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 Florida 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.
Counsel to Counsel
As the old saw goes, often it’s not what you know, but who. Usually, when it comes to day-to-day business, advice, and guidance, that person is the property manager. Property managers, more often than not, will have rubbed elbows with an attorney or two in their day, and will be able to provide the board with some recommendations as to which firm may best suit its budget and needs.
“From an attorney’s point of view, a property manager can act as a lightning rod for business,” says Avi S. Tryson, a partner with the law firm of Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC in Coral Gables. “If you work with them well on one property, they’ll become confident that you’ll be able to replicate that level of quality with another. It’s a quid pro quo, as, by making them look good, they make you look good. There’s a built-in relationship there.”
Outside of word-of-mouth, Tryson recommends that associations look for relevant op-eds in newspapers and trade publications, as attorneys often take to print to raise awareness of or demystify current issues affecting specific communities. These articles can be a good way to ascertain how well an attorney knows his or her stuff before even meeting for a consultation.