Tuesday, April 16, 2019

My Cousin Vinnie Reminisces About Bullies He Has Dodged.

My cousin Vinnie, the suburban real estate attorney, made his annual trek to Falmouth to watch me work on my boat. My old
body was contorted in the bilge performing the reoccurring ritual of replacing important corroded parts, and he had his feet up on a padded chair sipping an ale brewed in nearby Mashpee. I enjoy our time together because it provides me some assurance that I am not crazy, relatively speaking.

“Paulie…”, he said after pouring a fresh golden ale, “I am thinking about retiring in the next five years or so.”  I reminded Vinnie that he has been saying that for ten years, and then we reminisced about how we look at things differently than we did thirty-odd years ago. “Vinnie” I asked, “What do you wish you knew then, that you know now?”

“Where do I begin?” He barked. “I’ve learned a lot of lessons, many of them the hard way. But clearly the most important lesson I learned was not to succumb to the pressure tactics of bullies attempting to get me to compromise my knowledge or my ethics. Part of the reason that I became an attorney is that I know that I ‘do not suffer fools gladly’, and it is always a pleasure to interact with knowledgeable counsel and skilled businesspeople, but bullies are another story.

“When I was just starting out in practice, I ran into quite a few bully clients that wanted me to engage in one questionable thing or another so they could make more money. As a former Boy Scout, I did my best to hold my ground. I quickly learned that some bullies shopped around looking for young lawyers that they could bamboozle. Remember that guy who ended up in federal prison?”

I knew immediately who Vinnie was referring to. A slick guy with expensive cars, later to be named by the feds as one of the greatest white-collar criminals of the 1990’s, found Vinnie’s office and unsuccessfully attempted to convince Vinnie to become his personal consiglieri. Vinnie’s internal radar told him to run. “Vinnie” I said, “You know even his wife and eventual attorney pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 1994. You could have ended up in a federal prison like Michael Cohen!”

“Paulie” Vinnie quietly said, “Most of the bullies I encountered have since passed away, or filed for bankruptcy. The extra dollars they chased are no good to them now. With few exceptions, even though the bullies were angry with me at the times when I said ‘NO’, they stuck with me. I would like to think that internally they respected my desire to do the right thing, and decided that it was in their best interests to have trustworthy counsel. At least that’s what I would like to think.”

Contorted, in the bilge, I repeated: “The dollars they chased are no good to them now.”

A former REBA president, Paul Alphen currently serves on the association’s executive committee and co-chairs the long-range planning committee.  He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Abstract Club. 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 palphen@alphensantos.com

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