The Life and Career of Robert M. Meisner: Principal Founding Member of Meisner & Associates, P.C., and Author of Condo Living: A Survival Guide to Buying, Owning and Selling a Condominium

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The Life and Career of Robert M. Meisner: Principal Founding Member of Meisner & Associates, P.C., and Author of Condo Living: A Survival Guide to Buying, Owning and Selling a Condominium
Meisner was a co-draftsperson of the 1978 Michigan Condominium Act and has authored changes to the 1978 Condo Act, which were enacted in 2001. He was also the first lawyer in Michigan—and among the select few lawyers in the country—to be inducted into the College of Community Association Lawyers, which was established by the Community Associations Institute, a national organization devoted to enhanced community association governance operation. He has also served as general legal counsel to the United Condominium Owners of Michigan, which is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and assisting condominium associations. And he has been a guest speaker on condominium matters throughout the country for organizations such as the Community Associations Institute, the Institute of Continuing Legal Education, the United Condominium Owners of Michigan, and Northwestern Michigan College.

Additionally, he has been a real estate columnist with the Observer & Eccentric newspapers for more than 25 years. He also writes columns for the Detroit News and has written two books. His most recent book is titled Condo Living: A Survival Guide to Buying, Owning and Selling a Condominium.

Meisner talked about his inspiration for writing Condo Living, which Momentum Books published last year.

"Practicing law for 35 years in community association law inspired me to write about, somewhat as a catharsis, some of the issues and concerns which I have observed, together with some solutions to some of the problems which I see in condominium governance and operation on a daily basis," he said. "The book is a layperson's guide to the do's and don'ts of buying and/or developing a condominium and operating a condominium association by a director or an officer of the association."

Meisner said that he always wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, law is something of a tradition in his family. His father and uncle were both lawyers, and one of his two sons is a securities lawyer. His other son is a doctor specializing in gastroenterology. Meisner earned his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1969. After law school, he worked for a year and a half as a pre-hearing attorney for the Michigan Court of Appeals. At that time, he carpooled with an attorney friend who worked for the condominium section of the Department of Commerce. The friend piqued Meisner's interest in community association and condominium law. As a result, Meisner began working for Detroit-based real estate and business lawyer Milton Y. Zussman in 1971. Zussman's practice focused on commercial litigation, real estate, and condominium law. Meisner worked with Zussman for a year and a half; and in 1973, he joined law firm Bronberg & Robinson in Southfield, MI. The firm concentrated in real estate, corporate, and commercial litigation. Meisner said that he did some developer-related condominium work at the firm.

In 1976, he formed Meisner & Associates in Bingham Farms, MI. He said that it is a boutique firm that specializes in community association and condominium law, commercial litigation, and contracts and business. The firm, which is comprised of five attorneys and three legal assistants, provides a variety of services to community associations. Some of those services include the drafting of documents, which involves critiquing the current master deed, bylaws, condominium subdivision plan, articles of incorporation, and preparation of amendments to those documents if need be; handling litigation matters, which includes foreclosure and collection lawsuits, bylaw and rules enforcement lawsuits, construction defect lawsuits, and contract disputes; and operational matters, such as reviewing minutes of board meetings, assisting and attending membership and board meetings, advising directors and officers on indemnification and insulation from liability, and conducting operational audits.

In addition to running his firm, Meisner is an adjunct professor at Cooley Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. He teaches condominium law at both schools.

"I enjoy the feedback that I get from law students and the ability to keep up with current developments in community association law," he said.

Meisner had the following advice for law students:

"Make sure that you learn how to write and express yourself verbally before becoming a practicing attorney," he said. "Give it your best, and learn the most you can about life in general."

Meisner also serves as a case evaluator for Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb County Circuit Courts and has been trained and certified to act as a facilitative mediator for the Oakland County Circuit Court.

He said what he enjoys most about being a lawyer is "helping people solve their problems and hopefully gaining a good result from them." He said that one of the most difficult challenges of his job is dealing with community association boards and other attorneys. Meisner added that he believes the most important issues facing the legal community today are "the reputation of attorneys and the quality of lawyers being turned out by law schools."

When he's not practicing law or teaching, Meisner said that he enjoys playing handball, viewing sports, playing with his train set, and traveling.

Meisner encouraged other attorneys to look into community association law.

"It is an excellent field," he said. "But you must be in a position to specialize in it, because it takes a full-time commitment."

Visit LawCrossing next week to read a profile on Sarah Weddington, who is thought to be the youngest person to win a Supreme Court case.

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