Do Condo Associations Benefit From Retaining Multiple Law Firms for Litigation?

For better or worse, legal disputes are a fact of life for most condo associations. And while many tend to retain the help of just one law firm, there are benefits to having different litigation counsel.

Lauren Fallick, partner at Miami-based litigation firm Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine. Courtesy photo Lauren Fallick, partner at Miami-based litigation firm Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine.

That’s according to Lauren Fallick, a partner at Miami-based litigation firm Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, who specializes in condo litigation and complex real estate disputes.

The most common types of condo litigation cases include breaches of fiduciary duty, potential fraud, misappropriation of funds or accounting deficiencies and covenant-based disputes. 

Here’s what experts say are the most important factors for condo associations and law firms to consider during the litigation process.

One mistake condo associations often make, Fallick says, is focusing on the cost to determine who’s best for the job, rather than experience. 

“If you are going to hire or use your general counsel you should still approach it like a new matter and say, ‘Do you have the experience in these types of litigation?’” she said. 

Fallick said having more than one firm is often more efficient and cost-effective, especially in a lawsuit with multiple parties and insurance carriers involved. 

“Having an experienced litigator who knows how to navigate the insurance defense and what available coverages there are, that helps towards developing a strategy for the settlement.” Fallick said. 

While general counsel will still assist with the overall operations of the condo association and their legal needs, it’s important for litigators to “stay in their lane” while they’re working alongside general counsel, in Fallick’s view. 

“There will be times when they appear as co-counsel and it doesn’t have to be an either/or. It can be both. That’s part of the process of making sure you have the right team in place. It may not be one or the other,” said Fallick. “As long as there are clearly defined roles, it’s not something that I would perceive as a challenge. It should be collaborative as long as everyone is going in the same direction.”

Steven L. Daniels partner with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr. Courtesy photo Steven L. Daniels partner with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

For attorney Steven L. Daniels of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr who focuses his practice on real estate and condominium/community association law, it’s more helpful to stick with one law firm that really knows the client. 

“Association clients are unique in that counsel deals with a board of directors, which often ebb and flow between one position/personality and another. Having all legal matters in one place makes it easier for the firm to better understand the client’s wants, needs and limits,” said Daniels.

There’s also the possibility that too many cooks could spoilt the broth.

“Attorneys, like other professionals, often find disagreements on strategy, tactics and goals,” he said. “Having attorneys in different firms can result in alternative theories on how to handle a matter, which can confuse a client. Monday morning quarterbacking can often be confusing for a client.”

While a new firm can sometimes bring a fresh perspective, attitude and strategy that could be helpful, Daniels said there can be divergent theories on how to proceed with a matter. 

“That can happen internally in a firm as well, however, the chance of it happening between different firms creates a greater likelihood. Different views on how to “handle’ the client, such as the association’s appetite for prolonged litigation, and having a better understanding of the association’s inner politics, which is critical in representing condominium and homeowners associations,” said Daniels. 

Whatever the situation, Fallick said it’s of No. 1 importance that condo associations retain litigators with the right knowledge and experience: “At the end of the day, no matter who it is, you want to make sure your attorney is experienced and has knowledge in the area of practice for that matter.”

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