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CAFCOR Forum – Owners Helping Owners. Our Forums offer a wealth of information accumulated in thousands of posts.  We encourage everyone who has a question or problems to discuss, to search the forums first.  There is a chance that your question was already answered.  Viewing threads also allows a better understanding of issues facing condominium owners.  To visit the Forums, please click HERE.

 
law.jpgThe High Price Of Condominium Arbitration.
A condominium is a community of people with common interests and the theory is that the community should try to resolve disputes by agreement rather than the adversarial process.  Mediation is seen as a “win-win” process which allows disputes to be resolved by a communication process leading to a common understanding of the needs of the condominium community. Read more...
 
Condo TowerOver 9,000 Condominiums in Ontario
In 2011 there were over 9,000 registered condominiums in Ontario, an increase from 8,788 in 2008.

For a breakdown (2009) based on location please click HERE .  The numbers were provided by the Ontario Government.
 
How To Hire a Lawyer for Your Condominium Corporation Print E-mail
When looking to hire contractors, most Boards of Directors usually have their Property Manager do it.  They should however, obtain three sealed bids, sometimes interview the contractor, and then they choose the most appropriate bidder, based upon price and the scope and quality of work proposed. This process is not very effective when retaining professionals. Few Boards know how to hire a lawyer.

Every Board should have a lawyer and should consult with its lawyer before making difficult or questionable decisions. Since the Board members are charged with the fiduciary responsibility of exercising sound business judgment, it is essential that the Board consult with professionals to aid it in making informed, reasonable decisions, complying with the Corporation’s Governing Documents and operating within the confines of applicable law. In many respects, the lawyer is one of the most important factors in assisting the Board to properly carry out its duties. Yet many Boards probably do not carry out a reasonable search and evaluation of prospective lawyers and even those who do have a lawyer often do not use him or her in the most effective manner.
The most important thing is to exercise independence. When hiring any professional, such as a lawyer, engineer or accountant, you want an individual who is completely independent of the Property Management Company or Property Manager or any contractors who serve the Corporation. You want undivided loyalty to the Corporation. This requires that the Board members make an effort to search for lawyers rather than asking for a recommendation from anyone else especially the PM or PMC.

Of course, it is necessary for the Board to identify and consider a number of different lawyers including those who regularly practice in the area of condominium law. They must satisfy themselves that the proposed lawyers have broad knowledge and experience in representing condominium Corporations. This means that once they have identified a number of lawyers, the Board needs to call up the lawyers' references and ask around to as many people as they can, to find out the views and opinions of those who have worked with the proposed lawyers.
Once the Board has put together a list of possible candidates and is sure that they are capable and have the necessary knowledge and experience to serve the Corporation, the Board must carry its investigation further in order to identify the lawyer's style and approach towards practicing law.
There is no one right way to practice law. It all depends upon what your Corporation, as the client, is looking for in a lawyer. Some lawyers are more litigious than others and are prepared to go to court and punish the Board's opponents. Some lawyers are at the opposite extreme and settle everything and always try to make peace (perhaps too willing to compromise and give up rights). Some lawyers take a balanced approach and try to settle a case but are equally prepared to aggressively litigate. Some lawyers try to interfere with the Board's business by giving unsolicited business advice. Still other lawyers never give an opinion on anything and cannot seem to come up with a straight answer to any legal question posed to them. Some lawyers are accessible and always return phone calls. Others are so hard to reach that one sometimes wonders whether they actually exist. Some lawyers work in large firms and consider a condominium client as just another small-time client. Other lawyers treat their condominium clients as their central clients. Some lawyers use hardball tactics to get what they want. Others are civil and professional at all times. Some lawyers charge for every little thing and others are more reasonable in their billing practices. Some lawyers keep up to date with the latest legal technology and constantly improve their operations. Others fear and distrust new developments in technology and persist in the old ways of doing things.

Although you want a lawyer whose philosophy and personality is compatible with the Board, you do not want to make the serious mistake of expecting a lawyer to compromise his or her professional judgment in order to please you. The biggest mistake Boards can make is to pose a legal question to a number of lawyers and then hire the one who tells them exactly what they want to hear. This is a world of potential liability and what you want to hear might be dead wrong. It is also foolish to hire a professional who does not have the integrity to call it as he or she sees it but instead merely panders to the client. It is better to find a lawyer that you know you can trust and who you know has the integrity to review the law and tell you exactly what your options are. It is better to find a lawyer who will give you advice about what actions you could take but who doesn't try to force you to abide by his or her business advice. When you have a trustworthy lawyer, you can feel safe in following his or her advice even when it is hard for you to accept, but the choice of how to act remains with the Board. There is simply no substitute for a trustworthy lawyer.

Once the Board has identified trustworthy candidates whose philosophy and approach are a good match with what the Board members are looking for in a lawyer, it is only then that price should be a consideration. The cost of legal services is an important consideration. However, when choosing between more than one acceptable candidates price can become the deciding factor.
Trying to figure out the relative cost of the services of various lawyers is an extremely difficult proposal. Many lawyers simply quote hourly rates for various individuals in the firm. The partner with the most experience has the highest hourly rate, and the junior associate or paralegal is quoted at the lowest hourly rate.

There is no way to know how much time a specific legal matter will take or which of a firm's lawyers will work on the case. Thus the cost of legal services remains a mystery until the bill arrives. The differences in the abilities of lawyers also has a significant impact on the ultimate cost of legal services. A partner billing at $350 per hour may be able to spend 30 minutes or so to make a few telephone calls to resolve a matter. A junior partner billing at $175 per hour might use a different approach that takes 8 hours before achieving that same result. In this example, the cost of legal services with the "expensive" partner amounts to only $175 while the "cheap" associate costs the client $1400.

A number of lawyers are now quoting fixed or flat fees for various routine services. Again, the Board must investigate the information provided to them and determine the true value of the services. Some fixed fees are very limited in scope. After the fixed fee is charged, many other services will also be charged because they were not included within the scope of the quoted fee. Other lawyers might quote a higher fixed fee, but that includes a number of additional services with no hidden extras. Some quote estimates that are not binding upon them; others quote legitimate fixed fees that will not change.
It is clear that a Board must take care not to compare apples to oranges when considering which lawyer to hire. The Board must question the lawyer and find out what the actual end cost of various legal services will be. The lawyer should be willing to quote a fee or firm estimate for many services. All terms and conditions of the representation should be in writing so it is clear exactly how the lawyer intends to charge and what he or she expects from the client.

In conclusion, hiring a lawyer is a bit different from hiring various contractors. You are entering into what may be a long-term business relationship that requires candidates who are independent, have integrity and the experience and knowledge required to properly meet your legal needs.

 

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