How to Reduce Your Attorneys’ Hours in 2014, Part 1

Posted by Hecht Walker, P.C.
Posted on January 21, 2014

For Employers, Managers, Landlords, Property Managers, Tenants, Counties, Cities and Local Government Authorities

Ever think you’d be getting advice from attorneys on how you can reduce your attorneys’ fees? Greg Hecht and Mark Walker, principals at the Atlanta law firm of Hecht Walker, offer advice for the new year for businesses, lenders, local governments, employers, landlords, tenants and other entities they routinely counsel.

“We definitely want our clients to save money, time and headaches by utilizing ongoing diligent business practices to avoid unnecessary lawsuits and financial risks. Of course we also hope our clients know that when they do need our services, we are ready to help, says Greg Hecht.

Attorney Mark Walker suggests clients involve legal counsel early in the process. “Anytime you have something new going on, it never hurts to give your lawyer a call. Often, clients wait until things get out of hand to involve an attorney to try to save a little money. Better to know up front how to avoid expensive mistakes than to hire an attorney to clean up after a situation explodes.

Going into 2014, here are some specific suggestions for the New Year from Hecht Walker:

For Employers and Management

People respond across the board to positive interaction, clear and consistent management, and timely feedback.  In regard to management practices when an employer conducts candid performance evaluations with each employee every six months and files them in the employee’s file, performance improves and mistakes are reduced. Says Hecht, “When you ensure that your team is reporting to you on a regular basis for project management, then problems can be addressed before they require the services of an attorney. “

To motivate and help employees and team members stay on course and add strong value  to the team, the partners at Hecht Walker suggest giving positive, constructive feedback to team members on each project at regularly scheduled project status meetings.

Every business and individual will face challenges. The key is to point out the problems and solutions to the entire team without singling out a particular team member. The individual team member may be addressed in private between manager and team member. The purpose of team-wide problem identification and solutions is not to place blame on one person, but to prevent the problem from being repeated system-wide. Hecht’s advice, Keep your team motivated to pay attention to details. When one person does something well, complement him or her to the entire team but keep it in the context of a strong team success. Your company’s success starts with observant, hard-working team leaders dedicated to servant leadership principles. The example of a servant leader who promotes team success results in diminished liabilities and a bright future for your company or firm.”

Hecht has spent over 25 years in commercial, local government and employment law practice, and he has worked with businesses, financial institutions and government entities as an attorney, a business owner and as a legislator. Working with a variety of business owners, elected and appointed officials, and executives has allowed Hecht extensive insights into a variety of leadership styles. “I saw how many of our clients improved each year on their risk protection and how other companies continued to make the same mistakes, says Hecht, Good risk management practices can improve your bottom line and protect you from liability. It is very important  to address problems head on and expeditiously and to let the entire team know what mistakes are being made and how to avoid those mistakes in the future.”

For Landlords and Property Managers

Landlords and property managers will want to remember to ask for financial records of commercial tenants at least once a year, which should be provided for in the terms of the lease. Says Hecht, “We have seen many landlords and property managers forget to gain the tenant’s financials each year, despite the provision for such information being required to be provided annually in the lease. The financials can provide astute landlords and property managers with forewarnings of a potential default. This advanced warning may allow landlords and property managers to check with their brokers for potential replacement tenants before an inevitable default occurs. If the future defaulting Tenant knows that a replacement tenant is available or even likely available to take its place, the present Tenant is much more likely to work with the Landlord on an advanced resolution of its Lease Obligations without the Landlord having to pay an attorney to dispossess the Tenant and sue on the lease obligations.”

At Hecht Walker, we represent many Landlords and Property Managers, and we preach early meetings with Tenants who have bad financials. Burying your head in the sand can only lead to one result: hiring an attorney for dispossessory actions and lease and guaranty enforcement. Many of our clients who at first use us to litigate lease matters, return to us over and over, because we offer advice to save them money and protect their liabilities with time tested advice before the next dispossessory event occurs.

For those lessors who do not already have the annual financial statements provision contained in their leases, the attorneys of Hecht Walker recommend adding this provision in a renewal document or requiring a tenant to sign such an addendum at the time of acceptance of any late payment before agreeing to take the late payment. (You should also ensure that the lease contains a non-waiver of future defaults clause before accepting any late payment.) If the lease is not close to renewal and there is not a late payment involved, some tenants may be willing to give their financial information to the Landlord or Property Manager voluntarily pursuant to a non-disclosure agreement. Many tenants will expect such requests if there has ever been a prior late payment or even a non-monetary default.

For Tenants and Sub-Tenants

For all tenants and sub-tenants, it is advisable to inspect the leased premises every six months, especially the MEP systems – mechanical, electrical and plumbing. It is a good idea to follow up quickly with the landlord, property manager or sub-lessor when repairs are needed or appear to be needed shortly. Negotiations over potential repairs are much easier before a mechanical system fails than when a system goes down and the tenant’s business is affected. Many times, the tenant may request a landlord or property manager to check a system on a routine basis to avoid business disruption. A tenant may want to include such a provision in its lease.

Before putting a repair request in to their landlord, tenants should review their lease to make sure it is the landlord’s responsibility, as opposed to theirs, for repairs. If premises inspections are a routine, scheduled item each year, tenants can save themselves the headache of a business disruption issue that could require the services of a law firm such as Hecht Walker.

For Counties, Cities and Local Government Authorities

Officials and Managers for Georgia’s cities, counties and authorities should check revenue projections for accuracy on a routine and frequent basis. Most City and County Managers check with their CFO on a regular basis to determine the financial position of the local government. However, we have seen a lack of uniform financial review in some cases over the last 25 years. If revenue is not meeting the city or county budget for a quarter or for two consecutive quarters, consider making a mid-year adjustment in the budget. This strategy might forestall deficits.

Just as important to your bottom line is the economic development of your area. The economy is rebounding slowly, and competition for commercial tax dollars is heavy. Government entities should focus on being proactive to increase future revenues. This concept requires empowering your team and retention of your economic development directors. Elected officials maintain the best intentions of taking significant time with business leaders and targets to bring quality projects to their area, but the demands of real life and many other rigors of elected office make it impossible on your own to accomplish these time consuming transactions. Work with and through your economic development directors, your financial advisors, finance officers, attorneys and authority members to create one, five and ten year incentive plans and to assign tasks to build your team to attract quality commercial taxpayers. Economic development tools such as tax allocation districts, community improvement districts, zone allowances and other incentives are critical as well. If you plan for the utilization of the tools and the people on a comprehensive team, you will reap the rewards of properly contemplated commercial development.

And government entities should remember to include their constituents in this process, says Greg Hecht. “Public participation meetings can be very helpful in this area. They can go a long way towards generating support for and developing momentum behind future projects. If financial advisors outline the pros and cons of a tool, many citizen groups may even be apt to provide district wide support. Just make sure you do a lot of the hard work, research and planning early in the process.”

Adds Mark Walker, “I offer the same advice that we try to live by at Hecht Walker. Every attorney should be looking out for the client’s best interests but at Hecht Walker we are strongly committed to following our mantra: ‘Hard Work, Honest Work, Great Responsiveness, Great Results. These fundamentals are not just platitudes. These principles enable us to serve our clients best, and we know that our clients who practice and teach these principles are best enabled to succeed.”

atlanta attorney Greg HechtThe wide range of areas in which attorney Greg Hecht focuses include business, commercial and real estate litigation, county, city and authority representation, loan and guaranty litigation, commercial property tax appeals, commercial landlord/tenant, contract, zoning, land use and employment law. In his more than two decades of service, Greg has been lead counsel in over 1000 hearings and over 300 trials, working tirelessly to achieve success for his clients.



Walker.Mark_-150x150Attorney Mark Walker is a partner at the law firm of Hecht Walker. In close to 30 years as an attorney, he has represented banks, creditors, lenders, landlords and businesses in commercial foreclosure actions, in lender liability matters and in bankruptcy proceedings. Mark has handled thousands of commercial foreclosure matters during his career, and has represented lenders and creditors in federal bankruptcy courts.

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