Area attorneys give glimpse into legal issues affecting Tidewater

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Trending News

Laws and regulatory issues impact everyone—from private citizen to business owner, from employee to retiree, and it seems everybody in between. In this special section, Jewish News surveys a few local attorneys to find out what’s trending, what’s coming, and how to prepare for the legal issues that might be encountered at any stage of life. These attorneys share insights about city government, employment law, corporate law, and community associations.

Deborah Casey
Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black PLC, Norfolk

Area of specialization: Community Associations

Jewish News: Where did you receive your education and what is your experience in law?

Deborah Casey: I graduated from the College of William and Mary School of Law. I went to Vandeventer Black as a first-year summer clerk and have been with the firm (now Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black PLC) for my entire 35-year career. I started in corporate/business, moved to litigation, and then developed a community association law practice, which benefits from all of that experience and the other subject matter specialties of the firm.

JN: Why did you go into this specialty?

DC: I started by accident and at a time when only a couple of practitioners knew about this highly nuanced area. It is really interesting and has evolved in the last 30 years. It covers the gambit of legal issues from real estate, contracts, and corporate law to construction, employment, finance, and litigation, and involves people and their homes.

JN: How common are POAs/HOAs in the Tidewater region?

DC: Very. Any home constructed since 1990 is probably in a community association.

JN: Could you name a few examples of typical sorts of cases you work on?

DC: I spend a lot of time interpreting documents to determine whether the owner or association is responsible for different building components, and counseling boards of directors on governance issues, best practices to avoid liability and litigation, preparing amendments to governing documents, revising rules, assisting with policy and implementation, and reviewing contracts.

JN: Do you represent the associations or the residents?

DC: Associations mostly, to avoid potential conflicts.

JN: What proportion of your work concerns residents complying with association rules?

DC: While this is the stuff that makes headlines, it is a small percent of our overall practice.

JN: What proportion of your work concerns environmental issues, and discuss a few of the major issues in this area?

DC: That ebbs and flows, but it is an increasing factor. Flooding and erosion are issues. The Green movement is affecting associations with solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, technology, and more.

JN: What should residents and property owners know about living with these associations that they might not know?

DC: Review and be familiar with the governing document and rules. Not all associations are the same. The goal is community living and property value enhancement. Most association decisions are made by the Board [which is made up of] volunteers and fellow owners. Being involved in a community is the best way to stay informed and play a role.

JN: How has the unpredictable housing market affected your practice?

DC: It has not had an effect on our practice, which involves ongoing governance, management, business, and other issues unrelated to the market.

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Thomas E. Snyder
Inman & Strickler, PLC

Area of specialization: Commercial Real Estate, Corporations and Business Law, Mergers and Acquisitions, Capital Formations, Finance
and Franchising

Jewish News: Where did you receive your education and what is your experience in law?

Tom Snyder: I was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. Undergraduate school was Northwestern University in Evanston, Il., and law school was the University of Richmond. I started practicing with Clark & Stant, PC, which merged with Williams Mullen. I left in 2015 and have been a member of Inman & Strickler, PLC since.

JN: What are the new or upcoming laws and regulations that will affect both commercial RE buyers and sellers?

TS: In the world of commercial real estate, the substantive law affecting real estate, taxation of transactions, and the law of the entities that own real estate remains very stable. (Had the Build Back Better bill passed Congress, that would have been a different story.) There have been changes to the Virginia (Residential) Landlord and Tenant act, which does affect the owners of apartment complexes in dealing with their tenants.

JN: How would you characterize activity today in the commercial realm in Tidewater, where we have a vibrant waterfront, a substantial military demographic, and other factors?

TS: The Tidewater commercial real estate market does tend to be less volatile than other markets in the country, and I do handle transactions in other parts of the country. At this point in time, with the economy teetering on a recession and inflation and interest rates soaring, it makes doing commercial real estate deals more difficult. On the other hand, it constrains the development of new supply, thus keeping the prices of commercial real estate high. Thus, deals are generally still occurring. Multifamily apartments seem to have their own separate rules, however.

JN: Are you seeing more franchise activity in this region or less compared with a year ago?

TS: Franchise activity seems to be somewhat down, following the trend of the economy in general. Also, many franchises are food purveyors, and that industry is particularly hard hit and risky, and finding labor is really difficult.

JN: What are the typical cases you might be involved in?

TS: I am personally involved in the buying, selling, and financing of commercial properties and companies and disputes involving such matters. I also handle many general business transactions, structuring, and organizing such matters and disputes among the owners. I just handled the sale of a building in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the sale of a closely held company whose headquarters were here, but which had operations across the country. I am also involved with quite a few disputes. I would try to settle any dispute if possible, as litigation is extremely expensive and an inefficient way to resolve a dispute.

JN: What should business owners today know about mergers and acquisitions from a legal standpoint?

TS: The most important thing in an M&A deal is to have a competent attorney and accountant to make sure you’re getting what you think you’ve bargained for. Businesses are typically much more complicated to buy or sell, and there is a myriad of issues to address.

JN: Are there issues that specifically affect this region?

TS: This area has a lot of government contractors, and there are unique regulatory issues they have in many instances.

JN: Why did you go into this specialty?

TS: I enjoy the variety of my legal practice, and solving problems is challenging and fun!

JN: Other comments?

TS: The private practice of law is uniquely challenging and rewarding, as any small business owner can attest.

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Andrew Fox
Deputy City Attorney
City of Norfolk

Jewish News: Where did you receive your education and what is your experience in law?

Andrew Fox: I am a graduate of Cornell University and William & Mary Law School. I have practiced employment and municipal law exclusively since 2004 for the cities of Norfolk and Chesapeake, and also served as an adjunct professor of law at William & Mary and Washington & Lee law schools for more than 10 years. Prior to law school, I served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.

JN: What are some of the major issues that come into your office facing Norfolk residents today?

AF: Norfolk seems to constantly be a city in transition, and our office is very involved in both major projects like redevelopment of the St. Paul’s public housing area, Military Circle Mall, and the HeadWaters Casino, and neighborhood-level issues such as reducing crime, addressing poverty, and increasing opportunities for historically underrepresented populations in our city. I am also privileged to represent the Chrysler Museum of Art, Seven Venues, and Nauticus – cultural amenities that really set Norfolk apart from other cities in the region, in my opinion.

JN: Same questions, re: business owners and professionals?

AF: As a densely populated city with a rich but complicated history, Norfolk depends on citizen engagement and cooperation to thrive and improve. Business owners should rely on professionals (architects, engineers, environmental consultants, etc.) who are familiar with the city’s zoning, construction, and tax codes, and conduct extensive outreach to civic leagues and other neighborhood groups affected by their projects.

JN: What do people need to know about how your department works?

AF: We are a team of dedicated professionals who support every department and agency within the city. We counsel our clients to follow established policies and procedures and to be fair and equitable in everything they do.

JN: Those who are in litigation with the City of Norfolk, can you name a few of the top cases that have had a significant impact on those who live, work, and do business here?

AF: As with many cities, Norfolk saw an increase in litigation related to use of force by police officers in recent years and has widely deployed body-worn cameras in an effort to protect both the public and officers. The city recently settled a case with a group of concerned citizens in which it agreed to provide additional resources to residents of the St. Paul’s public housing projects during the historic redevelopment of that area. Most city-related litigation is more in the nature of business disputes related to construction and business development projects.

JN: Are there any laws that are soon to be enacted or changed in the City of Norfolk that will impact residents and business owners?

AF: Due to Virginia being a “Dillon Rule” state, the city is very limited as to what it can legislate. We are currently starting the process of updating our Comprehensive Plan, which is a city-wide overview of how the city will be developed and redeveloped over the next 20 years. We are also working to make zoning and permitting processes more efficient and transparent.

JN: What do you like about your job?

AF: I enjoy spending every day supporting the city where I live, work, and play to continue to be the cultural and business hub of our region, as well as working in a team-first environment with great benefits and very good quality of life. I get to work in a wide variety of areas and am given the time and resources necessary to perform high-quality legal work for a client I believe in.

JN: Other comments?

AF: I am very proud to be a member of our local “Jewish bar” and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to know members of our community who have been recognized as exemplifying professionalism and civility such as Alan Rashkind, Hal Juren, and Robert Nusbaum (z”l), to name just a few.

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Wayne Goodman
Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA

General Counsel

Jewish News: Where were you educated and what is your experience in law?

Wayne Goodman: I am a Norfolk native who lived and worked away before moving back to the area about 20 years ago. I went to law school in Atlanta at Emory University and then spent many years working in Atlanta before returning to Greater Norfolk. Most of my four decades-plus legal career has been in an in-house capacity and it is a role that I have enjoyed tremendously. During my Atlanta years, my family and I moved to and lived in Hong Kong for nearly five years, where I ran the Asia-Pacific Legal Department of my Atlanta-based global employer. I feel very fortunate with the career, opportunities, and experiences that I have had.

JN: Why did you go into this specialty?

WG: I do not hold myself out necessarily as a “legal specialist in the coffee industry” or a “food and beverage industry attorney.” Rather, my work is of a basic and broad corporate nature. My title actually reflects that: General Counsel. In truth, I am a “generalist” business attorney. What that means is that I am expected to recognize when legal issues present themselves, and what the company’s legal needs are, and to ensure that they are properly addressed.

JN: What are the typical kinds of issues that occur in food manufacturing that in-house attorneys might handle?

WG: The world of food and food manufacturing is highly regulated! Multiple and complex laws and regulations are in place all over the country which are relevant to and govern the business. A challenging exercise for a lawyer working in this space is the need to ensure compliance with all of them, which can vary greatly from state to state.

JN: Do you handle all legal issues in the company including HR issues, Workers Comp, etc.?

WG: As the company’s General Counsel, my job is to ensure that all of the company’s legal needs are met. Am I single-handedly able, or personally equipped knowledge-wise, to do everything? Of course not! I engage and work with a wide array of both local and non-local external counsel on matters where either a time constraint is involved or where a particular matter is beyond the scope of my personal expertise. Examples of matters which fall into the latter group include litigation, certain human resources issues, some intellectual property work, and others.

JN: What are the trends/new laws that those in your industry (food and beverage) should be aware of?

WG: A significant and adverse trend is the increasing amount of litigation in this country against food manufacturers and retailers that sell their products. The plaintiff bar bringing these lawsuits is very active, and many of them are in the nature of a class-action lawsuit where the potential hit to a defendant can increase dramatically. Even though many of these cases would be considered meritless if not frivolous, they still cost a lot of money, and take a lot of time, to defend against and dispose of.

JN: Does a global company like yours need to be knowledgeable in the legal issues that come with doing business in other countries (and being headquartered in Europe)?

WG: While getting yourself up to speed on a general basis is helpful, the answer is no, not necessarily. When the need for me arises to work in the international arena where another country’s law is controlling, I engage external counsel in that country to work with me.

JN: What do you enjoy most about your position?

WG: The variety of work—from general contract, to marketing and sales, commercial real estate, M&A, banking and finance, etc. I am exposed to a lot of different matters at all times and that keeps things new and interesting. I also enjoy my diverse client base here within the organization.

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Debbie Burke