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Honoring Excellence Among Mortgage Legal Professionals

Another returning tradition to the January issue of DS News is our Top 25 Women of Law list. From attorneys to other legal professionals working within the lender and servicer community, we’re honored to bring you profiles of some of the talented women professionals working within this space.

Kathleen Achille, Senior Litigation Attorney // Diaz Anselmo Lindberg, P.A.

As a senior litigator in mortgage foreclosures and real estate litigation, Kathleen Achille loves the days when she’s in a position to both negotiate for, and help advise, clients in an industry that so directly impacts such an important part of their everyday lives.

Obviously, emotions in foreclosure cases can run high, so Achille says the really good days happen when she can negotiate settlements benefitting both her clients as well as the borrowers. “It’s great when everyone is satisfied with the outcome,” she said. Despite those good days, Achille sometimes faces the recurring challenge by some male colleagues who automatically assume she’s anyone but a member of the bar. “I still chuckle to myself when I walk into a courtroom and they automatically assume I am there to report the proceedings. In 21 years, I have yet to hear about similar experiences from
my male colleagues. The gender assumptions about everyone’s role in the courtroom remain alive and well in 2020.” But for now, Achille can take pride in being nominated as a top Woman of Law. “It is pretty cool,” she said. As for her outlook on 2021, Achille is another legal professional concerned about the ripple effects of
COVID-19, specifically with foreclosures and evictions. “We’ll be challenged with figuring out how to balance the moratoriums and the courts’ expectations of moving the dockets,” she said. “Once all of them are lifted, we should expect to see the impact 2020 payment defaults caused by COVID-related hardships will have on the laws and regulations for filing and prosecuting foreclosure actions.”

Cristina Arroyo, Compliance Counsel // Community Loan Servicing, LLC

Cristina Arroyo 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 of 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 envision my career path, a difficulty I think my male counterparts did not have.

Although there is still work to be done, I feel today more women and people with more diverse backgrounds are assuming leadership roles in our industry, which is encouraging. I also think that due to the pandemic, with the move to more remote work, a shift in home and work roles and responsibilities has occurred and although difficult, it has highlighted women’s time management and multitasking skills,” 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 2021, servicers must continue their commitment to assist customers through the challenges they face, as well as work constructively with regulators and industry peers to continue modernizing our industry.

Jenna Baum, Managing Partner, National Evictions Outsourcing // McCalla Raymer Leibert Pierce, LLC

Jenna Baum, Managing Partner of the firm’s National Eviction Management Group, focuses her practice on representing investors and servicers in post-foreclosure cases across the country. In 2017, Baum became the youngest woman to become a Managing Partner in the firm’s history. “I consider myself lucky every day
to work at a firm that views your worth based strictly on your work product and contribution to the firm, not your sex or nationality,” Baum said.

Before her legal career, Baum was an avid athlete, playing volleyball competitively and while in college. She said her experience as a captain taught lessons that helped her to achieve success in her career and become a leader in her field. “This experience taught me about determination, perseverance, overcoming hurdles, and that truly understanding your teammates is the best way to lead,” Baum said. These skills have proven
especially useful in these unprecedented times, conducting business while keeping public health and safety in mind. Baum noted the complexity of the process when someone must relocate during a pandemic. Despite this challenge and other difficulties, Baum said she maintains a positive outlook. “I do not know what the future
holds, but I do know that economic impacts have been devastating,” Baum said. “However, I have faith that we all learned from the 2008 recession as an industry and are better equipped to handle this in a sensible way.”

Jane E. Bond, Managing Partner // Florida Litigation McCalla Raymer Leibert Pierce, LLP

Jane Bond has 30 years’ litigation experience,24 years of which has been devoted to business and real estate within the mortgage lending and servicing industries. She represents clients in appellate proceedings before the Florida district courts of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court. She has handled countless cases,from residential and commercial foreclosures, title issues, foreclosure-related insurance claims, condemnation and eminent domain to one of the most prominent cases in our industry: the Statutes of Limitations, US Bank v. Bartram. “This industry provides many opportunities to keep learning and growing as a professional and to help others learn and grow,” she said. To that end, Bond is active in myriad organizations including USFN, ALFN, LL100, and the FL Bar (serving on the Real Property Finance and Lending Committee). Many women are in the field now, and Bond enjoys being part of a diverse management team. Earlier in her career, however, she was the only female attorney at two different firms, and she frequently was the only female litigator in a courtroom. Her mother and her father, a Dale Carnegie coach, brought her up with a positive attitude and
drive to succeed, she says. “The key is to be yourself and enjoy the practice of law,” Bond says. “Always stay strong, well informed, and friendly; I enjoy meeting people, working with attorneys from other firms and working alongside our clients.”

Hilary Bonial, Managing Director // Bonial & Associate

Bonial & Associates, is both a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE) by The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). The WBE certification affirms the business is woman-owned, operated, and controlled. Hilary Bonial told DS News that “seeing my teams succeed is the most enriching part of my job.” Bonial added, “Watching the legal strategies assist clients in making good business decisions is quite rewarding.” Bonial noted that she is most proud of the positive results she has obtained in court for her clients.

“Any time I can stand before a judge and represent my client, I am proud of the unique set of skills I have developed over the years and of my ability to put them to good use.” Bonial has been Managing Director of Bonial & Associates, P.C., for over two years and served previously as a Shareholder/Attorney at Buckley
Madole, as well as serving as General Counsel for National Bankruptcy Services, LLC, for over eight years. Despite some improvements over the years, Bonial said the number of female executives within the industry is still comparatively small, and she is often the only female leader in the room when a decision is made. “The perception of women leaders being overly emotional remains,” she added. Looking ahead to 2021, she said, while it may be “pie in the sky theory,” she would like to see the adoption of meaningful diversity programs in
the default legal space.

The entire Top 25 list appears in the January issue of DS News, available here. 

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others.
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