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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Cousin Vinnie Explains Effective Communication

By Paul F. Alphen
My very patient and understanding wife gets flummoxed by my insatiable appetite for attending
sporting events, and she has attempted to impose injunctions on arbitrary and capricious ticket purchases. Nevertheless, when a certain Saturday morning in December rolls around each year I can be found behind the keyboard waiting to find reasonably priced tickets for games in America’s Most Expensive Ballpark. Consequently, my Cousin Vinnie, the suburban real estate attorney, and I were able to enjoy a nice spring evening in the ballpark watching the fourth highest payroll in the MLB.

Vinnie was intrigued by the lobster offerings now available inside the park. Me, not so much. I had tried the fried clams twice, but I have since reverted to standard issue hotdogs. Vinnie was stuffing lobster poutine (whatever that is) in his mouth while monitoring the beer inventory accumulating under his seat. “Paulie” Vinnie announced, “I finally figured out what makes our profession unnecessarily difficult”. I couldn’t wait to hear the revelation. “People don’t communicate. It became apparent to me today when I had a nice conversation with Town Counsel for Podunk. Her client had asked her to look into the historical conditions of approval related to my client’s property, and she called me questioning if my client could proceed with his planned development. I discussed the issues with her, and she listened. She asked questions, and she listened. I described the case of Patelle v. Planning Bd. of Woburn [20 Mass. App. Ct. 279, 480 N.E.2d 35 (1985)] and landowner’s ability to reconfigure lots within a subdivision. She contemplated the situation, and said ‘I don’t think there is a problem here.’ After we finished the phone conversation it occurred to me that what had just happened had become a rarity.  I was able to discuss the relevant law and legal principals with counsel on the other side (as I never think of the Town of Podunk as an ‘adversary’), and counsel listened, and we were able to agree and move forward.”
I agreed with Vinnie that the ever increasing practice of dropping e-mail bombs on opposing counsel had weakened the overall camaraderie of the bar. We don’t get to see each other, or even speak with each other, as often as we should. I told Vinnie that I don’t think it is just a coincidence that when working on deals with attorneys that I see at REBA meetings, or at meetings of the estimable Merrimack Valley Conveyancer’s Association, that the conversations are always civil, and the solutions forthcoming.  
We watched Mookie Betts hit a single, and Vinnie retrieved another beverage from his inventory.  “I am not perfect” said Captain Obvious, “I still lose my temper once a year when some jack-of-all-trades calls to tell me how to practice law, but I am much more likely to take the time to consider the views of opposition counsel when counsel is willing to engage in intellectual discourse, as opposed to those who attempt to berate and bully me.”
Again, amazingly, I found myself in agreement with Vinnie.     
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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