Managing Partner Rob Anctil would like people to know the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association has determined conveyancing attorneys and their staff are essential personnel. He forwards this communication from REBA:
Yesterday, Governor Baker issued an Emergency Executive Order, COVID-19 Order No. 13, requiring all workplaces, except for those defined as essential services, to cease operation from noon on Tuesday, March 24th until noon on Tuesday, April 7th, and to prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people. Those businesses that are essential are encouraged to continue operations.
With the Order came an extensive list of businesses deemed essential. Although not expressly mentioned, REBA believes that transactional real estate lawyers provide essential services as defined by the Order. Under the Financial Services section of the Order, workers identified as essential include those who "are needed to maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services (e.g., payment, clearing, and settlement; wholesale funding; insurance services; and capital market activities)." Also included are "Professional services (such as legal and accounting services)..., when necessary to assist in compliance with legally-mandated activities and critical sector services or where failure to provide such services during the time of the order would result in in significant prejudice."
The services provided by real estate lawyers are necessary for the completion of financial transactions and to assist clients in complying with their legal obligations. Moreover, if real estate lawyers are unavailable to represent their clients, prejudice would undoubtedly result in a myriad of ways, including, among other things, forfeiting the purchase, sale or refinance of a home, losing a favorable interest rate, and not accessing necessary funds.
Under these circumstances, REBA believes transactional real estate lawyers are essential workers and should be permitted to continue operations so long as they practice safe social distancing measures.