Ethical Issues in the Practice of Real Estate: What Every Attorney Must Know When Handling a Transaction

Synopsis

A vast majority of attorneys, whether in a small or large firm, will be involved in a real estate transaction in the course of their practice. There are a great many ethical pitfalls that one needs to keep in mind when handling a real estate transaction; some of which are more obvious and others are far more difficult to recognize.

The presenters of this course provide an in-depth examination of the day-to-day ethical issues that confront real estate attorneys and the general practitioner. Special attention is given to conflicts of interest, the holding of escrow monies, and title issues.    

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Outline

I. Ethical Issues in Real Estate Transactions
    A. Introductions
    B. Conflicts of Interest
        1. Disciplinary Rule 5-105
        2. Whose Loyalty Are You Protecting?
        3. Obtaining a Release
        4. Use of Paralegals and Clerks at Closing
    C. Cooperative and Condominium Law
        1. Attorney on Board of Directors
        2. Where the Lines Become Blurred
        3. Facing Other Issues that May Arise
        4. The Issue of Loyalty
        5. Indemnification of Officers and Directors
        6. Real-World Experience
    D. When Something Goes Wrong
        1. Disciplinary Statistics
        2. Disciplinary Committees and Their Roles
        3. Letter of Caution and Admonition
        4. Public Proceeding
    E. The Handling of Escrow Accounts
        1. Rule of Conduct 1.15
        2. Required Recordkeeping
        3. Interest Bearing Escrow Accounts
        4. Mishandling of Escrow Accounts
        5. Commingling and Conversion
        6. The Galasso Disciplinary Case
    F. The Role of the Title Company
        1. Title Insurance Policy
        2. Claims Negotiations
        3. Opinions Relating to Conflicts of Interest
    G. Commercial Transactions
        1. Issuance of an Opinion Letter
        2. Authorization From Client to Make Representations
        3. Standard Language
    H. Knowing Your Client
     I. Power of Attorney
        1. An Interesting Case
        2. Self-Serving Power of Attorney
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The years following the Civil War were tumultuous ones for New York City, offering many opportunities to the dishonest. Unsavory politicians and errant members of the bench and bar were among those who took advantage of those troubled times. In December 1869, a letter was circulated among some of the city’s lawyers addressing those improprieties. It called for the creation of a new bar association to “sustain the profession in its proper position in the community, and thereby enable it ... to promote the interests of the public ....” More than 200 lawyers responded by signing a declaration of organization and in 1870 The Association of the Bar of the City of New York was born. The young organization quickly made its presence felt. Among its first activities was a campaign to defeat corrupt politicians and judges at the polls and to establish standards of conduct for those in the legal profession.

The association continues to work at political, legal and social reform, and maintaining high ethical standards for the legal profession. The association also continues to implement innovative means by which the disadvantaged may be helped. Much of this work is accomplished through the Association's more than 160 committees, each charged to consider a specific area of law or the profession.

The association has grown to more than 23,000 members. To serve them, the association strives to move ahead in many areas. The library is the largest member-funded law library in the country, and provides members with a “gateway” to online services, including free use of LexisNexis and WestLaw, while continuing to provide more traditional library services. The Small Law Firm Center, Career Management Program and other benefits are constantly evolving to serve members’ needs. More than 150 continuing legal education programs are presented annually.

The public good remains one of the association’s highest priorities. The Legal Referral Service, jointly sponsored by the association and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, provides an array of services directly aimed at serving the needs of the public. The City Bar Justice Center identifies the most pressing legal concerns of New York’s neediest and uses novel approaches to address them, often involving community participation.

 





Speakers / Authors:

Photo of Geoffrey R. Mazel

Geoffrey R. Mazel
Hankin & Mazel, PLLC

Geoffrey R. Mazel is a member of law firm of Hankin & Mazel, PLLC, located in midtown Manhattan and Great Neck, NY. His practice has been devoted to real estate law, with extensive experience in cooperative and condominium law, litigation, and sales and acquisitions. Mr. Mazel counsels several dozen Cooperative and Condominium Boards of Directors/Managers, which encompasses over 10,000 units of Coop/Condo housing, including many of the largest Coop/Condo Boards in the City of New York and the metropolitan area.

He has vast experience in all aspects of real estate transactions. Included in his experience is representing a Coop Board in a $53 million refinance of their underlying mortgage, the largest loan of that nature by the National Cooperative Bank at that time. Additionally, Mr. Mazel has counseled and represents Coop/Condo Boards on all issues that come before them; including Corporate governance; contract negotiations; transfer; and all aspects of litigation.

Mr. Mazel along with his partner, Mark Hankin, Esq. serve as legal advisers to the President’s Council for Coop & Condos, an organization representing over 100,000 units of Cooperative and Condominium housing. In this position, Mr. Mazel has lobbied and met with numerous elected officials to help draft laws and policies effecting shareholders and unit owners at Coops and Condos. In May, 2011, he testified before the New York City Council in support of the efforts of Coop/Condo owners in their fight against exorbitant real estate tax increases by the New York City Department of Finance.

In addition to the above Mr. Mazel has served as an adjunct Professor at the New York Institute of Technology teaching the real estate paralegal course; has served as President of Glen Oaks Village Owners Inc., a 3,000 unit Cooperative in Queens, NY; he is a former member of the Committee on Cooperative and Condominium Law of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and was the Chairperson of the Steering Committee for the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and Condominiums. Currently, Mr. Mazel serves as the Campaign Treasurer and as a legal adviser for Jon Kaiman, the Supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead and candidate for Nassau County Executive and is serving as the co-chairperson of the Cooperative/Condominium Law Committee of the Queens County Bar Association with his partner, Mark Hankin, Esq.

Mr. Mazel received his J.D. from St. John’s Law School, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he graduated with honors.

Photo of Eric M. Goidel

Eric M. Goidel
Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Nahins & Goidel, P.C.

Eric M. Goidel, a Senior Partner at Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Nahins & Goidel, P.C., is recognized as one of the leading attorneys in the area of cooperative/condominium law and is responsible for overseeing the Firm's ever growing Cooperative/Condominium Division. He also heads the Firm's sophisticated real estate/commercial leasing practice which handles shopping centers, office buildings, apartment buildings, hotels, single family homes, condos, coops, development rights, 1031 exchanges and sale lease backs.

Mr. Goidel is the founder and President of Director Protector™, a revolutionary company within the law firm providing proactive legal advice to cooperative boards of directors and condominium boards of managers. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives as well as a member of the New York Association of the Realty Managers. Mr. Goidel frequently lectures before the Rent Stabilization Association and has taught as a CLE instructor and at the Queens College Paralegal Program. He is part of the Lorman Education Services faculty.

Mr. Goidel received his J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law in 1982 and his B.A. from Union College in 1979.

Photo of Arthur W. Greig

Arthur W. Greig

Arthur W. Greig has been in private practice in Manhattan for over 20 years and is Of Counsel to Brown & Weinraub, LLC. He specializes in trial practice and election law appellate practice. Previously, Mr. Greig served as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County and as a Law Secretary in New York County Supreme Court. He was a Staff Counsel to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly from 1987 through 1991 where he worked on issues presented to the Racing & Wagering Committee and Alcohol & Substance Abuse Committee). In 1998, he was a Special Counsel to the Chairman of the New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee, concentrating primarily on judiciary and court merger issues. He also served as Special Counsel to former New York State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson in the areas of redistricting and reapportionment litigation.

Mr. Greig is a graduate of Tufts University and American University’s Washington College of Law.

Photo of Mark L. Hankin

Mark L. Hankin
Hankin & Mazel, PLLC

Mark L. Hankin is a founding partner of Hankin & Mazel, PLLC. His practice focuses primarily on representation of clients in real estate and corporate litigation with a concentration on cooperative and condominium representation. As a skilled litigator, he regularly handles a wide variety of trials and/or hearings before the Federal and State courts of the State of New York; Arbitration Tribunals; New York State and New York City Division of Human Rights; and, mediations.

Mr. Hankin served as an officer and member of a Board of Directors of a housing cooperative which inspired his entry into the practice of cooperative and condominium law. As general counsel to a multitude of cooperative and condominium boards, he provides hands on advice and guidance regarding the corporate and non-corporate structure of the client; review and revision of offering plans; by-laws; proprietary leases/occupancy agreement; rules and regulations; statutory and case law developments; review, revision and drafting of construction, management and service agreements affecting the buildings and lands; and, management and operational advice and guidance on labor, employment, tax and insurance issues.

Mr. Hankin and his partner , Geoffrey Mazel, Esq., have fostered an amicable relationship with local, state and federal representatives of housing cooperatives and condominiums in order to address current and future changes in the law which affect cooperative and condominium living. Some of the issues addressed have included legislation over shareholder bill of rights; expiration of ground leases; and, the manner and procedure whereby the NYC Department of Finance calculates the assessed value of cooperatives and condominiums. In January 2010, Mr. Hankin and his partner, Geoffrey Mazel, Esq., were appointed as legal counsel to the Presidents Counsel of Cooperatives and Condominiums (P.C.C.C.), a lobbying group composed of approximately 75 presidents of cooperatives and condominiums in the City of New York. This group has recently lobbied federal representatives for the equal treatment of cooperatives regarding damages sustained as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

Mr. Hankin is admitted to practice in the States of New York (1984); New Jersey (1984); and, Florida (1985). He is a member of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association; American Trial Lawyers Association; New York State Bar Association (member of Committee on Cooperative & Condominiums) ; Queens County Bar Association (co-chairman of Committee on Cooperatives and Condominiums); and, the Nassau County Bar Association (member of Real Property Committee).

Mr. Hankin received his J.D. from Syracuse University, and his B.S. in Political Science and M.S. in Public Administration from S.U.N.Y. at Stony Brook. 

Photo of Alexander D. Phillips

Alexander D. Phillips

Alexander D. Phillips is an attorney and proprietor of Island Abstract Inc. Prior to attending Law School Mr. Phillips worked for an array of Real Etate operators such as Helmsley Spear, Rosen Associates and Newmark and Company. Following his graduation, Mr. Phillips served at Morgan Stanley as a Senior Lease Negotiator. He negotiated the firms office leases in the north east and Florida. In 2002 he left Morgan Stanley to start his title company, Island Abstract. Mr. Phillips, with his vast experience in residential and commercial real estate transactions, brings added value as a title agent to any real estate transaction. His clients often express that it is as if they have him as "second chair" when navigating through complex issues.

Mr. Phillips received his J.D. at Hofstra University Law School in 2000.

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Details

Course Code : 773147

Release Date: 4/28/2014 12:00:00 AM
Recorded Date: 3/10/2014
Length: 2hr 13min
Format Type: Video

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