Editor's note: This story was originally featured in the January issue of DS News, out now.
In the January issue of DS News, we were proud to introduce our section on 25 women lawyers who have made their marks in the legal industry. From breaking through the glass ceiling to fighting for the rights of their clients, these formidable women have ensured the success of their individual firms and the industry through their skills and can-do attitudes. They are mentors and role models for a younger generation that admires them, learns from their fights, and is influenced by their positive approach towards creating a work-life balance.
In this first installment, we profile get to know more about what inspired these women to become lawyers, their views on the current state of the industry, what it’s like to be a woman in law, and what qualifies these women as being among some of the finest minds in the legal and financial services industries.
Compliance Counsel, Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC
Cristina Aroyo comes from a family of lawyers and always knew that this was a career path that she would follow even though she began her career in public relations and marketing. “Although I fought the idea of being an attorney, in the back of my mind I always knew it was going to happen. I transitioned to law as I liked the idea being given different types of situations and helping provide solutions,” shared Arroyo, who joined the profession at a time when leadership was less diverse. “At the beginning of my career, I had less role models and mentors to relate to, and it was harder to know my career path, a difficulty I think my male counterparts did not have. Although there is still work to be done, I feel more women are assuming leadership roles today,” Arroyo said. As an in-house compliance counsel, Arroyo enjoys collaborating and partnering with business units to work jointly to implement and operationalize regulations. Considering the year ahead, she believes that in 2018, servicers must customize how they deal with long-term effects of multiple natural disasters. “In addition, 2018 will bring the challenges of the implementation of the remaining CFPB amended rules related to successor in interest and billing statements and the uncertainty of the possible path that large regulators will take if there is a shift in federal regulation,” Arroyo said.
CYNTHIA (CINDY) BERMAN
SVP, Chief Compliance Officer, Freedom Mortgage Corporation
In her role as SVP and Chief Complaince Officer at Freedom Mortgage, Cynthia Berman finds the most enriching part of her job is when a project that she’s worked hard on comes to fruition. “After months of collaborating with senior business leaders and project managers to integrate a new or revised consumer protection law into our loan manufacturing and/or servicing process, it’s very satisfying when we implement the change and complete the project,” Berman noted. When Berman looks ahead to the challenges mortgage professionals will face in 2018, she notes that the rising interest rates that are predicted will cause shrinkage in loan production and tighter profit margins. In her role at Freedom, Berman has helped the legal/regulatory team work together efficiently to prepare for such changes. “With our current staff of seasoned industry professionals, we are well positioned to operate effectively and continue to deliver high-quality legal support to the Freedom enterprise,” she said. Berman is proud is work for Freedom where all employees are valued for their contributions to the company, though when she started her career some co-workers had no experience with a woman attorney. “For the most part, the novelty worked to my advantage as I got visibility and opportunities to demonstrate my professional abilities early on. To overcome challenges, I prepared extensively and worked hard on every project—two habits which have helped me throughout my career,” said Berman.
ROSE MARIE BROOK
President/CEO, Fabrizio & Brook, PC
In her 21 years as a legal professional, Rose Marie Brook has worked with many clients across the country, developing professional and personal relationships on the way. But, it is creating a positive influence on other working women that Brook has really appreciated about her career. “The occasions when I’m told that I have been a role model to other women who have remained in the workforce while balancing career and family and the knowledge that I have been a positive influence for others gives me a sense of professional satisfaction,” Brook said. Providing the best work environment at her law firm and title company ranks high on Brook’s list of priorities, and the dedication of her staff helps her to remain prepared for a challenging legal landscape. “Solid relationships and open communication among staff, clients, and colleagues, as well as constant vigilance to the legal and regulatory landscape is imperative to maintain excellence and help our clients do the same,” Brook shared. She feels that maintaining a human connection while continuing to make advances with technology is one of the major challenges facing the mortgage industry today. “While continuing to automate and streamline processes, it is important not to lose flexibility, compassion and other human elements of service,” Brook said.
CAREN JACOBS CASTLE
Senior Attorney, The Wolf Firm, a Law Corporation
Caren Jacobs Castle feels that education is crucial for professionals in the real estate industry. “I have seen so many rises and falls over my 30-plus years practicing law that I truly believe education is a powerful tool to understand the process and make better decisions in this industry,” said Castle. While being a female has never held her back professionally, Castle feels that her bigger challenge was dealing with the internal battle between her roles as a professional and as a wife and mother. Today, one of the biggest challenges Castle sees impacting the industry is managing the high costs for compliance and default management. “Maintaining the highest quality of mortgage professionals and attorneys in this rising cost environment will continue to prove a major challenge,” Castle shared, adding that communication was the key to streamlining responsibilities for lenders and servicers. “As we become more dependent upon technology, we must make sure that technologies are streamlined for the lender/servicer and law firm,” Castle said. She hopes that her experience and knowledge of the industry has helped her place her firm ahead of the others in facing future challenges. “We are constantly reviewing our policies, procedures, and technologies to improve efficiencies while always maintaining the highest standards of quality and ethics,” Castle said.
SASHA M. COHEN
First VP and Corporate Counsel, Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC+
Default Servicing, Real Estate Litigation and Transactions, Business Law, Estate Planning, Probate, Guardianship and Trusts, General Civil, Construction Law
As First VP and Corporate Counsel at Bayview Loan Servicing, Sasha M. Cohen has enjoyed keeping up with new regulations and challenging trends in an environment that is always evolving and changing. It was her enjoyment in studying the law that led Cohen to first become an attorney—with the added benefit that the role also speaks to her love of helping people. “The best thing we as legal professionals can do to help lenders and servicers is to seek a balance between operational challenges and new regulations and to try to do the best we can for the customer and the consumer,” Cohen shared. At Bayview, Cohen is able to work with many different departments to help find resolutions for customers, clients, and investors. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Cohen acknowledges she has probably had a different experience than her male counterparts. When asked how she handles this challenge, Cohen said, “I have never allowed that to hinder my performance, restrict my involvement, or stop me from putting forth my opinion. I believe that the most important thing is to be prepared and knowledgeable and due to that, I believe my firm acknowledges and appreciates my contributions to my department and my contributions to the firm as a whole.”
MAGALIE A. CREECH
Member, Finkel Law Firm LLC
Magalie Creech has been with Finkel for more than nine years, having first started out as a summer Law Clerk and now coming full circle as a Member. In those nine years, she learned a lot about the practice of law, but also came to discover how important it is to be part of a dedicated, reliable, and integrated team. Creech said that given the sensitive nature of the information attorneys handle in default servicing, it is of paramount importance to have dependable employees who are able to perform their responsibilities conscientiously and effectively. This can be especially challenging in a field where the landscape is one of constantly evolving regulations and policies. “I am so thankful to be part of a talented group of professionals whose collective experience handling a broad spectrum of regulatory and litigation issues qualifies us to offer comprehensive legal representation. I consider them family, and that is what makes my legal practice so rewarding,” said Creech. Creech practices in the firm’s Charleston Litigation Division where she represents national banking associations and loan servicers state wide in commercial and real property-related litigation, with an emphasis on contested foreclosures, debt collections, and real estate matters. She also handles general civil litigation.
You can read the rest of the "Women in Law" feature in the January 2018 issue of DS News magazine, available by clicking here or on the image below.