WJ&L and Our Banks

We have the good fortune to represent a number of the area’s premier financial institutions including Hudson City Savings Bank, Valley National Bank, Commerce Bank, Citibank and Oritani Savings Bank. Banks need lawyers too, and our firm works in the areas of contract and lease negotiations, land use approvals, employment matters, litigation, and the like for our banking clients. In addition, many of our relationships with banks are actually when we are identified by the bank as a “loan closing attorney” selected by the bank, but paid for by the lender. For those of you who do commercial loans, you recognize the concept. When a bank makes a commercial loan, typically it will identify a lawyer to represent the bank’s interest, with the fees for this work paid for by the lender. Thus, a lender needs its own lawyer, and also pays the bank’s lawyer.
I would not be exaggerating to say, we have closed literally thousands of loans from either side of the table, sometimes representing the lender as the “loan closing attorney” and sometimes representing the borrower. Perhaps because we represented borrowers so many times, when we are the lender’s counsel, we seek to put together quick, clean, loan documents; solve collateral and title issues; and to do all this very efficiently and at a minimum cost. This benefits the borrower and, we think ultimately, the financial institution as well, because the borrower is usually happier with the bank if the lender’s counsel does a good job at a reasonable fee.

My personal experience in banking goes off in a different direction as well. For more than 10 years, I served on the Board of Directors of the holding company of Farmers & Merchants Bank in Boise, Idaho. This bank was solely owned by our client, David F. Bolger. Last April, Farmers & Merchants Bank was purchased by the Bank of the Cascades (CACB), an Oregon based bank that now has 34 branches in Oregon and Idaho. When this happened, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Bank of the Cascades. Unlike a holding company Board that met only quarterly and usually by telephone, the bank board meets monthly, and in Oregon. My trips back and forth to the west coast have now become so frequent that I am starting to know the flight attendants by their first names. This board service, however, has given me exciting new insights into the other side of what banking is all about, and I am very much enjoying this service.

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