Not Those Lawyers People Make Fun Of

By Andrew Jenner | July 20th, 2015

Charlotte Hunsberger

Charlotte Hunsberger ’91

Jeffrey Landis

Jeffrey Landis ’91 (Photos by Jon Styer)

Ever heard the one about the difference between a lawyer and a jellyfish? One’s a spineless, poisonous blob, and the other lives in the ocean! Know why they bury lawyers’ coffins so far underground? Because deep down, they’re good people!

Sometimes, acknowledges Charlotte Hunsberger ’91, the damaged reputation lawyers enjoy in our culture is deserved. But the kind of lawyer caricatured in jokes, Crossroads has found, bears little resemblance to the kind of lawyers at the Souderton, Pennsylvania, firm of Bricker, Landis, Hunsberger & Gingrich, LLP.

“We don’t live in the world of attorneys that people make fun of,” says Jeffrey Landis ’91, seated beside Hunsberger in one of their office’s book-lined conference rooms. “We really view ourselves as problem-solvers.”

Suppose someone dies, leaving behind financial affairs in some disarray. Enter Hunsberger, helping the family tie up loose ends. Or suppose Party A agrees to sell its business to Party B. Landis steps in to help shepherd them toward their mutual goal with i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Getting lawyers involved doesn’t have to mean someone wins and someone else loses. When attorneys help clients achieve shared goals, everybody wins.

About half their firm’s work involves estate planning and administration. The rest is mostly transactional stuff, such as guiding clients through business formation and contracts, real estate deals, employment issues and representing area businesses and nonprofits.

A good lawyer of this sort, they say, is often more of a problem solver and a facilitator rather than someone with tunnel vision for the letter of the law. In addition to helping clients understand their legal rights, Landis and his partners stress helping clients identify and achieve the best realistic result while minimizing expense and aggravation.

Hunsberger met recently with an estate executor and someone who wanted to buy property from that estate. The two had communicated poorly and the process had taken a sour turn. Around a table at the office, Hunsberger guided things back on track, encouraging them to talk through their concerns, and offering advice on their various rights and options. They walked out the door happy and headed toward settlement.

People would be surprised at how little time transactional lawyers like them spend at the courthouse, says Landis. Mostly, they spend it working directly with clients. People might also be surprised at how fascinating and fun it can be to get down in the legal weeds of a business deal.

“Each transaction opens up opportunity to learn about a new type of business, or a new area of the law,” says Hunsberger, who, for example, recently learned far more about the tool and die industry than she’d ever thought she would. “It’s not just doing the paperwork. It’s learning about what they do in that business.”

Hunsberger and Landis first crossed paths at EMU when they worked together on a group project for a strategic marketing class. After graduation, Hunsberger moved to the Souderton area where she and Landis attended the same church.

Landis went straight from EMU to law school at Temple University. After finishing there in 1994, he headed straight home to Souderton and into the practice, where he’s been working ever since. Hunsberger took the scenic route, winding up with a law degree, also from Temple, in 1998 and eventually joining the Souderton firm in 2000. (Joseph L. Lapp ’66, who was EMU’s president 1987-2003, is a former member of the firm. His story is on page 40.)

Practicing law is not always about the law itself. “I sometimes feel like I should get a degree in counseling to go along with my law degree,” says Hunsberger, a member of EMU’s board of trustees. “We’re always finding creative new ways to solve problems that allow people to stay true to their faith and deal with a situation that they’re faced with.”