to the attorney who will be representing you.  If the person you are interviewing does not let you speak to them, dances around it, or comes up with some excuse, run for the hills.  You may be walking into a trap.

5.)  Do you offer free consultations?  If not…how much do you charge?

In this blog, we have armed you with what questions you should ask in order to draw conclusions about what it will be like working with this person.  If anything at all doesn’t sit well with you about their work or billing style, continue shopping around until you find the right fit.  You are (very likely) going to be spending a substantial amount of time with this professional and investing money into this working relationship.  So it is absolutely paramount that you feel comfortable with the way they (and their firm) function.

Contact an Attorney

If you are facing tax issues that need effective and creative solutions, contact the attorneys at Ayar Law.  We offer FREE, no-obligation tax advice.  We’d love to fight for you! 800.571.7175

Executive Summary

  • When investing time and money into a new working relationship, it is crucial that you first find out what that professional’s working style is and if you really want to do business with that firm or company.
  • Ask the following questions to learn what (and why) to ask when interviewing.
  • 5 Qs to ask attorneys before you hire them.  These questions pertain to what kind of working relationship you can expect should you hire said attorney.  (These questions are in no particular order).
    • (1.) Who will be working on my case?
    • (2.) Are you the attorney who will be handling my case?  If not…may I speak to them?
    • (3.) How will I be updated about my case?
    • (4.) How do you bill for services (and what do you bill for precisely)?  How much are your rates?
    • (5.) Do you offer free consultations?  If not…how much do you charge?
  • Asking the above questions should give you pivotal information about the attorney you are questioning.
  • Your tax matter is not to be taken lightly and neither should the task of hiring good representation.
  • Keep a lookout for our next installment of this mini-series where we will discuss the proper questions to ask regarding your (potential) attorney’s validation and credentials.
  • Get free, no-obligation tax advice by contacting the attorneys at Ayar Law 800.571.7175

Venar Ayar, Esq.

Venar Ayar, Esq.

Attorney-at-Law, Master of Laws in Taxation
Principal and founder, Ayar Law

Venar is an award-winning tax attorney ranked as a Top Lawyer in the field of Tax Law. Mr. Ayar has a Master of Laws in Taxation – the highest degree available in tax, held by only a small number of the country’s attorneys.