If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em is what the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors seemed to say last Saturday when it chose local law firm Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy and Almand to be its new legal advisor.
The decision to switch from the Bethesda firm of Lerch, Early & Brewer, which the board went to in 2016, ended an across-the-bay experiment that appeared to be influenced by a touch of anti-local snobbery.
It wasn’t said, but the implication was that top legal talent befitting a community of Ocean Pines’ stature was more available elsewhere instead of down here in the provinces.
That, as the association members and officials quickly learned, did not work out, as the board was repeatedly thrashed in court by Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy & Almand partner Bruce Bright.
The most painful evisceration of the board’s legal arguments, as most Ocean Pines residents know, occurred when a politically motivated board tried to block current Director Rick Farr’s board candidacy in 2021 despite obvious evidence that it wasn’t going to work.
One lesson to be learned from that and other similarily inspired political lawsuits that involved the board is that hiring from afar is no guarantee of superior results. Many’s the time when legal counsel from elsewhere marched into court here figuring they could outsmart their counterparts and the local judiciary only to have their derrieres handed to them because they underestimated both.
As for the litigation needs of the OPA and its board, with the exception of the recent lawsuits between members and the board, the preponderance of association cases involve collections of past-due bills and such, suggesting that concerns about conflicts of interest simply aren’t relevant.
Besides, when a local firm has repeatedly hammered you in court, the best legal strategy would be to have it argue for you rather than against you.
Even better, it might also advise you when some disputes have no business going to court in the first place.