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The BUSKLAW June Newsletter: Is There a Moral Imperative to Plain English? Part 2: Conclusions

In last month's newsletter, we gave three examples of wordy, unclear, racist, pompous, and dull writing: as an opening sentence to a Bizarro-World version of Stephen King's The Gunslinger, as the beginning of a typical "big law firm"-drafted contract, and bureaucratic (including political) statements. We then compared these monsters of prose to their plain-English versions. But so what? Is poor literary, legal, business, and government writing merely a mote in the eye or something more sinister? 

Let's start with bureaucratese. The Trump Administration didn't invent it but surely has taken this dark art to new heights (or depths). And their penchant for typographical errors is a new twist. In this recent Business Insider article, 84% of 1,043 people surveyed said they would be less likely to trust the government if its communications contained spelling or grammatical mistakes. Specifically addressing Trump's notorious tweets containing such gems as "u…
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The BUSKLAW May Newsletter: Is There a Moral Imperative to Plain English? Part 1 - Examples

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." 

Thus begins Stephen King's epic story of the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and the popular Dark Tower series of novels describing his adventures. But King didn't have to write this sentence that way; he could have consulted with the typical lawyer, politician, or company PR department first. Had he done so, the sentence may have appeared so:

"The bad hombre who was dressed mostly in dark clothing and running fast across an arid land was pursued by a multi-armed, extremely dangerous, and notorious vigilante."
The difference in these two sentences is clear. King's concise short sentence creates an image that grabs the reader's attention and raises provocative questions. Who is the man in black? Who is the gunslinger? Why is he after the man in black? But the Bizarro World Stephen King sentence - with its ethnic slur, passive voice, ambiguity, suppositions, and superfluous adjectives …

The BUSKLAW April Newsletter: On the Foolish Tension Between Lawyers and Business Folks

From my colleague Mark Grossmancomes this joke (just in time for April Fool's Day):
A man in a hot air balloon is lost. He reduces the balloon's height and spots a man below. He shouts, "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?" The man below says: "Yes, you're in a hot air balloon hovering at 30 feet." "You must be a lawyer," says the balloonist. "I am," replies the man. "How did you know?" "Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but useless." The man below says, "You must work in business." "I do," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?" "Well," says the lawyer, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were before we met, but now it's my fault."
This joke illustrates the all too …

The BUSKLAW March Newsletter: Of Pie and Plain English

I love pie and plain English about equally, although plain English is less fattening. Pie - especially the caramel toffee apple variety - for Thanksgiving is especially grand because afterward, you can eat leftover pie for breakfast without a lot of guilt. And chances are that the rest of the household won't consider pie a suitable breakfast food, so you're good to go. 

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is blessed with an excellent source of pies: Sweetie-licious. Until recently, they had two locations: one in GR's Downtown Market and the other in beautiful East Grand Rapids. I grew up in EGR and still fond of the place. So it was very convenient to journey across town to Sweetie's EGR location to pick up a pie for holidays (or when the pie lust grew to be unbearable).

Because life isn't fair, Sweetie-licious closed its EGR location several months ago. (But mercifully their Downtown Market location is still going strong.) When I sauntered past their empty EGR storefront recent…

The BUSKLAW Almost February Newsletter: Embedded GR Meetup Report

I had the privilege of presenting at the Embedded GR group meeting at The Geek Group Lab on January 25. The meeting topic was "Contracting, Consulting, Moonlighting, and Independent R&D," and I spoke about legal and business "red flags" in contractor agreements. Around 30 engineers were in the audience, along with two motley dogs, plenty of geek food (pizza and pop), and a fellow Grand Rapids IT attorney and Hope College grad, Elliott J.R.Church.

I learned a lot at the meeting and had a grand time. These IT engineers and software developers are a very entrepreneurial bunch and were receptive to me expounding on what contractors should worry about when asked to sign a client-drafted consulting contractor agreement. Here's the link to my PowerPoint deck, if you're interested.

The camaraderie among this group reminded me of my late father's associates - wildcatters -in the "oil business" in Michigan in the 1940s and 50s. These guys had their ow…

The BUSKLAW January Newsletter: I'm Presenting at the Embedded GR Meetup on January 25!

Organizers of the Embedded GR IT group invited me to attend their next meeting to discuss the legal aspects of folks working as independent contractors on IT engagements. Although my experience in this field has been on the "other side of the table" (i.e., representing businesses hiring these contractors), I do have some thoughts on what contractors should - from a legal view - NOT agree to. 
Embedded GR is a group of engineers, hobbyists, students, and managers in the Grand Rapids, MI area. They discuss the development, tooling, and processes associated with the creation of embedded systems.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my legal expertise with this group. Much of what I say will apply to all contractors working on projects for employers, regardless of whether their work relates to embedded systems. So if you are a contractor (doing work of any sort), you may want to attend to get my take on what you should avoid (or at least push back on) when signing a contractor ag…

The BUSKLAW December Newsletter: Consider a Legal Audit of Your Contracts

Most of you are business professionals and thus are involved with contracts. Depending on the nature of your enterprise, you have various contracts in force, for example: 

>sales agreements
>purchase agreements >real estate leases >purchase order terms and conditions >software license and maintenance agreements >service agreements >equipment maintenance agreements >consulting agreements >contractor agreements >employment agreements >non-disclosure agreements >non-compete agreements >transportation or logistics agreements >financial institution agreements

Perhaps you work with these documents on a regular basis and are familiar with their content. Or you pay a high-priced law firm to do that for you. More commonly, however, you keep these documents in a file cabinet, rarely review them, and only call your expensive big-firm lawyer when there are problems with the transaction. Whatever the case, consider the advisability of a legal audit to focus on the follow…