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. But even the most upstanding board of trustees in New England must navigate a labyrinth of community association rules in order to best serve its ownership, and the odds are that its trusty group of volunteers will consist of few, if any, qualified legal professionals.
So what to do in order to ensure that an 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 do you ascertain which attorney or firm is ideal 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.
Do Your Due Diligence
The first step in finding that attorney pearl in the legal oyster bed is knowing where to look, and whom to vet. Searching for professionals becomes infinitely easier these days with the help of the Internet to conduct an online search.
“Attorneys are much like doctors in that we have specialties,” says Cameron Pease, a partner with the law firm of Goldman & Pease in Needham, Massachusetts. “Just because you’re a lawyer doesn’t mean that you know tax law, nor should tax lawyers know anything about condo law. You can figure out pretty quickly which firms specialize in the area of your need by doing some digging on the Internet. Firms like ours are out there marketing and writing articles on various issues: relevant changes in association law, or whatever big case came down in the state within the last few weeks.”
“And property managers pass along referrals,” Pease continues. “They know who the good lawyers are. A lot of finding an attorney is based on word of mouth—talking to different people in the industry. And then there are different trade organizations: CAI (Community Associations Institute), for example. These can tell you who the good practicing attorneys in your area are.”