Recently, a corporate client of a law firm specializing in real estate development, among other areas, was served with a lawsuit.  In effect, the city was suing to compel the corporation to employ guard services and other high-cost security measures at one of its properties.  The multi-tenant facility is located in a neighborhood with a growing crime rate, within a city whose police department – like so many others – faces increasingly limited financial resources.

Commercial Realty Owners Are Often Challenged by Security and Policing

After reviewing the credentials of members of Hillard Heintze’s Senior Leadership Council, one of the firm’s partners engaged our services.  “Start by helping us determine,” they asked, “whether these measures are truly and completely necessary – and, if they are, what the best ways are to address them.  Then liaise with this police department to find better, more cost-effective solutions to our shared areas of concern.”  

Four Areas of Support

Over a five-month period, we supported this professional law firm and its client in several distinct ways.  In short, Hillard Heintze:

  1. Provided an analysis of the existing documentation and current security environment to aid in preparing for depositions, meetings and hearings.
  2. Developed a cost-effective strategic plan – based on best practices, data analysis and research – to advance the facility’s safety and security objectives in alignment with the police department’s security concerns.
  3. Collaborated with the police department in finding common ground to implement the strategy.
  4. Supported the client, as directed, with meeting, mediation and hearing assistance as an advisor and expert witness. 

Security and Policing May Overlap, but there are Distinct Areas of Difference

This suit is ongoing.  But Hillard Heintze’s work has already helped reverse previous court-ordered sanctions and administrative penalties and fines.

  • The partner leading the case has explicitly recognized the critical role Hillard Heintze’s knowledge and expertise played in demonstrating that the costly level of security staffing proposed by the police department was grossly exaggerated and that the public-safety-related issues raised by the city were easily addressed through a range of cost-effective strategies.
  • Hillard Heintze’s analysis demonstrated to the court that while violent crime does occur in the complex, the level was not endemic, and in fact, had declined over a four-year period.
  • The firm’s formal court declarations helped counsel argue the probability that the police department targeted this complex as an example of crimes that occur throughout the city’s low-income neighborhoods and viewed the property owners as having sufficient financial resources to comply with their demands. 

Unplugged: The Project Manager’s Perspective

“This particular case is still unresolved.  But in crafting our recommendations to the client – and, by extension, to the court – we took a lot of care to put together a thoughtful integration of complementary strategies and tactics. I think we performed well in meeting that goal.  They had to be both (1) financially and operationally practical measures and (2) strong grounds to support a successful negotiation process or mediation between this particular police department and the facility’s owners.”

The ACTION WEDNESDAY Tool Box: Two Key Take-Aways

  1.  If are you responsible for major real estate assets, take another look at how your teams are addressing security – from multiple perspectives:  We often find that security is addressed by owners and managers of major Class A office properties, malls and shopping centers and apartment complexes in a tactical manner.
  2. Consider commissioning a broader review from a strategic perspective on where and how security outcomes can be improved in more cost-effective ways.  Such a review can take into account risks and opportunities relating to areas such as taxes, tenant demands, jurisdictional authority, critical infrastructure and key resources, insurance, financial cost-sharing, and the provision of expert opinions supporting suits and other court matters.

(What’s it like on the front line supporting the firm’s clients?  What are the challenges the firm’s experts help senior business executives, general counsel, board members and other decision-makers address?  Welcome to ACTION WEDNESDAY.  Every Wednesday, the Front Line Blog publishes a new case study.)