Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in the July issue of DS News, out now.
The Legal League 100, a professional association of financial services law firms with member law firms spanning nearly all 50 states, recently gathered at the historic Joule Hotel in Dallas, Texas for their 11th Spring Servicer Summit. A leading force for industry standards, market research, and policy change, the League is committed to supporting the mortgage servicing industry through education, communication, relationship development, and advisory services. In addition to a full day of education and communication between attorneys, servicers, and government representatives, the Summit also saw the announcement of the League’s most recent leadership elections. The group announced that Roy Diaz, Shareholder, SHD Legal Group P.A., had been elected Chair of the Legal League 100.
A member of the Florida Bar since 1988, Diaz has concentrated his practice in the areas of real estate, litigation, and bankruptcy. He has represented lenders, servicers of both conventional and GSE loans, private investors, and real estate developers throughout his career, with an emphasis on the mortgage servicing industry for over 22 years.
Diaz, who previously served on the Legal League 100’s Advisory Council, took over the position from departing Chair Neil Sherman, Managing Partner, Schneiderman & Sherman, who served as Legal League 100 Chair from May 2016. Sherman will continue serving as a member of the Advisory Council.
In the midst of the Servicer Summit, both Diaz and Sherman took some time to sit down with DS News and reflect on where the League has been, where it’s going, and what it means to the both of them.
“I’m motivated by the work Neil Sherman did,” Diaz said. “That was the reason I threw my hat into the ring. Neil moved things in a positive direction, and I felt like that needed to be carried forward. My focus for my tenure as Chair of the Legal League 100 will be on maintaining a clear vision of where the industry is, evolving industry requirements and opportunity for improvement, and bringing that vision to the membership.”
When asked if he had any advice for Diaz, Sherman laid out two suggestions. “Listen to our members—what their needs are and what their concerns are. Our goal is to provide feedback and advice on behalf of our membership to both the Five Star Institute and the industry at large.” Secondly, Sherman counseled Diaz to remain steady and consistent. “These are such important times,” Sherman said. “We need a level of consistency so that we can continue to build upon what we’ve done over the last decade.”
“Roy is a fantastic candidate,” Sherman continued. “He has a tremendous amount of experience, and he’s been a huge asset to the board. He’ll do a wonderful job.”
Looking ahead, Diaz highlighted the unique position the industry finds itself in as he takes the reins of the League. “We’re dealing with challenges we haven’t experienced before,” Diaz said. “We’re dealing with low portfolio volumes and an environment where there are no clear indicators of when or how that might change. I see a lot of question marks on the road ahead, which means we have to stay fluid as an industry and as a League. We can’t get too entrenched in a plan.”
“It’s imperative that we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” Sherman said. “There have been many good regulations imposed within our industry. There may have been some over-regulation because of the crisis, but that appears to be easing up. Our goal is to provide stability for America’s housing market through progressive collaboration.”
Diaz believes compliance will be one of the significant challenges to tackle during his tenure. “What’s expected of us in this low volume environment is very different than what was expected of us before the crisis. The amount of work involved in a file now is very different. There are probably 10 additional steps at each phase of the case that weren’t there before.”
As for Sherman, he said he believed servicers and financial services firms need to keep their eyes on the future—and on the technology that will take us there. “If you’re not learning about the fintech side of our industry and contemplating how that will adjust the way we do business, you’ll likely be left behind,” Sherman said.
Sherman doesn’t believe the human element will be any less critical, however. “People and methodical thinking will be as important as ever, but we will have better tools,” Sherman said. “It’s important that both the default servicing side and the origination side of our industry understand how technology is going to impact what they’re doing and how we have to adjust as small businesses. If you are a large bank servicer or non-bank servicer, you’re putting incredible manpower and money behind fintech. If you’re a small business law firm, you are working hard to stay current on what’s happening in the fintech space.”
Looking forward to initiatives he would like to implement within the Legal League, Diaz highlighted something he’s already been doing on his own. Diaz regularly sends out a monthly email blast from his firm, in which he spotlights a couple of important cases or developments and provides context and insights. “That’s an idea I think could carry over to the League,” Diaz said, “examining how we are communicating outside of the summits. How are we keeping that line of communication going?”
Sherman also emphasized the importance of maintaining communication between League firms and the rest of the industry. “We are constantly talking about how we can improve efficiencies between our firms, the servicers, and the investors themselves,” Sherman said. “We’re creating an open dialogue about what our industry looks like in 2018, which isn’t the same as 2009 or even 2015. We have to recognize that.”
“Change doesn’t come quickly, and trying to rush change doesn’t work,” Diaz said. “As an industry, we need to stay focused, stay patient, and stick to the plan. In my role as Legal League 100 Chair, I will keep a clear focus on industry needs— anticipating them, bringing them to the
forefront, and dealing with them.”
As he looked back on his time as Chair of the Legal League, Neil Sherman told DS News he believed the organization and its work was more important than ever. “Trying to solve our industry’s issues alone from my office in Detroit, Michigan, is a much harder uphill climb than doing it as a collective in an association like the Legal League. It’s up to our group to continue to evolve what we do.”
The Legal League 100 will assemble again for their Fall Servicer Summit during the annual Five Star Conference, happening this September 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas.
David Wharton, Online Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 15 years of experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at David.Wharton@DSNews.com.