Choosing an Attorney The Best Legal Fit for Your Association

Not every condominium or homeowners’ association is going to run afoul of the law—the happy truth is that litigation and legal trouble are relatively rare occurrences. However, even the most upstanding board in New York City must navigate a labyrinth of association law in the course of serving its ownership, and the odds are that its trusty group of volunteers will include few, if any, qualified legal professionals. So what to do in order to ensure that your association’s business remains on the up-and-up? Hiring one of the aforementioned legal eagles would be a good start, sure, but how best to ascertain which attorney or firm is the one to guide your association right and true? Turns out, choosing a legal pro isn't so different from choosing any other kind of service provider your HOA might need – even if the stakes are somewhat higher.

Trust Your Associates

Sometimes, the best advice on which professional to hire comes from those with whom you already have strong professional relationships. In the case of a condo or co-op board, a good place to start is your property manager. Most managers handle several buildings, and are in a position to refer their client communities to the right pros for a given job—including legal counsel. 

“Most referrals come by way of a management company who has dealt with an attorney and/or law firm on other buildings, and are quite happy with services rendered,” says Denise DeNicola, an associate with Philadelphia-based law firm of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP. “And an individual needs special ‘people skills’ to represent a co-op or condo board. An attorney who can’t make the time to show compassion and patience and have the ability to hand-hold when necessary will not succeed as a condo/co-op attorney.”

Fortunately, the burden of meeting with qualified attorneys does not fall entirely upon the condo or co-op. An attorney who possesses the people skills cited by DeNicola is also one adept at networking, and may well cross paths with community decision-makers at local events, trade shows, and other venues. “Most law firms with a devoted practice in community association law spend a great percentage of time making and nurturing new relationships,” notes Jennifer A. Loheac, a shareholder attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff in New Jersey. “Attorneys may also volunteer on boards and committees for the betterment of the overall industry. And addition to managers, many referrals come by way of other industry professionals, such as managers or accountants.”

Direct and straightforward as referrals can be however, it's worth keeping in mind that in some cases, one professional may have ulterior motives for recommending another. “The positive aspect of relying on a management recommendation is that the managing company has most likely worked with the attorney before and thinks highly of that professional,” says Loheac. “The flip side of that, however, is that certain management companies may prefer certain firms for reasons beyond professional reputation—like which law firm sponsored their golf outing, retreat or holiday party. This is why it’s wise for a board to solicit recommendations from multiple sources, to minimize personal bias.” 

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2 Comments

  • I have an issue and need a coop lawyer I am a shareholder of my building never has meetings never has elections and never issue anyone any montlhly financially reports, This building is being self managed, I lost my certificate years ago they refuse to issue me a certificate or speak to me about it they go around telling people that im not a shareholder because they are aware that I lost it but the remaining shareholders knows thats not true so i would like to have a copy of certificate also its a 10 unit building with 5 shareholders , Company by the name of UHab is a personal friend of the treasurer she doesn't like me or the other shareholder and she comes by the building only speaking with the Treasurer and her son regarding our building status and no other shareholder knows or is allowed to know anything we feel as if its privately owned by the Treasurer . The President resigned and we no longer have a President and they refuse to have an election because this would allow myself to possibly be picked and she doesnt want me to see what shes doing with out funds so they refuse to have an election how can i get me a lawyer to get me a copy of my certificate and copies of the monthly financial report
  • I live on first floor apartment in a coop building.Next to the building is a bakery and owner and his employees smoke all the time in front of my Windows .All smoke is coming in my house (I have to paint one of the wall got dark from cigarettes) I talk with owner and his answer was like is entitle to smoke because live in the same coop with me! Board never answer to my complains. What will happened if I call 311 City ?Thanks