MCA’s executive director

One of the state’s oldest bar associations is undergoing major changes.

The Massachusetts Conveyancers Association, the real estate bar association representing nearly 3,000 lawyers, is transitioning from a volunteer-led model to a staff-driven and board-governed organization. That will be accomplished in part with the help of longtime MCA member Peter Wittenborg, who will become the group’s first-ever executive director in January.

Wittenborg’s appointment and the creation of the new position of executive director caps a two-year planning process that restructured the association. MCA leaders are now taking steps to expand educational and membership benefits and to raise awareness about the various services the group offers, including alternative dispute resolution.

Within the past six months, the MCA has launched two new committees that will serve real estate attorneys with practice specialties in leasing and land-use and brownfields law. And recently, the MCA has been cooperating with a Connecticut title insurer in broadcasting television commercials that stress the importance of using attorneys during real estate transactions. At the end of the commercials, which are airing in Massachusetts and Connecticut, viewers are directed to a MCA-hosted Web site.

“We want to broaden the base of the organization,” said Greg D. Peterson, the current MCA president and a principal in the real estate and environmental law practice groups at Hill & Barlow in Boston.

One reason for the restructuring was that the board members saw a need for a full-time staff member who could follow through on projects. Board members felt that the association would operate more efficiently by hiring an additional full-time staff member with experience in conveyancing to oversee projects, and also by enhancing the role of the group’s administrator, Sharin Paaso, who has been with the MCA since 1994 and will now act as chief operating officer.

Ongoing Efforts

With volunteers running the MCA, it was very difficult to meet goals because in many cases, members are busy running legal practices, explained Peterson. For example, it took nearly four years to get the association’s Web site up and running. The new site was launched earlier this year. It also took time to introduce a membership benefit that had been discussed for a while – free-IOLTA (Interest On Lawyer Trust Accounts), no-wire-fee banking with a partner bank. At its annual meeting last Monday, the association rolled out that membership benefit, which is being offered through Citizens Bank.

The MCA, which has continually stressed the importance of using an attorney during real estate transactions, will continue its ongoing efforts on consumer education, said Peterson. Consumer outreach efforts include print and broadcast advertising campaigns that feature individual member attorneys and the role of attorneys in real estate transactions.

Richard Keshian, who was recently elected MCA president for 2003, said he hopes that Wittenborg will play a significant role in reaching out to various bar associations to inform them about the services that MCA offers, including alternative dispute resolution. The MCA has an alternative dispute resolution affiliate that helps in settling business and real estate disputes in out-of-court settings.

Wittenborg, who was MCA president in 1991, was the cofounder of the alternative dispute resolution group six years ago. He mostly recently served as the director of commercial development for the Connecticut Attorneys Title Insurance Co., a bar-related title insurer. Prior to that he was the chairman of the real estate practice group of Kaye, Fialkow, Richmond & Rothstein in Boston and its successor firm, the Boston office of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, which is based in New York.

In addition, the MCA wants to introduce more educational programs. Currently, educational programs are typically offered twice a year at the MCA’s meetings in the fall and spring.

As the next president, Keshian said he will reach out to consumers and encourage them to use the MCA’s Web site, which features information on buying and selling homes, selecting a home inspector and finding a real estate lawyer.

Keshian, a partner at Keshian & Reynolds in Arlington, has done numerous lectures on the homebuying and selling process for nonprofit groups. He said he will encourage MCA members to do that as well.

Conveyancers Group Growing, Making Changes in Leadership

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min