• Harmony Oswald, Esq.

How the %#*! can a lawyer help?


We asked seasoned leaders in equipment finance 10 questions to find out what they really think about obtaining legal services. The answers may surprise you.


  • QUESTION 1: Do you know a good lawyer joke?


While there are long lists of lawyer jokes, leaders in equipment finance generally don’t feel comfortable telling them to an attorney. One person suggested that they don’t know a lawyer joke, because they’re all true!


What did the lawyer name their daughter? Sue.

-Chris Lerma, President, AP Equipment Financing Inc.


  • QUESTION 2: If you could describe it in one sentence, what does a lawyer do?


Leaders in equipment finance generally view lawyers as providing consultation and guidance, conducting legal research, interpreting laws, moderating risks, helping to make business decisions, and making appearances in court.


“A lawyer enhances a parties’ ability to legally protect their own interests.”

-Bill Summers, CEO, Vision Financial Group Inc.


  • QUESTION 3: What is the most valuable skill a high-quality attorney should possess?


In equipment finance, leaders value attorneys who are knowledgeable of the law, suggest cost-effective strategies, and communicate risks with short, concise, easy-to-understand language. A repeating concern is that some lawyers tend to over-complicate matters. Attorneys sometimes get too in depth and use difficult to understand legal jargon. Further, lawyers who take a more solutions-oriented approach are viewed as highly beneficial in business.


“What we really need is a transformational attorney. Someone who has a seat at the table, who helps us make business decisions, and not from a “can’t do this” perspective. I can get almost any attorney to tell me what I shouldn’t do. It’s hard to find somebody that can really see past that and help us transform and evolve our business.”

-Brad Peterson, CEO, Channel Partners Capital LLC


  • QUESTION 4: What animal best represents the qualities of a lawyer?


Leaders in equipment finance believe that attorneys possess characteristics of animals such as elephants (smart and cautious), foxes (smart, cunning, and strategic), and leopards (hunting in trees and striking when prey is not looking). In the end, however, we’re told the comparison really depends upon the individual attorney.


“A lawyer is like a bunny rabbit carrying a hammer. They’re always awake and looking out for danger. If danger strikes, they wield the hammer and click right in the temple.”

-Bill Summers, CEO, Vision Financial Group Inc.


  • QUESTION 5: When should someone in the equipment finance industry see a lawyer?


According to industry leaders, it’s smart to have attorneys involved before, during, and after funding transactions take place. For example, up front, attorneys can provide “preventative care” by reviewing and drafting smart legal documents. Over time, industry regulations change, and lawyers can assist to ensure compliance with nuanced updates and requirements under the law. If a deal goes bad and a customer stops communicating, counsel can take quick action to protect interests, recover collateral, file lawsuits, and enforce judgments.

“Almost every business decision we make has some legal piece. We get legal involved early, but legal has to be conscious that they are only one part of the decision.”

-Brad Peterson, CEO, Channel Partners Capital LLC


  • QUESTION 6: What would you tell your younger self regarding legal matters?


Leaders in the industry have accumulated years of wisdom regarding addressing legal matters. Some highlights of what they’ve learned include the importance of clearly communicating goals with the lawyer up front; recognizing that involving legal counsel is merely one part of a broader decision-making process; that you get what you pay for, attorneys are business people, and you cannot expect them to work for free; that attorneys are not “mystical magical creatures” and you should not be afraid to ask them questions as needed. Also, it’s important to keep your expectations in check.


“Generally, the law grinds slow, so if you’re going to start a lawsuit, justice isn’t going to be immediate. It’s going to take quite a while. You should always realize you’re not going to make yourself whole in court and get it all back. There’s lost time, money, you name it. You can document each transaction, but it’s not going to save you that much. Always use enough foresight and judgment when getting into each transaction. Don’t assume that your legalities will save you. Don’t ever think, ‘I can always sue and get my money back.’ For us, when we go to litigation and see funds, it’s found money.”

-John Boettigheimer, President at Centra Funding LLC


  • QUESTION 7: If you could ask a lawyer one general question, what would it be?


We received a variety of inquiries from, “Do you love your job?” to “Do you ever discount your hours?” We had one specific request to print the answer to the below question.


“When you think back to your legal career, please share what is the most interesting and rewarding case or transaction, and why?”

-Bill Summers, CEO, Vision Financial Group Inc.


Answer: I once handled a case where my client sued several defendants for fraud. Most of the defendants agreed to settle before trial, but one refused. The one who refused to settle had a judgment entered against him at trial for the full amount plus costs and fees which was much more than if he had settled. After the trial, one of the defendants who did settle emailed me to state that although it seemed odd to reach out to the opposing counsel who sued him, he wanted to thank me for my assistance in getting the matter efficiently resolved. It was interesting and rewarding to receive a thank you note from the other side.

-Harmony Oswald, Esq.


  • QUESTION 8: If you could tell lawyers something you wish they knew, what is it?


Equipment finance leaders want attorneys to know that sloppy writing with spelling and grammatical errors can ruin an otherwise brilliant legal argument (i.e. presentation truly matters), a coordinated and persistent post-judgment enforcement plan is highly valued (i.e. don’t stop with the judgment) and treating other humans like the enemy is never a winning course of action.


“We’re in business to help our customers; sometimes our competitors. We have to be friends and have relationships with everybody. Nobody is the enemy.

We want to be sure we’re viewing the world in that way.”

-Brad Peterson, CEO, Channel Partners Capital LLC


  • QUESTION 9: We’ve been through uncertain times with the pandemic, war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, inflation, etc. Have you noticed any recurring or novel legal issues popping up more than usual?


Aside from some TX counties applying blanket liens when a customer fails to pay property taxes, lenders are largely hyper-focused on evolving licensing requirements and regulatory compliance becoming increasingly complex and risky. Also, uncertain times have led to some customers trying to back out of agreements.


“We might do a pre-fund, stating that the equipment will be ready in 60 days. We commence the agreement, and 69 days later, the equipment gets delivered. In the meantime, something changes with the customer, and they try to back out. First, we explain to the customer that they cannot legally cancel. We recommend working with the vendor to see if they’ll buy back the equipment. Since there’s an equipment shortage, the vendor can probably sell it for the same or more.”

-Chris Lerma, President, AP Equipment Financing Inc.


  • QUESTION 10: What’s your best piece of advice to other lenders, to ensure deals go smoothly?


Experienced leaders in the industry recommend prudent underwriting, trusting your gut, and if you have any sense the deal will go bad, then don’t do it. Pick your battles, cut your losses, remove emotions, and take a less aggressive approach to collections. Fight the good fight.


“Nice guys finish first, so teach your collections department that they need to have a nice discussion with customers. Get your collections department to really establish a dialogue with people. Have the same people reach out to parties so they really get to know them. If they feel like it’s a different person calling them each time for money, they are more likely to view you as some big corporation and they don’t want to answer. If they view the person on the other end of the line as an individual; if the debtor feels that they can deal with you straight and you’re not plotting to hit them for as big a lawsuit as possible, they’ll work with you. We try to get across to customers that it’s in their interest to let us pick up the equipment, because we will try to sell it. We will try to bring their bill down. Things really get done the best when the two parties realize their goals are aligned.”

-John Boettigheimer, President at Centra Funding LLC

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The author, Harmony Oswald, is a veteran of the U.S. Army and an experienced finance enforcement litigator. Her practice focuses on pre-judgment recovery of collateral, litigating deficiency balances to judgment, and enforcement actions to collect on wages, bank accounts, vehicles, and real estate. Harmony has been married for over 18 years, and she's the mother of two amazing young adults- a daughter who is in pre-vet studies at UC Davis and a son who will attend UC Hastings College of the Law in fall 2022. Outside of her work as a litigator, Harmony enjoys entrepreneurship, travel, art, books, autumn, the beach, and spending time with family.​


The above article does not create an attorney client relationship. It provides information only and should not and cannot be construed as legal advice. For more information, contact hno@oswaldfirm.com.