January 8, 2010

The Sword, the Shield, and the Guide - Working with the Association's Attorney

A board should strive to get the most out of its relationship with the association’s attorney. There are three types of attorney roles that a board is likely to encounter – sword, shield, and guide. The third role is just as important as the first two, but it is often the least understood.

Boards retain attorneys to enforce the CC&Rs and collect delinquent assessments. The attorneys are swords used to produce compliance. Boards hire attorneys to defend the association from legal action by owners or others. The attorneys are shields used to deflect liability. Most board members are familiar with these two attorney roles.

Some boards retain attorneys to provide comments and recommendations about association affairs as they happen. The attorneys are guides used to ensure that the association is managed in accordance with the governing documents and applicable laws. They can amend declarations to produce more desirable results. They can inform boards of the risks and benefits involved when faced with difficult choices. The attorneys add their knowledge and experience to board deliberations and (hopefully) help boards make better decisions.

The guide role can produce many benefits for an association, but it does require the commitment to regularly inform the attorney of the significant business before the board. Once the proper procedures are in place, the attorney can often help resolve a matter with a brief email or phone call.