Attorney David Heffernan of Kaire & Heffernan, LLC talks with Attorney J. Will Morris from Morris Legal, LLC.

Attorney David Heffernan of Kaire & Heffernan, LLC talks with Attorney J. Will Morris from Morris Legal, LLC.

Welcome to another episode of First off, Let's kill all the lawyers. That 15th century Shakespeare phrase that drew raucous laughter at the time and, and even today, when you bring it up, people think it's not a bad idea, maybe we can start wiping them all out one by one. I'm David Heffernan, and I've been practicing personal injury law here in South Florida for the last three decades. My goal behind this show is just simply to bring in friends of mine, other local lawyers, South Florida lawyers in varying aspects of the law, and to talk about different aspects of the law that have an impact on all of us. And this morning, I've got the great pleasure of bringing in not only real, good lawyer, but a very, very good friend of mine, a classmate of mine. So, I've known him for a long, long time. And, by the way, one of the smartest guys I happen to know, this morning, let me introduce you to J. Will Morris. There you go. See? Hey, that's how you are just looking around. Play right now. Oh, that's what I tell you to say. Exactly. But I wanted to make sure I read it right. So, Will and I go way back to graduating from law school. What meaning 1991? So, let's talk a little bit about you, and why did you go to law school? And then I want to kind of go through your journey, because it's been interesting because you've gone huge firm, right to what you do now and covered all that basement. But what was the interest in law for you?

Well, I was I tell people all the time, I never really had a choice. I mean, ever since I was four and five years old. That's what I was always told I was going to be. So, we'll be what it is. For example, I was born in South America place called Ghana. And I was born as a British subject, so to speak. And you know, and I spent some time in London, and not only doing some studying, but also working as a lawyer. When I went back home, when people asked me what I did for a living, and I told him I was more nobody was impressed. Everybody was like, okay. Give me $100. So, yeah, I mean, now, it was not a choice for me. And, yeah, we went to law school because we started in 88. Yeah, I got out of 91. And I went to, from law school, when I went to New York, and practice this large firm called Baker McKenzie.

So let's, let's talk about that. Because, obviously, you had decisions to make coming out and you went, I had a big firm, I remember about as big as you can go. You went to New York world at the time. Yeah. You went to New York GOT licensed in New York. And tell me about the practice in the in a firm, and how big was Baker McKenzie at that time?

Well, if I remember correctly, at the time, it had I think about 1700 lawyers close to 2000 rolls around 50 something different countries in the world. And so, it was humongous in the typical, it was a matter of it wasn't a typical big firm experience for me, because I was the only person it was the last person, they hired in the litigation department. And so, I can't wait. As soon as I got bored. I was arguing cases. And my first case is in the bankruptcy court within a year, you know? Yeah, I was doing depositions and all kinds of cool stuff, which my, you know, the other lawyers in big firms in New York. I mean, young lawyers didn't get that opportunity. I got a great story for you guys out this is how full of it I was. I mean, everyone has one time we go to this hearing in federal court in New York. And you know, how those big firms Go to hearings, they go five and six, do you have the right? The partner, the senior partner, you have me all the way at the end, and we're sitting there at the table and they're arguing and they're going forward. And the other side of me was waiting for cases, I'm with some other big firm like that. And they have the same sort of setup. And, and the judge asked the question, everybody's stumbling around the answer. Just turns out that I was wanting to research that issue and wrote that part of the memo. And I spoke up I spoke up in the middle of this, you can see all the heads are swivel all at once. Who is that person? Is he with us? I got my butt chewed for that. But I said Look, I knew the answer. What do you want me to do?

I was loving with big firms like that though, because I did some pharmaceutical litigation in the past and they would hire great local counsel but then there'd be a hearing and they'd come in and again Yeah, it's like lining up against Family Feud. You know, there's the guy and by the way, the local guy knows more than any of them you have flown in for a hearing. And I love it because it offline from New York and you know, we get a nice favorable rolling be okay, you guys have a nice flight back tomorrow Do you do big pharma and then and then what draws you back to Miami?

Um, I was sort of a personal family thing. My son who was born when I was still in law school, took him to New York and, and he could not take the winner, the first one and he spent weeks in the hospital the second winner, he spent a couple of days in the hospital and before the third when I got there, his mom said, Nope, not happening, run back to Florida. He was born here in Florida. And I stayed in New York for another year. And then I after a while, I said, You know what, I need to be around my son. So, I left no plans to continue practicing law. It's just like, I knocked around for almost a year not doing anything. And great job karate, you know him another friend, I was working with Tom to the time and, and said this, this, you know, this lawyer from New York, where I went to school with this is not going around

doing anything once you come to bring him in for an interview. I go into an interview because you know, john requested I do that. And I said, I don't care. I mean, hire me. You don't i don't care. Or pressure-free interview. If you want. I was bartending, do all kinds of stupid, fun stuff. And then they were like, okay, fine, we'll hire you. And like they say the rest is history. I went from that town to firm to another boutique, litigation firm. And I'm not going to get into the story why I left them but I just left it one day, so they don't I quit and I got up the next day started my own firm that was in 1999.

And been doing it since then. It's more illegal

for me doing it since Well, it was there were some mutations or that it started off with William J. Morris, Pa. And then went to Morris department with Morris DuPont and I went to Morris barrel now it's just Morris legal. Practice with people you like now, right? Yesterday, yesterday, I lost the hearing that I felt I should have won. And I you know how debilitating that can be at times. And I sat there for about half an hour. And then I realized 10 o'clock and I quit. I got up and left. So, I call my buddy David Howard. I said You know what? I got fired. Did you get fired? Yeah, I got fired. I quit because my bosses real 801 didn't curse him out. I just decided to quit. I took the rest of the day off. And it was refreshing. And here I am. Right. Good. You have to lick your wounds to come back. You know,

it is a profession where Yeah, you certainly can't win them all. And yeah, the most devastating, I think is those that, you know, you think absolutely should have. And I mean, its what appellate courts are for and you know, just try to do the right thing, but can't say that we always agree with them.

I know. They can't just come at me from left field didn't see that coming? That Wow. Okay. All right, let's

let's talk about your practice. Because it sort of evolved and you focused a lot on consumer law. Yeah, I think I think with that, there's a lot of things, the effect of the pandemic and everything else. So, let's talk a little bit about that. You know, what happens,

I was fortunate enough that I saw the handwriting on the wall back in 2008, what was happening at the advent of the foreclosure, boom, and I got in love with that. And they started doing foreclosure defense had a huge amount of employees and a huge amount of clients. And when that dried up, and that sort of like led to mutations of the firm that dried up and, and here I am back to where essentially almost where I started before but liked it better. So I think at the beginning of the pandemic when things started shutting down, and I started thinking, Wait a minute, this might be again, only a lawyer can say this, I mean, there's going to be another boom of foreclosures, right. Then now and back in 2008 was, even though the banks were being bailed out, they weren't necessary for 2008. And given money from the federal government, they weren't necessarily passing that down on to the homeowners and homeowners are still out of jobs, and homeowners are still not being able to afford their rent. I mean, the mortgages and so foreclosures are, you know, were the thing of the day, the pandemic was a little bit different because I don't see that same sort of a boom to the foreclosure market. Because I think because not only was everybody getting bailed out by the banks, by the by the government but everybody was put in a holding pattern. I don't know what's going to happen in the next year or so. But I don't. I mean, there's a lot of people who've gotten different mortgage payments and people haven't paid their mortgages since the beginning of the pandemic. I don't necessarily know what's going to happen once those deferments stop. I mean, certainly, the economy looks as though it's not as bad as it was in 2000. It certainly was always bouncing back. And certainly, there's a whole bunch of jobs available, and dependently listened to argue for those jobs. But so, it's not really an economic crisis. Now, it's not going to be just a crisis, whether or not the banks are going to say, you know, what, for the year or change in which we deferred your mortgage payment, we're just going to tack it on to the end. And that's a deal, you know, you need to come up with a 50 $60,000 to bring your mortgage, more current, I don't think that's going to happen. And if that doesn't happen, then I don't necessarily foresee the same kind of foreclosure boom, that occurred back in. Oh, 809. So

going back to Oh, eight, no, nine, when that boom happened, what was everything going on with all the Robo signing? Because mortgages were just getting passed back and forth. Right, you know, the banks, you take out a mortgage with Bank A, and by the time anything happened, it was 10 banks later, that has your mortgage.

Right, right. Sometimes in the closing, and right after the closing, and gets transferred. And what happened was, and in all, all more documents, give them the lending bank, the right to transfer to whomever they want. What happened was the Dolly's mortgages got bundled with a call trenches, and you'd have well-performing mortgages, and poorly performing them were all put into a bundle, and they were being sold in the secondary market. But when the problem is when, when, when are the bad mortgages in that bundle went bad, and the whole bundle goes bad, right? Okay, people were buying those, those bundles in the secondary market started getting squeezed by it, you know, and then when you add to that when you enter that the economy, the bottom falling out, and people losing jobs, and more and more and more things became non-performing, then those strategies that they would call, those tranches of mortgages that were bundled together, became almost worthless, you know, and banks were left holding the bag, you know, I mean, not to feel sorry for them. I mean, they, they're the ones who created, right, they set it up, because they wanted more, they wanted more mortgages to put in these trenches to sell on the secondary market. That's what pressure the mortgage brokers to qualify anybody with a pulse to qualify for mortgages. I mean, I had situations where people are making 40 $50,000 a year, and carrying a quarter million, I mean, half 1,000,003, quarter-million mortgages, there's no way that could happen. You know, the general rule is and should only be paying 30% of your income to service a mortgage. Well, if you're paying 200% of your income to serve as a mortgage problem, the math doesn't work. That doesn't work, you know, and then people start thinking, Well, you know, these, I used to call them, I had a radio show regulation called Trump that people think they were going to become real estate tycoons, you know, to buy a property and flipping which a lot of people made a lot of money for it. But when the bottom fell out, and you wind up holding a piece of property, it's not worth what you paid for it. And then what do you do? You're going to go into foreclosure, right? So, I mean, they started a domino effect. Look, there's a lot of blame to go around. I mean, sure, you can blame the homeowner for no offense for getting in a situation where they couldn't afford a mortgage, to begin with. And sure, you can blame the banks, you can blame them do regulations, you can blame the whole. But you know, it was like a perfect storm, a confluence of all these small and seemingly insignificant events that created this big problem, and, and hence, the 2008 2009 foreclosure boom.

Let's fast forward to today. And you say obviously, foreclosures are way down. And we don't see that. But what does a homeowner do? Let's say lost a job during a pandemic or unable to work or, you know, you've got people still long term effects of COVID that haven't been able to go back to work. Do they get behind what's their best option?

Like I was saying earlier? Luckily, there's a lot of banks that are willing to be willing, I don't know, they still are. And there were certain moratoriums in place that stopped foreclosures, you know, on the federal level, and there are some Many states have that, that as well. A lot of banks that were deferring the mortgage payments, you know, I'm not ashamed to say I took advantage of that, why not? Right, so. So, the question is going to become, once these deferments run out what the bank decides to do, and there's no rule that says the bank could say what we'll roll it into the back the same way, there was no rule that said back in, oh 809 that you were entitled no modification. There's no entitlement. There's, there's no entitlement to the bank, to the bank, forcing the bank to put what you owe whenever you haven't been in the last year and the back end of the mortgage. So, it will all depend on what these individual banks decide to do. I mean, if they decide not to and start putting pressure on people that come up with this kind of money, then we've got a major problem and imagine the government will have to step in and do something about it. Otherwise, we're back, maybe not to the levels of Oh, 908. But we're back to a little bit of a boom in foreclosures, you know,

is there a difference? Because now, when you go back to, oh 809, banks had the ability, like you're saying it's their option, they can either work with you or they have the ability to foreclose on it. But they didn't want to own a lot of these properties, the value wasn't there anything else right now, the market? the bank might want to say, Hey, we can squeeze you now.

That's interesting. I mean, this is another part of the seemingly insignificant, well, the value of properties that is not necessarily insignificant because the values of property have gotten ridiculously high. I mean, it's almost, it cannot be you can't, it cannot be sustained. You know, I mean, their banks now saying, look, we're not going to lend you money to buy this house, because it doesn't, it doesn't appraise for the value of pain, you know, yeah, I sold a place my place in the middle before the pandemic, and was looking to buy one. And shortly we recognized that I couldn't, because you know, you've given a guy asked for 200, you've got two guys, okay, pay 200. The next day guy comes to sell, pay you 210. And you're, and here's the cash, and here's a briefcase of cash I got for it, you know, and you're done. And so banks are now looking at these properties that are being sold and say, Look, we're not going to finance that, because that property is not worth it. Because so there's writing on the wall that says that the boom in the prices, you know, is either going to stabilize or have to come down. Now. Now, you make an interesting point. Because of that very same fact, that might motivate banks to foreclose and get Arias, what's called real estate, when the bank itself owns the property, or sell it. So in the door courthouse selling in the courthouse that doesn't do the bank much, because all you're all they're entitled to really is what they're owed. Right. Right. And the surplus goes to the homeowner, right? The difference between what the property sells for and what you have to pay the bank about. It's called a surplus and it goes to the homeowner. So you know, unless the banks decide to take it back, you know, which, which, again, will happen a lot back in the late I mean, which might happen again, because if the property's in the bidding process, and a foreclosure sale, pushes the price above that, which people are willing to pay, you know, and nobody buys it, then it goes back to the bank. Right? I mean, so the bank has to it is a two-step, almost a two-step approach for this become are your real estate owned property by the bank. So, while they might be incentives to the bank to foreclose, there's still a bit of a process to go through. So, they can reap the benefits of that. I'm By the way, which was another point. You had a question?

Yeah. Well, no, I just I want to talk about now. You talked about a moratorium on foreclosures. So what is the status? Can they be filed? Or is that still is there sort of a freeze on that?

What is the person who you ask? I mean, I'm asking you, you know, the federal government can put more terms or foreclose on any property. This is financed by FHA, you know, a federal agency, you know, and then it's up to the stage to determine whether or not these particular states will put a mark on my proposal. I don't think there is one, you know, last I checked, there wasn't, let's say, the reason I say it depends on when you ask, you know, like, for example, there was a monitoring evictions. Right. Right. And obviously, then the federal level that expired and different state that was there was a statewide march on any evictions, and which expired and, and local governments have their own, you know, local municipalities have their own moratoriums. So, you know what, when the governor saying one thing, and you know, you must go check your local county to see whether or not that really applies to you? It depends. It's all over the place. So, but I think I've seen an uptick in evictions, you know, a lot of residential evictions, and I don't think a lot of commercial evictions as well. I see an uptick in that. And because quite frankly, you know, I mean, people weren't paying rent and right, though, even though some of the landlords took advantage of the benefit of the rental assistance programs that they had, the federal government hadn't even the state had. If you haven't been paying your rent, I mean, they still have a right to, you know, to evict you.

Yeah, and that's and that's, that's a whole different dynamic because getting the rental market is so sparse down here that if people can get their property back, to get people to come in and pay it, they're going to do it in a heartbeat. So, and I know there's some litigation now because yeah, with, with the moratoriums on that there were windows for a couple days where it had lapsed and people filed right then and there and now there's, you know, back in Place. And I guess we'll leave that to the courts to decide.

It's all over the place. It really is. I mean, you know, I, even the beginning of the pandemic, I had a guy come in and try to evicting somebody from his residential property. And he got mad at me because it wasn't going anywhere. So, he fired me and hired somebody else. And he still, he still had it.

Right? A year

and a half later, I kept telling him, you know, what would you have me do? would you have me go down to the courthouse and sign these orders myself? I can't do it. Right. A year and a half later, he still at it, still at it. Can't get it done?

What do you see going on, and you know, one of the byproducts of the pandemic, and you've been in big firms, but I know you do commercial work as well, is, you know, everybody started working at home. And now at least from law firms, and I talked to people, a lot of people are going, Hey, we don't quite need the space that we had any more because we can, we're going to have half work at home, we can do this. And I think that whole dynamics changing? What do you see that going?

Yeah, listen, it was inevitable. once people start realizing, you know, like, you don't necessarily need to get up, get dressed and drive to a place Park and get into an office space with a whole bunch of other people. I mean, the requirement to having this big expensive real estate, you know, offices you've seen,

that's your biggest nut no question. Your overhead

is ridiculous. When you realize you don't even you could start cutting back on that. I mean, those big office buildings going to start feeling the crunch. I mean, you know, I don't see it going back to where it was before. I mean, I certainly I will, I hope and I pray, I'm sure you think I do? I hope the courts will go back to that fully. You know. I mean, you know, you're in a sitting engine sitting at your desk and your shorts and your tie in his jacket, and shirt. I mean, rather than driving, because I always, I've always thought, you know, how the courtroom is you going there, this 5060 lawyers, you sit around for an hour and a half minutes of generous time. And you think about this is like $5 million in our being clicked away for nothing. Right? Everybody's sitting there waiting. You know, I mean, it's ridiculous. So I see, I see big firms not getting back, you know, scaling them the space that they went from, I'm praying, and I'm hoping that there's certain things in court that require your presence, I get that. You can't have a trial with you know, I've done a couple of zoom trials. I mean, it's better in person, you know. 100% Yeah, but you know, ridiculous hearings, please.

But yeah, being able to do motion calendar record 100%, which just makes perfect sense, to do it via zoom. You know, you're there. You can log in, you know, I can be in West Palm Beach for hearing, you know, at 830. In, in my office, same time, without killing all that time. Otherwise, it took a whole morning. And you're right, he's gone. Right. Yeah. The funny thing is the one thing I've found, though, is, with the zoom hearings, it seems that lawyers are talking less before the hearings, okay. Because it's no big deal. I log in and, and so instead of working out things ahead of time, because they go, Wow, I don't want to I don't have to drive and be in Broward at this time. You know, can we work it out? They have a discussion, those discussions are sort of falling by the wayside. Because I can just show up.

Right. That's an interesting point. Not only that, but you can also talk to each other before the hearing in making a whole lot of progress. That's an interesting point.

What is true? Yeah, how many times have you worked at something in the hallway? That's where, you know, waiting for the waiting to see the judge guy. Come on. This is ridiculous. You know, and you figure it out, and you write up an order, and you're out of there.

Right. Right. Right. Right. That's an interesting point. Yeah, that that is a casualty of the zoom hearings. I agree. But you cannot beat the convenience of it. I mean, you really, really, really can't

No, I I think that will be one of the good byproducts that comes out of this. And we've talked about it on this before. I really do credit. The Miami Dade County judges, I think they've done a really good job of, of keeping things open and via zoom, however, virtually open, but continuing to try to move cases during this time frame as opposed to just let it all sort of stall.

Right. Right. You know, implemented. I was thought of in my it's a bit of a good thing. they've implemented a system that's similar to the federal court where you have these case management and deadlines right off the bat. Right. The minute you file it, two days later, you're scheduling a trial. What about Wait, I just filed Why are we scheduled? But that's how federal courts moving into the world. And I see Dade counties doing that, which is I think a little bit of a good thing. I mean, rather than having these cases languish

No, no question and I've always say it's funny. I've always told my students and I'm like, Yeah, the difference between state court and federal court is in state court, you can kind of file and figure it out as it goes along. Federal Court, you better have it wrapped packaged in a bowl and ready to go. The day you file it, right?

They don't mess around over there. I mean, it's, you know, I tell people, it's like a real court, really.

But yeah, I have seen now, you know, with zoom, I mean, I don't think I've had this many case management conferences in my life, because what judges were just doing is they're just setting monthly case management conference going, Okay. Where are we at? What can we do to help, you know, and pushing things?

Well, you sort of have to because you remember, at the beginning of the pandemic, everything shut down. Nobody was there, right. And these cases, you know, next thing, you know, a 2018 case, all of a sudden is two years old, right? Like that. We have to do something to move these things a lot.

You're not telling me it's not March 2020. Still, excuse me the last date, I remember. I saw a great, great meme. It's two guys running and one guy's running here. And he's, he goes me still contemplating 2020. And then the guy behind him says 2022, four months away. Blur in there for some of

you remember, April and March, April and May of last year? Geez, I mean, I was the only guy coming. I came to work every day. Right? It was a ghost town. Because I soon realize I can't work from home, I have to be, you know, get up and get dressed and go someplace. Right? It was a ghost town. It was like a strange, eerie. We Yeah. Anyway, you know, but we live through it.

Yeah, we did. We did. And, you know, hopefully, we've learned and hopefully we will grow and continue to grow and be very interesting to see what goes on in the world of foreclosure and everything else. And you might come

we'll see what happens with you know, that there's a couple of variables have to play out to see what happens. I mean, I, you know, banks, banks hold all the cards. I mean, you know, should they do? The bit that they have an opportunity to they can say whatever they want to, you know, when I'm in the middle of foreclosures and trying to do modifications, people couldn't understand, why would the bank want my property back in a way? They don't care about you? You think they know who you are? Right? You have coffee or beer with them? You're just a number on a piece of paper. And if it makes sense to them, that's what they're going to do. You know, what, what

advice do you have for a consumer who all of a sudden, is in a situation? They can't pay their mortgage? I mean, and I know, banks aren't moving swiftly on it, but should they be proactive? Should they contact the banks?

lawyer? What? Yeah, I think you should contact the bank and you think would contact the lawyer and start talking about I think, banks, the modifications are not dead. I mean, it and so people should be proactive and contact the banks and listen, are we going to put this money I owe you in the back of it? Do we need to modify this they got they have to keep on it. I mean, you know, get your lawyer to keep on them. So that, you know, you don't get caught off guard when the bank suddenly says to you, hey, by the way, we need a $50,000 check, right? Otherwise, we'll foreclose on X. But nobody has that. You know what I mean? Nobody has $50,000. But the good thing about it is that the property value is going up, people are not going to be as underwater as they were back in 2008. When the property values fell, that was another variable that helped the boom, pop right? Now, you know, the guy who's going to flip the house, you know, thought he was going to make $20,000 or less Next, you know, he's $20,000 in the hole. Yeah, he's up, he's upside down on it. You know, you can't do anything with it. You know, me, you know, so we'll, we will see what happens with the banks what they decided to do, but the property values being up, then, you know, another option is to sell the thing, you know, right, there's still that option,

you know, well, that's

an option. The only problem is then you got to find somewhere to live. You're going to sell you're going to need to move out of Miami because that's the

other thing. Yeah, you sell and go where? Right?

Right? That's a big question. Well, well, listen, it has been an absolute pleasure. Always love chatting with you. And, and, and hanging out and anytime, anytime. One of the cool things is you know that we've got a core from law school in 91. That continues to stay close friends, having dinner drinks all that time is one of his many

of the classes in our section. I don't think so.

I don't know. We're blessed to have the crew that we do so and I'm blessed to count you as a friend and a lawyer and hopefully wills one we can start to take off the kill list now. You know, not a bad guy. Apparently, he can bartend if he's not working as a lawyer. So you know, it's Nice Dale, you got a good skill set to fall back on. There you go. All right, my friend. Thank you pretty nice. I appreciate I appreciate you having me. You got to my friend. All right, thanks. That's another episode of first off. Let's kill all the lawyers and we'll see you next week.