Last year, PAR’s Legal Hotline was moved internally to be handled by staff attorneys. The move has allowed the hotline attorneys, as well as the association, to gather more information about issues Pennsylvania Realtors® are facing in their day-to-day businesses and the hours have been expanded to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
PAR President Bill Festa believes PAR’s Legal Hotline has always been an invaluable member benefit. “As we made the transition over the past year, and especially the last three months, we’ve gotten a real handle on what our members are experiencing every day,” Festa said.
“Moving the hotline in-house has allowed us to continue to improve member benefits,” said PAR CEO Mike McGee. “The new call tracking system allows the association to integrate our member communications to provide even better service to our members. And PAR’s attorneys can update members on other member benefits when they engage with them.”
Since moving in-house last June, PAR’s Legal Hotline attorneys have handled approximately 8,000 tickets from members. The most frequently asked questions relate to property management, property inspections, seller disclosure and advertising/marketing. Over the past three months, the hotline has answered over 1,300 questions related to COVID-19 issues.
“We’ve always had a general understanding of member issues from feedback we received from the outside legal counsel and from members who serve on committees,” said Hank Lerner, Esq., PAR’s director of law and policy. “Now we’re better able to see emerging trends as we track every call in our system. The information we’re seeing has allowed us to make some adjustments to PAR’s standard forms, based on questions we’ve received from members, and we can use local trends to customize the educational programming we offer to local associations.”
Lerner added, “For example, as the real estate market began reopening in different areas, we would see an uptick in calls from regions that moved to another phase of the reopening. Those questions prepared us as the next region of the state reopened, and we were able to respond to the questions more rapidly.”
As the hotline attorneys track questions, they’ve also become more efficient at providing answers. “We’ve had to adapt to the huge number of questions over the last three months and we’ve found that we’re able to email certain answers and members appreciate not having to wait for a return phone call,” Lerner said.
In addition, hotline attorneys are ensuring that those who call are eligible to receive the service. “This is one of our most valuable benefits and we want to make sure that we’re providing this service to active members,” McGee noted.
Bill McFalls, who served as PAR’s president in 2019, said, “PAR would have seen a dramatic increase in expenses this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic if we were still relying on outside counsel to manage our members calls to the hotline. Our in-house attorneys were quickly able to digest the recommendations and guidelines coming from the governor’s office, the Department of State, the CDC and the other groups involved and keep our members up-to-date through online videos, detailed FAQs on PAR’s website and articles in JustListed. While the concept of bringing this key service to our members in-house was a challenging one, I’m confident that this decision by PAR’s board of directors has played out exceptionally well to benefit all 35,000 members.”
Festa added, “PAR’s Legal Hotline isn’t a replacement for your personal attorney for very situation specific questions. But if members had to call their personal attorneys for every small question they have, they’d spend thousands of dollars a year. The Legal Hotline is truly worth the price of membership.”