Re: Using Legal Advice [WAS: Concerning Consensus and established CoHo communities
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 13:13:04 -0800 (PST)

On Mar 14, 2005, at 2:35 PM, Eileen McCourt wrote:

 The benefit of lawyers in our situation could be to
introduce reasonableness into the discussion about what is actually harmful to the community. In a group that has committed to consensus, or that is at
least trying to understand what that would mean in terms of day to day
operations, resorting to legal remedies every time there is a disagreement
does not seem helpful in resolving these disagreements.

Calling a lawyer is not the same thing as "resorting to legal remedies" necessarily. Just because a lawyer is consulted does not mean anyone is being adversarial. A wise lawyer (and of course there are many unwise lawyers) has much experience with negotiating settlements and often has ideas about resolutions that may not be apparent to those involved in the fracas.

And lawyers can often calm fears. This is very helpful to people who are afraid of financial, legal, or personal risk. To deprive these people of these answers and just expect them to "trust" on the basis of no evidence that trust is appropriate, is not being fair to their concerns anymore than they are being "fair" in expecting everyone to be as structured as they are.

Community associations should have lawyers on retainer who are familiar with their community and can clarify the questions of members without setting up an adversarial situation. Our lawyer meets with us once a year, for example, and we make a list of questions to ask her. This meeting clarifies a lot of fears and incorrect assumptions. It certainly isn't adversarial. She understands what kind of community we are and what we ideally want. She is "our" lawyer.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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