Frequently Asked Questions
We Serve the Fort Myers, Bonita Springs & Naples Area

Fees and Expenses:
1.Explain the rates you charge and any particular billing methods you use, such as hourly, fixed fee and contingency?
2.Will you provide a fixed fee quote, if requested?
3.Who will be working on association matters?
4.Is there a minimum time unit used in making time charges (e.g., .1, .25)?
5.What out-of-pocket expenses do you bill for and how are these determined?
6.Do you bill for travel time and if so, how and at what rate?
7.Do you provide any “free” or no charge services?If so, what?
8.Do you ever forego attorney fees?If so, under what circumstances?
9.Do you bill for calls from Owners?
10.Do you implement any procedures to control fees and costs in litigation matters?
11.We don’t really have a lot of money for legal fees.How can we maximize the money we spend?

Billing Procedures:
1.How frequently do you bill and when is payment due?
2.How do you itemize or explain the services for which you are billing?
3.Do your bills classify each matter separately?
4.Is there a procedure in your office for handling questions regarding a bill?
5.What if a billing dispute cannot be resolved?

Attorney’s Office Organization and Function:
1.Describe how your office or firm is organized.Who would be assigned to handle the association’s legal work? Would associates and legal assistants be used?What would your personal involvement be?
2.If you delegate our legal work to someone else in your firm, whether it’s an attorney or paralegal, who will be responsible for reviewing that work?

Professional Affiliations:
1.Do you or your firm belong to community association trade groups?
2.What organizations are you involved in outside of the community association industry?
3.What other professional organizations do you or your firm belong to?

Community Association Experience and Involvement:
1.Describe your experience in handling the kinds of legal problems our association faces.(e.g., collections, covenant enforcement, document amendment, litigation, etc.)
2.What percentage of your practice is devoted to the representation of association clients?
3.Provide us with examples of proactive advice you have given to an association client.
4.Describe your involvement in the community association industry outside of representing association clients.

Legal Philosophy:
1.Describe any philosophical or practical approaches you have in the representation of association clients.
2.In your opinion, what makes a good association attorney?
3.What do you see as the role of the association attorney?
4.What in your view makes for a good relationship between the Board and the association attorney?
5.What is your opinion of ADR (mediation, arbitration) versus litigation?Do you have actual experience using ADR techniques?Please describe.

Client education:
1.Do you offer any education opportunities to your association clients such as seminars or workshops?Do you charge for these?
2.Do you provide your association clients with a newsletter or other written training or educational materials?
3.Do you have a website?Do you include educational information on that website?

Availability:
1.For emergency purposes, are you available by phone after 6:00 p.m.?.
2.If you are going to be unavailable, how do you communicate that to clients?
3.Who will handle our legal needs if one of you are unavailable?
4.Does your firm ensure there is an attorney available to speak to within at least 24 business hours of a telephone call and if so, how?

Client Communication:
1.Do you prefer faxes, e-mails, or phone calls?

2.Do you give clients your cell phone number?
3.How do you communicate bad news to clients?

Response Time:
1.If you are unable to meet a deadline, what do you do?
2.Do you guarantee a time frame for returning telephone calls or e-mail and if so, how long is your guaranteed response time?

Other Considerations:
1.Do you (or your firm) carry malpractice insurance?Have you had any claims made against you (or your firm)?
2.Do you meet with Boards annually for a legal review of the association?
3.Can you provide us with references from existing association clients, prior or former clients and attorneys who were adverse to you?

Management Company and Vendor Relationships:
1.Do you represent management companies, developers or others associated with the community association industry?.

General Interest:
1.How would you describe your people skills?
2.What do you believe distinguishes you from your competition?
3.When clients have worked really well with you, what made the relationship work?
4.How do you handle Owners who are chronic debtors?
5.Describe a legal issue you dealt with of which you are particularly proud?
6.Describe a legal issue you handled that had a disappointing outcome.
7.Describe what things you or your firm could/would do for us that would keep us from having legal problems.


Fees and Expenses:

Explain the rates you charge and any particular billing methods you use, such as hourly, fixed fee and contingency?

The current hourly rates are as follows:  Susan McLaughlin $285.00 per hour; Richard D. DeBoest, II $315.00 per hour; William Stockman $325.00 per hour and Jim Decker $325.00 per hour.   Most work is performed on an hourly basis.   However, certain matters such as document revisions and assessment liens are done for a fixed fee.  Rates are subject to change with advance notice.

Will you provide a fixed fee quote, if requested?

Yes, however we do not offer a boiler plate retainer.  We prefer to discuss your specific needs with you so that we can customize a retainer for your Association.  However, our Association clients have found our hourly billing practices to be fair and reasonable and presently no Associations have a retainer.

Who will be working on association matters?

General association matters will be handled by Richard D. DeBoest II and Susan McLaughlin.  Construction defect litigation/turnover developer matters will be handled by William Stockman.    Other types of complex litigation will be handled by attorney James Decker.

Is there a minimum time unit used in making time charges (e.g., .1, .25)?

Yes.   All time is billed in one-tenth of an hour increments (i.e. 6 minutes equals .1).    

What out-of-pocket expenses do you bill for and how are these determined?

All direct hard cost expenses are passed through to the client without markup.   We do not charge for faxes, reasonable numbers of copies, or domestic long distance phone calls.

Do you bill for travel time and if so, how and at what rate?

Susan McLaughlin and Richard DeBoest do not bill for travel time in Southwest Florida.  Bill Stockman and Jim Decker bill “portal to portal” at their full hourly rate.

Do you provide any “free” or no charge services?    If so, what?     

Yes.    We provide free legal updates regarding applicable changes in the law.

Do you ever forego attorney fees?   If so, under what circumstances?

Yes.   We will consider reducing our attorney fees when appropriate depending on the circumstances.  Each case is different therefore it is very difficult to state exactly under what circumstances we will consider reducing our fees.  

Do you bill for calls from Owners?    

No, unless, the Board of Directors has authorized us to speak to the Unit Owner or the Unit Owner is calling to discuss a pending matter which we have contacted the owner about, such as a covenant enforcement issue.   In cases of unsolicited Unit Owner calls, we accept the call however explain that we do not have authorization to bill or to speak to the Unit Owner and they should contact the Board directly regarding the matter. 

Do you implement any procedures to control fees and costs in litigation matters?

Yes.    In analyzing every case, consideration is given to the potential for attorney fees and costs.    Depending on the case, we will limit discovery and other matters in order to keep attorney fees to a minimum.   

We don’t really have a lot of money for legal fees.   How can we maximize the money we spend?  

In order to reduce the money you spend on attorney fees, it is our recommendation that the Board members educate themselves by reading various community association publications and their governing documents.    Many of the answers to the questions commonly asked by Boards can be found in the governing documents and if the Board takes it upon itself to completely understand its governing documents, it can avoid unnecessary questions to the attorney and thereby minimize fees.

 

Billing Procedures:

How frequently do you bill and when is payment due?

Bills are generated monthly between the 1st and the 10th.   Payment is due upon receipt – no later than thirty (30) days.

How do you itemize or explain the services for which you are billing?

A brief written description is given for every billed task.   

Do your bills classify each matter separately?

Yes.   

Is there a procedure in your office for handling questions regarding a bill?  What if a billing dispute cannot be resolved?

Yes.    If you have a billing dispute, you are encouraged to call and speak to the attorney handling the matter directly.    There are no fees charged for calls to discuss billing matters.   Although it is rare that a billing dispute cannot be resolved amicably, in such cases the firm will typically discontinue providing services to the client.  

 

Attorney’s Office Organization and Function:

Describe how your office or firm is organized.  Who would be assigned to handle the association’s legal work?  Would associates and legal assistants be used?  What would your personal involvement be?           

All client matters are handled personally by the attorney.   Personal involvement by the attorney in each matter is one of the cornerstones of our firm’s practice model.  Each attorney in the firm is a shareholder except for Susan McLaughlin who is a senior associate.  Paralegal Susan Peters is in charge of assessment collection matters. 

If you delegate our legal work to someone else in your firm, whether it’s an attorney or paralegal, who will be responsible for reviewing that work?

All work is reviewed by a shareholder.

 

Professional Affiliations:

Do you or your firm belong to community association trade groups?

Yes, our firm belongs to the Community Associations Institute (CAI).   We are also a corporate super sponsor for the local Chapter of CAI.  Richard D. DeBoest II is currently on the Board of Directors of the South Gulf Coast Chapter of CAI and a past member of the Florida Legislative Alliance of CAI.  He is also a member of Condominium Owners Managers and Associates (COMA) in Fort Myers and Naples. 

What organizations are you involved in outside of the community association industry?

Our attorneys are members of The Florida Bar, Lee County Bar Association, the Collier County Bar Association, various youth sport organizations and cub scouts.  

What other professional organizations do you or your firm belong to?

Richard D. DeBoest II is a member of the Florida Bar Real Property Section Planned Unit Development (Condo) Committee.  The Firm is a member of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.  

 

Community Association Experience and Involvement:

Describe your experience in handling the kinds of legal problems our association faces.  (e.g., collections, covenant enforcement, document amendment, litigation, etc.)

Richard D. DeBoest II has more than thirteen years of experience in handling all facets of operational problems faced by community associations.   Attorney William Stockman has been practicing for 29 years with his primary focus being community association construction defect/developer litigation.  Attorneys Jim Decker and Susan McLaughlin have been practicing each for more than 29 years.  

What percentage of your practice is devoted to the representation of association clients?

Richard D. DeBoest II and Susan McLaughlin devote 100% of their practice to the representation of community association clients.  William Stockman’s practice is devoted approximately 75% to construction defect/developer litigation and 25% to general litigation.  Jim Decker’s practice is devoted 100% to general litigation, much of which involves community association matters.   

Provide us with examples of proactive advice you have given to an association client.

We recommend adopting standardized procedures, protocol and forms and assist in the creation of these items.  Establishing and following standardized protocol for handling assessment collection, covenant enforcement and other common matters allows the Association to resolve many disputes without the need to have the attorney get involved.  Moreover, when a matter is referred to the attorney the case is much stronger and this increases the chances of a successful resolution on behalf of the Association.  It is our general philosophy that litigation is always utilized as the last option.    When the decision to litigate has been made, we advise providing a final notice to the adverse party and providing a final opportunity to discuss and possibly resolve the matter before filing a lawsuit.  

Describe your involvement in the community association industry outside of representing association clients.

Richard D. DeBoest II is a certified instructor for community association lawyer and manager continuing education credits and condominium unit owner education courses for the State of Florida.  William Stockman is the co-author of the construction defect litigation chapter in the book “Florida Condominium Law and Practice” published by The Florida Bar.  As mentioned above Richard D. DeBoest II is a member of CAI and the past president of the local CAI Chapter.   He is a member of the Naples and Fort Myers Chapters of COMA and a member of The Florida Bar committee on planned unit developments. 

 

Firm and Attorney Biographies:

DEBOEST, STOCKMAN, DECKER, BROUGHTON & HAGAN, P.A.

Established 1997.  AV Peer Review Rated.

Practices in the following areas of law:

General Practice including Civil, Trial and Appellate Practice, Administrative Law, Banking Law, Business Law, Condominium and Homeowner Association Law, Construction Law, Foreclosures, Lien Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Head and Spinal Injuries, Medical Malpractice and Real Property.

 

Firm Size: 6 lawyers

Richard D. DeBoest II, (Member) born Fort Myers, Florida, October 16, 1962; admitted to bar, 1993, Florida; U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. Education: University of Southern California (B.A., 1986); Nova Southeastern University (J.D., 1993). Executive Editor, Nova Law Review, 1992-1993. Member, Condominium and Planned Development Committee, The Florida Bar. Member: Lee County Bar Association; Community Associations Institute (President, South Gulf Coast Chapter, 2001) current Board Member; Caloosa Inn of Court. Practice Areas: Condominium Law; Homeowners Association Law.
BV Peer Review Rated

William E. Stockman, (Member) born La Mesa, California, October 15, 1948; admitted to bar, 1977, Florida; 1979, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida; 1980, U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit; 1981, U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit; 1983, U.S. Supreme Court; 1989, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. Education: Edison Community College (A.A., 1968); University of South Florida (B.A., 1974); Nova Law Center (J.D., 1977). Phi Theta Kappa. Co-Author, "Construction Defect Litigation," Florida Condominium Law and Practice, 2nd Ed., The Florida Bar, 1997-1998. Member, Board of Trustees: First Presbyterian Church of Pompano Beach, 1985-1989; Elder Covenant Presbyterian Church, Ft. Myers, 1993-1995. Member, 1999— and Vice Chair, 2002—, Peace River Presbytery Committee on Ministry. Member: North Broward (President, 1986-1987) and Lee County Bar Associations; The Florida Bar (Member, 1994-1997 and Chair, 1996-1997, 20th Circuit Grievance Committee); Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers; The Association of Trial Lawyers of America. [With U.S. Air Force, 1968-1972]. Practice Areas: General Civil Litigation; Construction Litigation; Personal Injury; Wrongful Death. AV Peer Review Rated

James G. Decker, (Member) born Elmira, New York, December 14, 1946; admitted to bar, 1975, Florida; 1977, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida and U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit; 1981, U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit. Education: United States Military Academy (B.S., 1968); Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (J.D., 1975). Law Clerk for Justice Ben F. Overton, Florida Supreme Court, 1975-1977. Past President, Lee County Legal Aid Society. Member: Lee County and American Bar Associations; The Florida Bar (Past Chair, 20th Circuit Grievance Committee); Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund; American Judicature Society. Master, Caloosa Inn of Court. [Capt., U.S. Army, 1968-1972]. Practice Areas: Civil Litigation; Personal Injury; Appellate Practice; Business Law; Real Property. AV Peer Review Rated

Terry V. Broughton, (Member) born Lake City, Florida, December 12, 1947; admitted to bar, 1981, Florida. Education: Florida State University (B.A., 1969); University of Florida (J.D., 1980). Member: Lee County Bar Association; The Florida Bar. [LTJG., U.S. Coast Guard, 1969-1973]. Practice Areas: Real Estate Law; General Business Law. BV Peer Review Rated

Samuel J. Hagan, IV, (Member) born Fort Myers, Florida, December 4, 1968; admitted to bar, 1995, Florida. Education: Florida State University (B.S., 1991; J.D., 1995). Member: Lee County Bar Association; The Florida Bar. Practice Areas: Real Estate; Banking Law; Corporate Law. BV Peer Review Rated

Susan McLaughlin, (Senior Associate) born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1952; admitted to bar 1976 Pennsylvania, 1983 New Jersey, 1984 New York, 2001 Florida.  Currently only active in Florida.  Education:  New York University (B.S. 1973); Villanova Law School (J.D., 1976). Member:  The Florida Bar.  Practice Areas: Condominium Law; Homeowners Association Law; Workers Compensation. AV Peer Review Rated.

 

Legal Philosophy:

Describe any philosophical or practical approaches you have in the representation of association clients.

Our general philosophy is to attempt to prevent problems before they occur and then find common sense solutions to problems after they occur.    Litigation is always a last resort.     Additionally, prompt personal service and direct attorney/client contact are cornerstones of our practice philosophy.  

In your opinion, what makes a good association attorney?

In our opinion a good association attorney is one that is well versed in community association law, is actively involved in the industry and community association trends, and the law, and strives to determine what the client’s “goal” is and then tailors a strategy in order to achieve the goal.  

What do you see as the role of the association attorney?

The role of the association attorney is to act as an advisor and educator on community association law, document interpretation and general operational procedures.    If this is done successfully, it will greatly reduce the number of problems faced by the Association and thereby reduce litigation and attorney fees.

What in your view makes for a good relationship between the Board and the association attorney?

Communication is the key to a good relationship between the Board and the Association attorney.     The Community Association manager is critical to this relationship.   The Board, the manager and the attorney work best together when each clearly understands its own role and the role of the other participants.    A good, professional, and experienced manager can act as the “gatekeeper” between the Board and the attorney thereby minimizing attorney fees.    

What is your opinion of ADR (mediation, arbitration) versus litigation?  Do you have actual experience using ADR techniques?   Please describe.

We have found mediation to be successful and valuable.   We strive to have mediation occur early in the dispute process rather than on the eve of trial after significant attorney fees and costs have been incurred.   Arbitration on the other hand in the condominium context we find to be somewhat frustrating in that it is mandatory but non-binding and often times does not save time or money.   

 

 

Client education:

Do you offer any education opportunities to your association clients such as seminars or workshops?  Do you charge for these?

Yes.   We do not charge for client education seminars and workshops.   

Do you provide your association clients with a newsletter or other written training or educational materials?

We do not currently have a client newsletter however we have other pieces of training and educational material, which we provide to the client for free on a regular basis.  

Do you have a website?  Do you include educational information on that website?

Yes.   The website specifically for community association matters is rddesq.com.  The general firm website is dsdbhlaw.com.


Availability:

For emergency purposes, are you available by phone after 6:00 p.m.?

Yes.  

If you are going to be unavailable, how do you communicate that to clients?

If we are going to be unavailable we communicate in advance to the client the period of time in which we will be unavailable.   Generally, however, thanks to modern technology, none of us are ever truly “unavailable.”    We can be reached when absolutely necessary almost at any time.   

Who will handle our legal needs if one of you are unavailable?

Richard D. DeBoest II, Susan McLaughlin and William Stockman will handle any community association related matters when the primary attorney is unavailable.   

Does your firm ensure there is an attorney available to speak to within at least 24 business hours of a telephone call and if so, how?

Yes.     Our goal is to return all telephone calls by 5:00 p.m. on the same day.

 

Client Communication:

Do you prefer faxes, e-mails, or phone calls?

Faxes, e-mails, or phone calls are all utilized.   We do not have any particular preference of one over the other.

Do you give clients your cell phone number?

Yes. 

How do you communicate bad news to clients?

We communicate bad news to clients as soon as possible and in a straight forward and plain speaking manner and try to also have all remaining options ready to discuss at the same time.   

 

Response Time:

If you are unable to meet a deadline, what do you do?

If we are unable to meet a deadline, as soon as we realize that we are not going to meet the deadline, we communicate to the client and explain the reason for not being able to meet the deadline.   

Do you guarantee a time frame for returning telephone calls or e-mail and if so, how long is your guaranteed response time?

We do not “guarantee” a response time.   However, we strive to return all telephone calls the same day and respond to e-mails in accordance with the timeliness warranted due to the subject matter.   

 

 

Other Considerations:

Do you (or your firm) carry malpractice insurance?   Have you had any claims made against you (or your firm)?

Yes.   Our firm carries malpractice insurance.     No – neither Richard D. DeBoest II nor the firm have had any claims for malpractice made against us.  

Do you meet with Boards annually for a legal review of the association?

Yes – when requested.

Can you provide us with references from existing association clients, prior or former clients and attorneys who were adverse to you?

Yes.   I can provide you with references from existing clients.   I will provide the references under separate cover.  I would encourage you to discuss my practice style and habits with the other leading community association attorneys in Southwest Florida (Joe Adams, Chris Shields, Rob Samouce, and Tamela Wiseman) and/or almost any community association manager.    

 

Management Company and Vendor Relationships:

Do you represent management companies, developers or others associated with the community association industry?

No. 

 

General Interest:

How would you describe your people skills?

I would assess our “people skills” as being excellent.   This is based on feedback from clients.    I am told that we explain legal matters in a clear, easily understandable fashion.   

What do you believe distinguishes you from your competition?

The greatest thing that distinguishes our firm from our competitors is that we are what I describe as being “user friendly.”    We are very accessible to clients and flexible in scheduling meetings.   We also do not have any hidden charges or “nickel-and-dime” the client.   

When clients have worked really well with you, what made the relationship work?

Communication is the key to a successful attorney-client relationship.

How do you handle Owners who are chronic debtors?

When faced with the “chronic debtor,” we generally recommend if allowed in the governing documents that the Association exercise its right to accelerate assessments through the end of the year.    Typically, this only needs to be done once and the chronic late payer gets the message.


Describe a legal issue you dealt with of which you are particularly proud?

We are particularly proud of the assessment collection policy and system that we have established over the years.  The system and policy is what I describe as being “tough and swift but fair.”   We have found that if the community association will adopt and follow the assessment collection policy that we recommend the incidence of delinquencies can be dramatically reduced.    This is not a specific legal issue however we are proud of the system and its effectiveness.  

Describe a legal issue you handled that had a disappointing outcome.

Most recently, I am disappointed in the outcome of a particular Condominium Arbitration case.  The case involved complex issues and unfortunately our client did not prevail.

Describe what things you or your firm could/would do for us that would keep us from having legal problems.

As described elsewhere, the greatest thing that our firm can do to help you from having legal problems is to encourage you to educate yourself by reading your governing documents, reading the Statutes, and reading the numerous publications and “how-to” books on running community associations.   Once the Board has educated itself, it can more effectively work with the attorney and the manager and together this creates a “team” approach that is very effective in keeping legal problems to a minimum.