Abraham Lincoln once said, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”
Certainly since good old Abe’s time, interpretations of lawyers have varied, however, possessing the ability to compromise and be a peacemaker are characteristics co-op and condo boards seek. Whether a building is a large condominium or small walk-up co-op, having competent, accessible legal counsel is vital, with the professional in question serving as both a legal guard dog of sorts as well as a trusted ombudsman.
Finding an Attorney
When it comes to finding quality representation, Manhattan-based attorney Adam Leitman Bailey of Adam Leitman Bailey, PC says using referrals is the best way to go. “I recommend board members ask other board members from other buildings—number one, ask other managing agents, and number two, other attorneys,” Bailey advises. “You want to ask people in the industry who are the best. I would interview at least three. Many boards establish a subcommittee, either people that are already on the board or those who want to donate their time to go on a search for lawyers,” he says.
Like Bailey, Jeffrey S. Reich a partner with the Manhattan-based law firm of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP says that a firm’s reputation is a key building block to attracting new clients. “The great majority of buildings have a relationship with an attorney. Relationships are passed on and bridged one board to the next. If a board is not happy with their current attorney, they will usually elect one or two people to do an exploration into finding counsel,” Reich continues. “They will ask their accountant, their managing agent, conduct online research, or attend seminars.”
Boards can also look to local real estate organizations such as The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums (CNYC) to find counsel, David L. Berkey a partner with the law firm of Gallet Dreyer & Berkey in Manhattan suggests.