When your board hires a professional, you’re looking for someone they can trust to do good work on behalf of your building. This goal is doubly important when it comes to hiring and interacting with a lawyer for your co-op or condo building. The long-term relationship between a board and legal counsel provides continuity and guidance as the years pass and boards change. In order for that relationship to work, however, both the board and the attorney must be willing to work together to ensure that things run smoothly and in the building’s best interest. Relying on the good judgment of your legal counsel and being aware of his or her responsibilities to you and your building will benefit everyone involved and make the day-to-day operations of your building as smooth and trouble-free as possible.
Selecting Legal Counsel: What to Look For
Co-op and condo boards often don’t look into hiring an attorney until they have a specific problem. While this approach is common, it’s not the best plan of action, says Ken Jacobs, attorney and partner at Smith Buss & Jacobs of Manhattan and Yonkers, New York. According to Jacobs, you should have an attorney on hand to advise you on all pertinent legal matters, no matter how small. But whether you’re looking for a general counsel for something that may not be an immediate issue, or you have an urgent board matter that requires a swift response, there are several qualifications a prospective lawyer should possess. Jacobs advises boards to:
• Seek out lawyers and firms with experience working with co-ops and condos. Make sure they’re well versed in that area of the law.
• Use someone who takes a problem-solving approach, rather than going right into litigation. Hire someone willing to cover the range–someone who takes a practical approach that is backed up by litigation, if necessary. The steps your board takes to remedy a legal issue should be dictated by what’s best for the building–not by what your lawyer’s personal preferences may be.