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Hiring Legal Services in Costa Rica

Obviously, people behave differently in every country, and certainly every country has a different set of rules and regulations. Currently, Costa Rica has over 400,000 people from over 180 different countries living within its borders,

Obviously, people behave differently in every country, and certainly every country has a different set of rules and regulations. Currently, Costa Rica has over 400,000 people from over 180 different countries living within its borders, not to mention more than three million tourists who visit every year.

Due to the complexity of laws and the differences of laws between all these 180 countries, it’s important to seek out professional legal advice when faced with legal issues while in Costa Rica. We can definitely agree that having to hire an attorney is at the top of anyone’s “bucket list,” but it is sometimes necessary to get accurate, up-to-date, and insightful advice or help with a legal issue.

How people go about hiring an attorney will vary from one country to another, but my best advice is to follow your intuition. Do not do something you do not feel good about.

That being said, there are some guidelines that can help you when you are looking to hire legal services. Below are some recommendations on how to hire legal services in Costa Rica.

  1. Shop around. Look for different options and compare services and prices. There is an expression that goes, “If you ask the same question to 100 different attorneys, you will get 100 different answers.” I agree with that. It is very different to compare costs for legal services because each attorney will offer a different set of solutions to your situation, so it is not always an apples to apples comparison. It is important to keep in mind that while you shop around there could be a significant price difference that is reflected in the scope and the quality of the services that you receive. Then it is very important to ask the questions that you need for you to understand that you are getting.

For instance, when looking to do a closing for a property, you may only get the quote for the closing without considering additional services related to the transaction, such as a Due Diligence or Escrow. If you are looking to start a business, then you will have to consider the costs of setting up a company and obtaining permits, registering a trademark, and creating contracts with employees or suppliers, etc. The point is that not all attorneys are going to think about the same issues and will give a quote to some of the issues leaving a blind spot for you.

 

  1. Get references. Some people may suggest getting a reference from a friend or relative. I do not recommend only doing this. If you want to go ahead and get a recommendation from someone that you know, it is still a good idea to do some shopping around. If you go with only one option, there may be a better option out there that you may be missing. While referrals are good, you should not limit yourself to one or two options. Again, do not lose the opportunity of hiring a professional that may be better than the one referred by your friend. You may even do your friend a favor by referring them to a better professional.

 

Once you have found some options that you like, get some references. These days, it is easy to find reviews through Facebook or Google. Asking attorneys for references is complicated as attorneys are bound to protect their clients’ information. If you can have the attorney share with you some references it will help you some, but keep in mind that the attorney is going to connect you with their happiest clients. However, if you look at social media, you may be able to find some good feedback about the person you are looking to hire.

 

  1. Do not shop for price. You get what you paid for. Think of an attorney (or any service for that matter) as a vehicle. There are a wide range of options and prices, and you must certainly stay within your budget, but try to hire the best that you can afford. People who shop for the lowest common denominator are going to get the lowest service, and then you will suffer the consequences later.

 

  1. Sign a contract. Once you have found the right professional, with the best understanding of your situation and the best possible price, then go ahead and sign a contract. Do not ever hire anyone without a contract. Contracts are very good in that it allows each of the parties to know what to expect from each other. If there is an attorney (or any other service) who tells you that you do not need to sign a contract, then that is a red flag. Think about it: the nature of an attorney is to produce paperwork and to deal with contracts on a regular basis. Not doing a contract will put you at risk and it is a good sign to identify a bad attorney. If there is something wrong with the service, then the contract must function as guide or a roadmap on how to address that issue.

 

  1. Conflict resolution. Suing an attorney is a challenge. A good goal is to never get to the point of suing anyone. The idea is to tackle the issues that you have without suing anybody, especially your attorney. If it comes down to that, there are three elements to keep in mind:
  • The contract you signed must provide language related to dispute resolution.

 

  • If it is an issue with a notary public who also is an attorney, there is the Board of Notary Publics or the Court for Notary Publics where you can bring your grievances.

 

  • If it is not a notary public, you can bring the issue to the Bar Association.

 

Lastly, keep in mind that most likely you may need to hire an attorney to sue your attorney. Let’s get it right from the beginning and do your due diligence and sign a contract.

There are many good attorneys here in Costa Rica and if you follow the above rules, you should have success. Good luck in your search for legal services here in Costa Rica!

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rvalverde@outlierlegal.com

Attorney and Entrepreneur with more than 15 years experience in: immigration law in the US and Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama. In addition, Rafael has extensive experience in Business Law, Estate Planning, and Real Estate. Lastly, Rafael has developed experience in people management, talent development and business development.

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