The real estate industry, fraught with highly regulated zoning and construction laws at all levels, is remarkably litigious. For a company like Rausch Coleman Homes, whose business spans six states and more than forty municipalities, navigating the legal mazes in its wide array of markets is critical to its success.
As the first ever in-house general counsel for Rausch Coleman Holmes, Josh Carson is responsible for understanding the nuanced legal environments of each community that the company serves. Before Carson was brought on to lead and integrate the company’s legal department, he had spent more than eight years at Jones, Jackson, Moll, McGinnis & Stocks, where Rausch Coleman Homes had become a mainstay client. Carson led the firm’s dealings with the company, considering it a “family business” since he had known the Rausch Coleman family for more than three decades.
“I quickly became familiar with the pace of their success,” says Carson. “In the industry we are in, we have to be fast—that’s just part of the game. We had to make sure that we were serving the client while we ran with them.”
Indeed, Carson’s initial outside work for Rausch Coleman Homes has proven invaluable for his current in-house role. “Knowing the pace that they operate at, I knew I couldn’t miss a beat,” he says.
Despite the familiarity he had with the company, the transition to an in-house general counsel position presented Carson with new challenges and responsibilities. “There’s a misconception that you’re dealing with a lot more clients in private practice than when you go in-house,” says Carson. “The way I look at it is, we’ve got one client but many more subparts involved.”
Working an issue from A to Z, says Carson, as opposed to responding to a particular issue or problem, results in far more interpersonal work. “The expectation is to assist the client from beginning to end and then to look for ways to improve even when you’re not asked,” he explains.
Carson was hired to integrate and synthesize Rausch Coleman Homes’ legal operations. “Given our magnitude, it was only a matter of time,” he says. “Working with the founders, we made sure that we built it into a process that supplemented the way the company already succeeded instead of changing its course.”
In the real estate industry, a “universal way” of doing this just doesn’t exist. “Our product—the acquisitions, the land development, the home building, and the home sales—is largely governed by local and state regulations,” Carson says.
Finding the right law firms for all of Rausch Coleman Homes’ needs is the crux of Carson’s work. He looks for responsive, fast-moving firms that that can be a “one-stop shop” for the company. “We’ve really streamlined facilitating the relationships we have with our local counsel in each of our markets,” he affirms. “It has allowed us to consider those outside firms as team members, instead of third-party vendors.”
Having an experienced law firm operate at a quick pace, Carson continues, “is the equivalent of having an experienced partner right by my side in each market.” According to him, a well-established system of locating and onboarding new firms allows the company to keep its foot on the gas and flourish in stride when expanding to new markets.
“Wherever our founders see us is where I want to be,” Carson says, acknowledging that spreading to new markets in addition to growing current ones is a likely next phase for Rausch Coleman Homes.
“The expectation is to assist the client from beginning to end and then to look for ways to improve even when you’re not asked.”
Picking the right firm and harmonizing with various local partners comes with its challenges. Working with diverse groups that operate by different rule books requires considerable flexibility and adaptation. Not only do the laws and regulations vary depending on the market, but the law firms themselves operate differently from place to place. However, with a focus on streamlined processes and selective onboarding, the company’s current partnerships with its various local firms have allowed for more harmonious operations.
In addition to seeking out and partnering with local firms, Carson and his team frequently partner with both national and state homebuilders’ associations to lobby for legislation that helps homebuilders and home buyers. This approach allows Rausch Coleman Homes to achieve its business goals, both by partnering with savvy firms familiar with local laws and by working to change the laws themselves.
Carson mentions that Rausch Coleman Homes’ family-oriented work culture is what sets them apart. “There is no ‘operational ignorance’ or disconnect as you go up the hierarchies of management at Rausch Coleman,” he says, noting how everyone in the company is invested and knowledgeable about ongoing business endeavors. “Every team member, including our outside attorneys, contributes to each new roof that we provide to our homebuyer.” Thanks to Carson’s efforts, more firms in more markets are becoming efficiently integrated into Rausch Coleman Homes’ family.