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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's Time to Become a Mentor

By Paul F. Alphen, Esquire
When I look around the room at the luncheons at the REBA Spring and Fall conferences, I see many familiar faces. It is fabulous to see so many members return year after year, and decade after decade. It sometimes seems like none of us are ever going to retire. As one of my favorite members said to me recently:  “Why would I retire? I love doing what I do, and I don’t play golf!”   I agree, and there are only so many ball games one person can attend before the experience becomes too blasé.  I am also reluctant to think about retirement because whenever I get together with my retired buddies, who used to have great work stories about criminal cases and search warrants, now they only tell stories about condo meetings and gardening.   I told my old buddies from Wayland that I am not getting together with them again until they get better stories.

Supposedly with age, comes wisdom. It’s an honor to be asked to share wisdom. Some of the younger attorneys in the area that used to call me for second opinions are now more experienced and are figuring things out on their own. I have fond memories of the conversations I had with fellow members of the Mass Conveyancers Association when I was just starting out; and the lessons I learned from those experiences were invaluable.  We older attorneys still call one another for counsel and emotional support; those calls usually start with: “Am I crazy, or do you agree with me that…”
So, when I heard that REBA had the need for more Mentors, I decided it was time to sign up as a REBA Mentor. I have heard so many good things from other members who have served as Mentors over the years, and I have never forgotten the enthusiasm that Past President Sami Baghdady had for the program. My initial reluctance to become a Mentor was based on a concern that I did not have the time. Sure, time is still a concern, but loss of some time will be outweighed by the benefits.  Recently I had the opportunity to field some zoning questions from a young attorney that I know well, and as I was discussing the nuances of pre-existing non-conforming uses with him, he asked me some questions that made me rethink some of my counsel. We sometimes get used to thinking about issues in a linear fashion, but it can be intellectually beneficial to have someone challenge our assumptions and take us out of our comfort zones.
Hopefully, when a Mentee gives me a call I can direct him or her in the right direction. Especially in matters pertaining to zoning and land use, my initial advice will probably be: “Read the local zoning bylaw with a highlighter in your hand”. And sometimes the answer may be: “I am sure I read a case like your situation a year or so ago; I think the case was about property in Falmouth”.  In any event, I am looking forward to the experience and I am sure that I will learn something in the process.

A former REBA president, Paul Alphen currently serves on the association’s executive committee and co-chairs the long-range planning committee. He is a partner in the Westford firm of Alphen & Santos, P.C. and concentrates in residential and commercial real estate development, land use regulation, administrative law, real estate transactional practice and title examination. As entertaining as he finds the practice of law, Paul enjoys numerous hobbies, including messing around with his power boats and fulfilling his bucket list of visiting every Major League ballpark. Paul can be contacted at

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