Saunders hires Hamptons council member as top lawyer

From left: Theresa Quigley and Andrew Saunders
From left: Theresa Quigley and Andrew Saunders

Saunders & Associates, the Hamptons-based residential brokerage, has plucked Theresa Quigley, an attorney and East Hampton council member, from her gig in private practice, the firm told The Real Deal.

Quigley will join Saunders & Associates as executive managing director and general counsel on Feb. 1. She comes from the law firm Farrell Fritz, where she was based out of their Water Mill office, and is the current deputy supervisor of the East Hampton Town Board, the equivalent of a City Council, which regulates the town’s budget and administers financial controls.

Quigley was elected to the town board in 2010 and appointed deputy supervisor soon after, a position she has held ever since. Charged with fixing the town’s finances, she ran into a heated backlash helping to slash the budget in face of a $27 million deficit. At one particularly contentious meeting to discuss town lighting laws, Quigley reportedly burst into tears — though she denied the incident occurred.

“We live in a community where people are out here because of its beauty, so they buy a lifestyle and a dream, and if that might change they get nervous,” Quigley told TRD. “And I don’t believe any of the fear was justified. I think a lot of the fear was probably unwarranted. And, at times it took a bit of a political spin.”

Quigley began her legal career in New York City in 1983 and returned to the East End in 1988, joined the firm Payne Wood & Littlejohn in 1991, then became part of Farrell Fritz when the firms merged in 2000. She has worked for the firm continuously since then.

At Saunders & Associates, Quigley will work on structuring transactions, helping brokers negotiate deals and advising them on legal matters, including zoning and permitting, the firm’s president, Andrew Saunders, told The Real Deal. Hers is the first such role with the firm, and is part of his aim to build an in-house training component for his brokers that gives them a deeper understanding of many legal issues involved in a transaction.

“As real estate brokers we negotiate deals almost every day, and many of these transactions are problematic in that there are either title issues with properties or permitting challenges that have to be understood and in some cases overcome as a prelude to executing a transaction,” Saunders said. “To the extent that you can bring to bear a skill set and understanding of how to manage those issues … Theresa adds a depth to our company that we have not had.”

As for the appeal of joining Saunders & Associates, Quigley pointed to her longtime professional relationship with Saunders, whom she met in connection with his activities developing in the Hamptons in the mid-1990s.

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“Over the years I became involved in quite a few transactions as a broker, and Theresa was on a number of our deals over the years,” Saunders said. “I met her professionally, we became acquaintances and then friends.”

For Quigley, moving to Saunders represented a new challenge.

“It has been a good run,” Quigley said of her time with Farrell Fritz. “I learned a ton and have total respect for the lawyers there, for their protocols and system. It speaks a lot to the fact that I’m leaving Farrell Fritz … it would really have to be worth it.” She hadn’t been actively looking to leave Farrell Fritz, she said, but decided the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Farrell Fritz, a Long Island law firm dealing with corporate, banking, real estate, land use, commercial litigation, trust and estate cases, has its main office in Uniondale, with three others in Hauppauge, Water Mill and New York City. The firm currently has roughly 100 attorneys on staff.

Charles Strain, managing partner of Farrell Fritz, described Quigley to TRD as a “fine real estate lawyer and a great person” and wished her well in the new endeavor.

“Theresa’s done a terrific job and we’re delighted, not to see her go but happy for this interesting opportunity to be general counsel for Saunders,” Strain said. “She’s got strong roots in East Hampton and this gives her a terrific opportunity to function as general counsel there.”

He expects to continue working with her in the future, Strain added. And as for Quigley’s replacement, he said Farrell Fritz is in expansion mode and will “continue to be opportunistic when we see lawyers who are a good fit for us.”

Saunders opened his brokerage in October 2008 with the goal of offering the nimble management of local ownership with the panache of deep-pocketed corporate firms. The five-year-old firm ranked fifth on TRD‘s recent roundup of the Hamptons’ largest residential firms, with 104 agents as of July 2013.