For some firms, the recession presented opportunities for growth, particularly those with established mortgage banking and creditor’s rights departments.
That certainly held true for Columbia-based Rogers Townsend & Thomas, which expanded its mortgage banking and default services practice – already established in South Carolina – to Charlotte in January 2010.
The firm has grown steadily since Sam Waters, the firm’s chairman, joined in 1986 as one of three attorneys. By the end of 2011, the firm had 52 attorneys in South Carolina and seven in Charlotte, and hiring continues as the firm looks to add not only to its mortgage services group but also to growing commercial litigation, banking and other areas.
“We like to ‘add legs to the stool,’ as one of my partners likes to put it, growing our core business and adding complimentary practices,” Waters said. “So we’re doing a lot more business and banking work than we’ve ever done. We’re doing a lot of insurance defense and complex litigation, and a lot of work with homeowners associations.”
Still, the mortgage services area has been the firm’s bread and butter. It’s work, according to Waters, that is more complex than many people appreciate.
“People unfortunately are under the impression that lawyers who do this are only interested in one thing and that’s taking people’s homes away,” he said. “That’s hardly close to the truth. Lots of situations are resolved through bankruptcy, deeds in lieu, or other means of loss mitigation. With payment plans and federal programs probably half are resolved and don’t go to a foreclosure sale.”
“We engage an awful lot of our time trying to find solutions for people short of their losing their homes,” Waters added. “That’s just part and parcel of our practice.”
The firm’s growth has been measured, consistent with its business philosophy. “We seek folks who understand that professional services also involves following good business practices. It means then that our growth is incremental. And we like to grow from within,” he said.
As for 2012 and beyond, Waters is hopeful. “I think all firms are being very careful, containing costs where they can but at the same time looking for and recognizing opportunities that are complimentary for the firm and practice,” he said. “And we’re hearing more and more about signs that the economy is turning the corner. Certainly strategically we’ll see our firm grow here and in North Carolina, in other locations besides Charlotte. That’s not imminent, but may happen perhaps in the next three to five years.”
— Sharon McCloskey