Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"I Am An Attorney"

Chilling words.  While not always sinister, all too often we run across 'that' person flashing this phrase to intimidate.  Even more often, s/he might be a really good attorney - but s/he might not have a clue when it comes to HOA (homeowner association) matters.  Most community volunteer Board members wince when they discover a delinquent homeowner is an attorney.  For us CAMs (community association managers), it is a time of celebration.

The savvy attorney fully appreciates the process he faces, and quickly resolves the debt or violation.  Too often, however, he has little experience or knowledge, or sadly counts on bully tactics to get his way. 

An offer to call the State Bar works wonders in reigning in the rowdy attitude.  Just as medical doctors specialize in various treatments, attorneys are specialists.  While they all know the same basics, such as contract law, the intricacies of HOA law can be just as foreign for both a lawyer and a layperson.  Knowing not only how the courts have ruled, but also how these rulings are customarily being applied, spells the difference between loss and success.

At a recent HOA citywide conference, one of the guest speakers was an attorney who presented himself as an expert in HOA law.   He was not.  It was obvious to those of us who daily eat, live and breathe HOA life, but unfortunately many in the crowd were mislead.  It didn't help that this attorney was playing to a 'siege mentality' shared by many in the room.  Homeowners only found their suspicions validated, rather than educated, by the attorney's rant. 

There is a silver lining.  Some of the more seasoned homeowners in the crowd spoke up and challenged what was being said.  This was far more effective than if any of the other guest speakers had debated the attorney.  The same is true for any community meeting you hold.  An argument between Board members, or between the Board and homeowners, only hardens positions.   Non-Board members arguing on behalf of a Board position are far more effective in getting their neighbors to reconsider a situation.

Sadly, our litigious society demands an ever-growing population of attorneys.  Just don't assume that they know everything about the law.  They face the same challenges and insecurities as the rest of us.  Attorneys are people too.

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