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Best of Counsel’s Corner – Part II

Each month, Counsel’s Corner brings you insights from the attorneys working in the trenches of default servicing and the larger mortgage industry. From their most challenging casework to tips on how best to thrive in the current low-default environment, Counsel’s Corner provides a direct feed into the minds and experiences of the industry’s talented legal professionals. For our annual Black Book edition’s legal focus, this year we’ve decided to bring you a look at some of the highlights from 2018’s DS News attorney interviews.

Dan Young, Partner, Schiller, Knapp, Lefkowitz & Hertzel, LLP

Originally Ran—August 2018 

As a law firm dealing primarily with foreclosures and some collections, we see regulatory problems cropping up, especially during the transfer of files from one attorney to another, or from the lender to a law firm. Financial services firms must be proactive about looking out for potential problems related to compliance and heading those off as much as possible. Figuring out a process that streamlines the transfer of files coming in from another attorney or lender can smooth out the compliance challenges that come with the territory. In our firm, when a batch of transferred files arrives, we have an exhaustive process that requires forethought and answering questions such as, “What are the potential problems we need to look at?” We ensure that the transfer of these files to our firm is smooth and ticks off all the boxes for compliance and regulation.

Andrew Boylan, Partner, Risk Management and Compliance, McCarthy & Holthus, LLP

Originally Ran—September 2018

Our firm operates in nine states. That makes for nine different sets of laws with which we have to ensure compliance, as well as regulations from the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and other government agencies. There's great value in tracking that and knowing your states’ legislative processes, knowing what bills are out there, and knowing how they will affect your operations. Our firm is part of many different groups where we attend advocacy days, work with lobbyists, and even meet face-to-face with legislators to discuss the industry. It’s a chance to educate them on what we do, what issues we see, and to help prevent legislation from passing that could have an adverse impact on our firm, our clients, or our industry. Maintaining communication at all different levels is beneficial for everyone involved. It allows you to discuss developing cases and say, “Here’s what could potentially happen as a result.”

Paul Compton, General Counsel, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Originally Ran—October 2018

President Reagan once said the closest you can come to immortality is to be a federal program. Being a federal rule is pretty close to that. Over time, bad or unfortunate things occur and a new rule is adopted to address them. Fast-forward 40 years into the future and we still have rules on the books involving dropping slugs into payphones. Is that really a crisis out in the world today? The rules never go away. That's a silly example, but there are many rules out there and there's no great incentive to prune them where it's appropriate. We're out working on the hedges to get them back under control. A rule that, on its face and taken individually, is not unreasonable can become so when you combine it with a thousand others and you start trying to put those into a sequence. You can't do B before you do A.

John Ansell III, Partner, Rosenberg & Associates, LLC

Originally Ran—November 2018

As an attorney, every communication that you generate is still subject to all the same ethical requirements that they were 30 or 40 years ago. The difference is now those communications can be disseminated instantly to large numbers of people. If a law firm were to send out something that had confusing or deceptive language, someone could take that communication and instantly transmit it out into the world, where you instantly become a target. But I don’t think technology has fundamentally affected the nature of our communication as attorneys. We still strive to meet the requirements of every statute that we have to operate under. We still have ethical obligations to every court we practice in that our communications are truthful and correct.

Daniel Chilton, Partner, RAS Crane LLC

Originally Ran—December 2018

Fiscal discipline must be a core firm value. This may play out in a disciplined staffing model, as staffing expenses likely account for over 70 percent of a firm’s budget. Do the partners in the firm hire someone new because their business team suggests it, or are decisions made with discipline and quantified at every level? If there is a need for people yet a staffing model does not arrive at the same conclusion, is Operations disciplined with digging into production reporting at an individual level to ensure maximum output? Additionally, every purchase a partner makes, their firm is watching as an example of how frugal to be with the firm’s money. See servicing through your clients’ eyes. One client may focus on SLAs, another onsite legal audit scores, another on the versatility of a firm’s services. Know your client and give them what they want every single time.

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 nearly 20 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. He can be reached at [email protected].

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