Paul Reyes, 39, is the general counsel at Associa Inc., a manager of properties specializing in planned communities and other residential and commercial associations. The Dallas-based company has 150 branch offices in the United States, Mexico and Canada and is privately held. The company, which does not disclose revenue, has about 8,000 employees. Its headcount has grown by about 9 percent since the recession, due to acquisitions and organic growth, Reyes said.
LEGAL TEAM AND OUTSIDE COUNSEL
Reyes leads a team of 12 lawyers including five who are focused on general corporate matters, three on real estate and title work, one on government affairs and three on creditors' remedies. The team is supported by one paralegal and one administrative assistant.
When looking for an attorney to bring aboard, Reyes said, personality is key. "I always consider a candidate's potential to successfully meld into the corporate and department culture," he said. "Our corporate mission statement is, 'Delivering unsurpassed management and lifestyle services to communities worldwide.' "
About three quarters of Associa's legal work is handled in-house. For the rest, Reyes considers a firm's reputation and experience in the relevant practice area. Personal relationships with outside counsel also are important, he said. Firms he engages include Matheson Law Partners of Austin, Texas, for corporate and transactions; McKool Smith for litigation; Haynes and Boone for corporate; and Munck Wilson Mandala of Dallas for litigation. For various matters, he relies on Katten Muchin Rosenman; Dechert; and McGuireWoods. The company uses alternative billing arrangements when it makes sense.
Reyes said that Associa values diversity and employs a diverse staff all over the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"I also value pro bono work within our department, and it's an important factor, along with diversity of the firm's staff, in choosing outside counsel if we do not have an existing relationship with that firm," he said. Associa has a charitable arm, Associa Cares, which supports communities struck by natural and man-made disasters. The company has not signed the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge or the Diversity Call to Action, however.
Reyes generally arrives at the office by 8:30 a.m. and is out by 6 p.m. He attends evening marketing events on occasion, and takes home his laptop to catch up on emails or review documents.
"Every day is unique and presents challenges that I can't always anticipate," he said. "If I'm working on an acquisition or other large-scale projects, a typical day is filled with meetings and conference calls about that project. I meet almost daily with our other in-house attorneys to review ongoing matters, and often I have to schedule last-minute meetings to discuss unexpected matters that arise."
As Associa has grown, the workload among attorneys has become more specialized, and the legal department has staff dedicated to specific practice areas such as employment and human resources, litigation or creditors' remedies. Reyes considers himself a legal generalist. He said the greatest challenge for the company and his law group is maintaining a high level of service for member community associations while controlling costs.
"They're the ones that keep the company going and the legal department is a resource, so when they have legal questions about the usage of the community pool, or enforcing the rules and regulations for the association, or contracts or litigation, the big challenge is providing the best service at the lowest cost."
Reyes has a number of duties beyond his title as general counsel. He is president of AssociaTitle, the firm's subsidiary title company, and assists with its marketing and branding. He's on the board of Associa PAC, the company's political action committee, and gets involved with lobbying.
"I also occasionally sit at the front desk at AssociaTitle and man the phone lines if no one else is available," he said. It's part of the firm's "pitch-in" culture, he said.
He serves on the board of directors for Associa Cares and works with Associa Supports Kids, which provides safety and education programs for children in Associa member communities.
Among his career highlights is being "fortunate to have a great team and lead the company through 50 acquisitions and transactions in the past eight years." He added, "We've acquired some of the largest community-management firms in the United States, including Professional Community Management in California and Community Management Concepts in Virginia. I've also been fortunate to play a role in our expansion into Mexico and Canada and assist with the purchase of Baywest, the largest community management firm in Canada."
He reports to John Carona, chairman and chief executive officer of Associa.
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Reyes graduated from the University of Tampa in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminology. He earned his law degree at Tulane University Law School in 2002. "I had one year of pre-med and made the decision that medicine wasn't for me, so I looked to apply to law school," Reyes said. At Tulane, he met his future wife, who hailed from Austin, where he later moved.
"I took a job at the Capitol in Austin as a messenger and legislative aide to Texas state Senator John Carona, which is a good way to hear about job openings."
In 2003, he was promoted to staff attorney for Carona and to director of the emerging technologies and economic development subcommittee. He followed Carona into the private sector, moving to Dallas in 2005 as vice president and assistant general counsel for Associa. "It's been a been a blur since then," he said. In 2007, he became senior vice president and general counsel.
His advice for someone stepping into a general counsel role? "Recognize how little you know, and listen to the people who can change that," he said. "Sometimes, it's hard to come to grips with what you don't know. Find the people who can fill that need, but don't get overextended."
A native of Washington, Reyes enjoys boxing. "I started when I was 18," he said. "It focuses you on other things besides the stresses of life." He also favors distance cycling and deep-sea fishing. Wife Claire Reyes works in public relations. They have two children, Lily, 4, and Laura, 3. His community activities outside work include serving as a mentor in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs and as a member of the board of directors of the YMCA in Dallas' White Rock area. He is also a member of Serra Club, an organization that helps the Roman Catholic Church recruit and develop priests.
LAST BOOK AND MOVIE
Break In, by Dick Francis. He's also a fan of Herman Melville and is rereading Moby -Dick. "I've been stuck on the chapter about the whale description for the past seven years," he said. Movie? Office Space. "It was on TV a few nights ago," he said.