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Honoring Excellence Among Female Legal Minds

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.

Courtney Thompson, SVP of Default Mortgage Servicing // Flagstar Bank

Courtney Thompson has 16 years’ experience as a lawyer and has been with Flagstar for seven years. Thompson says the most enriching part of her job is where law meets people, process, and technology. “Ultimately, we are responsible for consumers at risk of losing their homes,” Thompson says. “Every delinquent customer has a story, and most just want help from someone who has not just the knowledge and commitment to make the process work, but who has empathy for their plight.” As a young lawyer, Thompson learned quickly that in order to “ensure that you are always on an equal (or better) footing in any room is to ensure that you are always the most prepared and that you show up.”

Today, Thompson is proud of her team at Flagstar, especially for how it came together to support customers during COVID-19. “In a year where the world has been upside down, we've been asked to show up for the people, processes, and technology in a way we haven’t seen in over a decade since the last recession,” Thompson says. Next year, Thompson says mortgage professionals must ensure they are “keeping up with the rapidly changed regulatory requirements promulgated to and through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Thompson adds that mortgage professionals will also have to take on the implementation of the CFPB’s regulation associated with the FDCPA and manage through the pipeline of CARES Act forbearance customers “to ensure that are able to avail themselves of the multitude of options available in a post-COVID world.”

Jennifer Warren, Principal // Warren Greene Management and Consulting, LLC

Jennifer Warren’s passion for the legal industry started at the young age of three when she would watch legal dramas such as Matlock, L.A. Law, and Law & Order with her father. Warren became employed with a law firm when she was just 20 years old, and for the next 20-plus years, she worked to advance herself and her knowledge base within the field, culminating in her ultimate goal of owning her own business and utilizing the expansive knowledge and skills that she had developed to provide services and assistance to others.

“Owning the company allows us the discretion to be selective with our partners and ensure that our respective values and goals are inline,” Warren said. She said communication and collaboration will be essential to being on top of, and ahead of, the ever-changing challenge of the legal landscape. Warren predicts that cybersecurity and data protection will be a hot topic in 2020 with even more threats and increased scrutiny by regulators. “Poor data management can leave your company vulnerable to threats including phishing/hacked emails and data breaches, which bring along additional compliance risks”, Warren said. “It is essential that mortgage professionals eliminate any potential risk and situate themselves in the best position for uninterrupted growth.”

When it comes to challenges, Warren said that her company works with their clients to evaluate and streamline their processes, policies, procedures, and case management systems to help them achieve high performance and revenue-saving practices.

Ann Thorn, EVP, Chief Loan Administration Officer // Caliber Home Loans

Ann Thorn has more than 30 years’ experience in the areas of originations, servicing, and default and is regarded as one of the top operations executives in the mortgage industry. At Caliber, Thorn is responsible for all Production and Servicing Operations in Caliber’s Retail, Wholesale, and Correspondent channels. She is responsible for the end-to end customer experience and is an executive stakeholder for the company’s transformation strategy, enhancing operations processes for the evolving digital landscape. Thorn began her career at Fleet Mortgage Corporation, which was later acquired by Washington Mutual and eventually by JPMorgan Chase. During the 21 years she spent there, she worked in the areas of foreclosure, bankruptcy, loss mitigation, claims, and other supplemental areas for prime, sub-prime, and home equity portfolios. More recently, worked with Bank of America as SVP of Consumer Operations starting in 2015.

Thorn joined Caliber in 2019, working under CEO Sanjiv Das. “I commend her for being such a leading light who truly inspires people across the company to do the right thing,” Das said in a report from DS News. Thorn has received a number of awards throughout her career, including the 2020 Lifetime
Achievement Award at this year’s Five Star Conference. “To my mentors and colleagues and
my friend and my family thank you for all of your support. Obviously, this would not happen without all of you each and every day,” Thorn said upon accepting the award.

Marissa Yaker, Managing Attorney of Foreclosure // Padgett Law Group

Marissa Yaker, since the age of eight, had dreamed of being an attorney. She said she loves everything about the practice of law. Yaker said,“You truly learn something new every day. My passion for it has been the same since I was a kid, and I think I still bring that excitement to my work every day.” The best part of her job, she said, is providing legal training to her firms’ clients and being at the forefront of legal issues that impact the legal industry. “Working with our clients to resolve complex legal issues is rewarding because it’s intellectually challenging and keeps me stimulated both as an attorney and a professional focused on exemplary client service,” she said. Yaker added that she is proud to be a part of an industry that is evolving daily, with leadership increasingly female.

“As a female, our voices are just as loud as our male counterparts, and more people are hearing us now,” Yaker said. “At [Padgett Law Group], much of our leadership is female, and we strive to maintain the meritocracy that our firm has always been.” She added attorneys and legal professionals can help lenders and servicers by further consolidating both complex and routine work with firms that have proven expertise in multiple jurisdictions. She said Padgett Law Group offers national bankruptcy services, coupled with comprehensive default practices in its multistate footprint. “It’s this kind of expertise across relevant practices and a broad geographic footprint that is, as I see it, the path to a better partnership between mortgage servicers and law firms,” she said.

Kristin Zilberstein, Supervising Attorney, Bankruptcy Operations // Padgett Law Group

Zilberstein has over two decades’ experience as a legal practitioner, including 11 years working in the residential mortgage default space. Zilberstein’s main focus is on bankruptcy with a particular interest in litigated matters and Chapter 11 bankruptcies. She is licensed in multiple jurisdictions, and in her practice, she manages multiple national portfolios and special projects across several mortgage servicing shops.

“We are in extraordinary and unique times,” Zilberstein said. “Everything is on hold and will remain so until the moratoriums are lifted. Once they are lifted, there will be a landslide of foreclosures and bankruptcies.” One of the highlights of Zilberstein’s impressive career is that she has held a leadership role with the ALFN’s Bankruptcy Group for almost five years. She also recently served as a Candidate
for the Board of Directors for the national trade association. Zilberstein was featured in the
2016 women’s issue of the ALFN ANGLE and is a highly sought-after bankruptcy speaker, author, and educator across industry conferences, publications, and client-training events. One experience that helped Zilberstein learn to speak up for herself and conquer challenges as a woman working in the legal industry occurred while she was in law school, selling cell phones at a local mall. “From those hostile encounters face-to-face in the mall, I learned to have a voice for myself,” Zilberstein said.

"During those encounters and many others, while practicing law, I have had to stop the person with whom I am speaking and ask them to address me professionally and with respect, as I have earned it.”

About Author: David Wharton

David Wharton, Editor-in-Chief at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 17 years' experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at David.Wharton@thefivestar.com.

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