An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published November 5, 2011


Donna Berger's recent blog was headlined "How to pick a legal professional that is the right fit for your community!" If you actually read through the blog, you quickly find out that the headline should really read: "Why you and your board should hire KGB (Katzman Garfinkel & Berger)!"


As you can easily imagine, the criteria to pick an association attorney depends very much upon what side of the aisle you sit.


There are three main interests in a community association, but the only one that really counts are owners. Don't forget, board members are normally owners as well, if they are not straw-buyers planted by special interest as seen in the Construction Defect Lawsuit Scam in Nevada. If all is done according to the law, board members/owners are together the ones paying the price for bad decisions -- or out-of-whack bills.


Then there are the community association managers, who want to show that they are worth the money they are getting paid and are needed for the day-to-day operation of the community. There interest as well differs from the interest of owners and/or association attorneys.


And then there are the association attorneys, whose interests surely differ from the interests of owners/board members. While owners would love to have a nice, peaceful community with low maintenance costs, association attorneys are definitely more interested in billing hours -- nice, peaceful communities would bankrupt them. 


Here are the criteria I would be looking for when hiring an association attorney. Actually, these are more the reasons why you shouldn't hire certain firms:

  • Never hire a law firm that runs a lobbying group claiming to lobby for associations -- like CAN and CALL. If you do, you are not only getting legal representation, but these law firms are as well hijacking the opinion of you and your neighbors by telling legislators that you all support the bills they propose -- some of the bills often detrimental to owners’ financial welfare. We all saw in the last three years that none of these bills pushed by these attorney lobbying groups was in any way owner-friendly or actually helped to alleviate the financial crisis caused by unpaid dues and/or foreclosures. But the provisions surely increased the number of billable hours. No matter what board members and owners are being told, a law allowing associations to deny owners that are in arrears the right to use the amenities -- like the swimming pool -- surely doesn't help pay the association's bills. Neither do the laws that prevent people from voting in elections or running for the Board. 

  • If you hire these law firms you already know one thing about them: They surely know how to blow smoke!

  • Google (or use any other good search engine) the names of the principals of the firm. You might find lawsuits filed by associations against these principals. Never forget, lawsuits are only filed by really unhappy clients. And some of the lawsuits you will find are really "juicy."

  • Be careful with firms that suggest construction defect lawsuits and have specialized attorneys immediately available to take the case, especially if these "recommended" attorneys had ties to a former Nevada construction defect law firm now under FBI INVESTIGATION.

  • The bigger the firm, the better your chances of having to work with different attorneys all the time. Attorneys in big firms love to change firms. See all the recent changes in the last two years that made the headlines in the media.

Here is what you really should be looking for: A good relationship -- the feeling that you can trust each other. Picking a good attorney is very important for the financial welfare of your community. The best attorney isn't good if you don't like -- and trust -- him/her. It's about the same as with doctors: If you don't like them they are not doing you any good, because you will always second-guess his/her advice!