By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Business name: Senie & Associates
Address: 5 East Main Street, Suite 4, Westborough
Owner: Christopher G. Senie
Contact Information: 508-366-9845, www.senie-law.com
What is Senie & Associates” legal specialty?
“We specialize in land use law. Our clients might be homeowners who need a special permit to add an extension to their home or a variance from the zoning board of appeals. We also represent companies such as developers or shopping center owners. Our business is probably two-thirds companies and one-third individuals,” said Christopher G. Senie, attorney and owner of the Westborough law firm.
Senie & Associates has been in business for eight years, and includes associate attorney Lauren Fotos and paralegal Briseina Larti. The firm has clients in towns across the state.
What type of work do you do for individuals?
“I represent people on both sides of the land-use equation–property owners, but also neighborhood groups concerned about someone else's proposal.
“Town Hall is here for all of us but not all of us are familiar with the public process. I love to walk into Town Hall. I do a lot of evening meetings, but I also try to build relationships with the professional staff in Town Hall during the day.
“We had a couple who wanted to knock down their house and build a new one on the same lot. That's a bit tricky. We coached this couple through the process of applying for the necessary permit and zoning board of appeals finding.
“I sometimes represent neighborhood groups either opposing or raising some concerns about a proposal. That's become a kind of specialty. It's not easy, and a lot of law firms shy away from it because it's hard to take instructions from a whole group.”
And for small businesses?
“We do entity-formation, helping to choose between a corporation or a limited liability company format. That's the easy part. The hard part is when there is more than one partner. You need either a shareholders” agreement or an operating agreement, and that's where you have to deal with a lot of matters partners going into a business don's think of,” Senie said. The firm also handles the purchase and sale of companies, commercial property refinancing, and interactions between companies and town boards and commissions.
What role do you play in Town Hall negotiations?
“Sometimes I play a coaching role and my clients do all the legwork. Sometimes they go to public hearings themselves. For certain kinds of matters, it may be better not to have an attorney in the room. Other times, it's very helpful when an attorney stands up and says, “here's our position or what we'se trying to accomplish.” Many times it starts out as coaching to keep the costs down, then my clients select moments when they think I should do more.
“When you'se in a private practice, you must balance the costs to your clients. I never charge for travel time, though I's in my car a lot. And if another lawyer and I kick around a matter, we only charge for one lawyer's time.”