1. Ask friends or business associates if they know a property tax attorney. As in other areas, a referral from someone who has had direct experience with a professional and whose judgment you trust can be a reliable guide.
2. Schedule an appointment to speak with the attorney by phone. Ask the attorney how he would approach your case. Property tax appeals are typically handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that most or all of the fee depends on the outcome of the tax appeal. One consequence of this industry standard is that many property tax attorneys will briefly discuss your property tax with you without initial fee.
3. Ask for the url of their website and blog. Then spend a few minutes reading the blog for items of interest and looking at the materials posted on the website.
4. Find out what legal and appraisal or assessment organizations the lawyer belongs to. At the very least, he should belong to the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO). This is the national professional organization for government officials responsible for assessment of local property taxes.
5. Find out if he or she has earned a Martindale-Hubbell rating. "AV" is the highest ability/highest ethics rating based on the opinion of lawyers and judges who know him or her. Only 10% of American lawyers have achieved this rating. Only 50% of all lawyers have earned a rating, so A-B-C rated lawyers are in the top 50%. Moreover, you cannot have an ability rating unless you have earned the highest ethics rating (the "V" rating).
6. Don't be fooled by advertising slogans, such as "former local government attorney" or "aggressive property tax advocate." Meet the lawyer and decide if you have confidence in his or her skills and feel comfortable with their analysis of your property.
7. Inquire if the attorney you are interviewing has ever taught at a law school (or CLE program) or published a legal or tax assessment article. Teaching and publishing require research and dedication, as well as commitment to good practice policies. This is also is a good way to determine your lawyer's standing in the legal community.
8. Ask who will work on your case if you hire this attorney, and what their experience level is. What portion of work will these other people be doing, and what will be your attorney's participation in your property tax appeal? Does the attorney attend all the hearings? If not, does he sometimes assign this task to nonlawyers, as he is authorized to do in most jurisdictions?
9. Discuss the facts of your case. The attorney should be able to discuss in general terms how he or she will proceed and how your tax appeal will be handled.
10. Inquire about law office communications with clients and what the attorney's policy is regarding apprising you of the progress of your tax appeal.
Daniel A. Weiss is a former Attorney Special Master for the Miami-Dade County Value Adjustment Board. Mr. Weiss now represents commercial, institutional charitable, commercial, high-end residential, agricultural and municipal taxpayers at VAB proceedings throughout the State of Florida. Mr. Weiss handles both valuation and legal claims.
Mr. Weiss has over 25 years property tax experience. Mr. Weiss represented the Miami-Dade County taxing authorities in litigation and appeals between 1981 and 1995 as a Miami-Dade Assistant County Attorney and has since represented taxpayers in property tax matters.
In Florida Trend magazine™'s Legal Elite's issue, July 2004, Mr. Weiss was selected by his peers as one of the top 30 government lawyers in the State of Florida.
Mr. Weiss appears as one of Florida's Super Lawyers 2006 in the publication of the same name. He was named by his peers as one of the top 6 local government lawyers in South Florida.
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