Attorney Andrew Cooch has a penchant for quoting movie lines like this Dr. Evil quip from the first “Austin Powers” film: “The details of my life are quite inconsequential.” But nothing about the law and title office of Cooch, Bowers and Schuller has been inconsequential since opening 30 years ago.
Andrew Cooch and David Bowers started the law office first, in 1988, at the other end of the Arnold Station shopping center they still occupy today. At the time, Cooch was conducting closings for the nonprofit Bello Machre, which, among other things, operates houses for people with mental and developmental disabilities. Bowers brought his clients, including what was to become Bank of America, and together they started a firm that included transactional work largely in the real estate field.
Cooch already had an office but was looking for a partner. He had one request for Bowers, and it wasn’t to procure “sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads.”
Although today the law office specializes in real estate, business transactions, estate planning and civil litigation, the attorneys gained experience in several areas of law before starting their Arnold practice. Cooch had done criminal defense work, whereas Bowers did family law, wills, estate administration, and collection.
“Real estate is pleasant as opposed to going to the state penitentiary to visit your client,” Cooch joked.
One year after opening their law office, the professional partners created Progressive Title Corporation as an adjunct to their thriving law practice.
“The service we provide is making sure land records are up to date and clean,” Bowers said.
They quickly learned how to divide their workload.
“For years, I was on the road doing settlements,” Bowers said. “He’s the anchor,” he added, pointing to Cooch. “He’s in the office all of the time.”
In those days, Bowers noted, settlements had to be created on a typewriter with carbon paper. Before long, loan documents will be able to be completed with use of an eNotary.
“You can stay at home in your PJs and sign your loan documents,” Cooch said.
The legal industry has witnessed many other changes over the 30 years Cooch and Bowers have been in business together.
“You could start out doing uncontested divorces that would pay your rent,” Cooch said.
Bowers added, “There are a whole lot more attorneys. Back then, there were probably one-third the attorneys there are now in the bar.”
As the industry changed, so did the law and title office. Originally, Cooch said, a secretary operated in a space the size of a closet. Now, the office has several rooms to accommodate the nine-person staff.
One of those employees is attorney Clare Schuller, who joined the office six years ago and was made a partner last year. Schuller specializes in transactional document preparation and actively works in commercial and residential real estate transactions.
One of the most rewarding responsibilities for Schuller is working with the Department of Natural Resources when it purchases land for preservation.
Along with Cooch and Bowers, she stays updated on current trends so that the law and title office can also be preserved for years to come.
“It’s hard to predict because technology is always changing and the laws are always changing,” Schuller said. “With online notarization and who knows what [the crypto company] Blockchain is going to do in the real estate industry?”
Their jobs, they said, are hardly inconsequential because having a local expert can go a long way during transactions.
“It’s like going on a boat,” Cooch explained. “You have to know where the sandbars are because they are not always marked. With real estate, the downside is huge.”