Last week I blogged about how associations go about selecting counsel for the association. Lots of you gave some tips about what associations should be searching for in the law firm they eventually choose. Some of you thought track record was important. Others thought the won/loss record mattered most. Some thought ethics were most important. It’s hard to argue against any one of these as qualifications that should be considered.
Let’s flip it around today. Let’s talk about what an association attorney expects from the association client. My most important characteristic that I look for is the ability to listen. Why bother asking for your attorney’s advice if you’re going to ignore it? If an attorney says that a meeting can’t be held in private, don’t hold it in private. If an attorney says that you shouldn’t sue a particular owner because it would be considered selective enforcement, don’t sue that owner. If an attorney says the records must be made available within ten days, make the records available. Ignore the advice at your own risk.
Here’s another thing that drives me nuts. The association signs a contract and then asks me what I think about it. Or, the association will then ask me how they can get out of it. Many times, the answer is “sorry, you can’t.” Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. It amazes me that associations will enter into contracts totaling several hundred thousand dollars for construction repairs for example, but wanted to save a few bucks by not showing it to their attorney first. The contract often times does not contain start dates, completion dates, a fair payment schedule and even a warranty.
How about having realistic expectations from your attorney? Never for one moment think that you’re going to file a lawsuit and get a resolution of the matter in a few days. There are far too many TV shows where complicated legal matters are wrapped up, even after a trial, all within an hour. If you’re telling your attorney to go to court, you need to know and expect a few things. First, court is completely unpredictable. Attorneys who are practicing for any length of time will tell you two things: the first is that many times they walked into the courtroom thinking they would win today and can’t figure out how they lost. The second is that the reverse is also true. Court is often times very unpredictable. Worse, it is time consuming and mentally draining. It is far too often the last place where you may want to go to seek justice. That’s why I will always be a big fan of mediation.
Never expect your attorney to turn a blind eye to blatant violations of the law or ethics. I don’t want my clients looking for a “Yes” man. The reputation of the attorney is always at risk if he or she allows a client to engage in questionable behavior. In addition every attorney bears an obligation to The Florida Bar to maintain ethical standards. Follow the law or your attorney should call you out on it. It’s not just the association that can terminate the relationship, the attorney has that right and obligation as well if the client is requesting assistance from the attorney in violating the law or is asking the attorney to simply look the other way Finally, paying the bill on time is always appreciated. Hey….you want an honest column right?