Thursday, August 8, 2019


My cousin Vinnie, the suburban real estate attorney swung by my office today. He was agitated and he was looking for some moral support.

“Paulie, remember what President Lincoln said; ‘A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade’, right?”  I told Vinnie that I was
not present when Lincoln said those words, but I agreed that those words have been attributed to Lincoln. “Then, Paulie, why do our relatives expect me to provide my stock in trade without renumeration?” I asked him to clarify. “Our cousin Georgie, the dentist, for example. Does he perform free dentistry for you and your family; no he does not. But when he decided it was time to buy a big beach house in Chatham, he expected me to provide my stock in trade for free.”

“Vinnie, Vinnie, Vinnie, it’s expected that we work for free for our closest relatives, at least to the degree that we can. It’s the eleventh commandment.”    I said, and Vinnie replied: “Yeah, I know, but I decided it was time to set up some ground rules.”  All I could say is “Oh, oh, what did you do now?”

Vinnie picked up his iphone 4 and showed me an email that he sent to cousin Georgie, DMD. “Paulie,  I sent this email to Georgie, and I saved the language so that I can share it with my siblings, in laws,  and our other relatives.” It said:

“Cousin. So glad that you and Natalie are upgrading to an oceanside beach house. I love you and I am here for you, but I need some assistance from you. Here are some suggested Do’s and Don’ts going forward:

·         Do not hide the Offer to Purchase from me until the day before the P&S is supposed to be signed.

·         Do get the Offer and the proposed P&S to me as soon as you can. I would like to extend a family discount to you, so it would be helpful if I have some flexibility in scheduling when I work on your P&S; perhaps while eating my sandwich at my desk, or after 6:30 in the evening.

·         Do not do what your brother Louie did to me,  who told me on a Friday night that he had to sign a P&S on Saturday, which meant that I had to work on the P&S from my cabin on the lake where all I have for office equipment is a 7 year old computer with DSL internet, and a combination copier, scanner, printer, coffee-maker. So while the rest of the family was out in the leaky boat, I was waiting for documents to download. I then edited the P&S and sent it back to Lou and sat by my old computer waiting for comments. Meanwhile, my sons ran through the house to get my credit card so that they could fill the old Glastron with gas and outboard motor oil. At lunch time I got edits back and sent the P&S to the Seller’s attorney and the brokers and sat around waiting for their comments. Meanwhile, I received pictures via text messages from my wife and kids enjoying lunch at that lake front bar that you like so much.

·         Do not think you are doing me a favor by not interrupting my work week with your deal.

·         Do contact me at my office during business hours. At the office I have a building full of people and a leased printer, scanner, copier worth $10,000.00, which is connected to fiber-optic high-speed internet. I have a computer server with 33 years of addenda, forms and contracts. My paralegal can check the Registry of Deeds to verify the title references and conduct a preliminary check for any issues, like a pending foreclosure or that the property was in a trust. I can prepare a buyer’s addendum using the format that I have developed over the years, rather than having to type one from scratch. I can send my documents to you and the Seller’s attorney and resumed my other work while you and the attorney reviewed my drafts. I would have had the opportunity to work on your contract at times that work best for me.

·         Do avoid calling me at home or on weekends unless there is a real estate emergency.  Thank you for your understanding.”

I read it again. “Vinnie, that was a little harsh. Forward it to me so that I can use it too.”

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

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