November 5, 2010

Should Your Association’s Attorney Be a Hired Gun or a Legal Navigator?

Community associations and the owners in them hire attorneys for many different reasons, but they often fall into one of two camps in terms of how they view attorneys’ primary purpose. Some view them as Hired Guns, while others view them as Legal Navigators.

The Hired Gun listens to the stated goal of the client and aggressively pursues that goal without questioning the goal, the likelihood of attaining the goal, or the method advocated by the client to attain the goal. This type of attorney resembles the classic “yes man” found in some corporate board rooms. Clients who want the Hired Gun want an attorney who will charge forward as they instruct with thoughts of nothing but success.

The Legal Navigator seeks to guide the client out of the wilderness it finds itself in by way of the most effective and efficient path. This type of attorney is quite willing to aggressively pursue the client’s goals using its preferred method when the situation calls for it, but he or she will also not hesitate to tell the client that it has made mistakes in the past that require compromise or that its favored plan of action is not the best one under the circumstances. In other words, the Legal Navigator will not shrink from telling clients things that they do not want to hear. In some cases, a well-timed “No” or “I advise a different approach” can result in lower legal expenses and better outcomes.

The “Charge!” approach of the Hired Gun is appealing to many. However, the clients of the Legal Navigator are much less likely to charge off cliffs.