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Showing posts from August 2, 2015

A BUSKLAW Newsletter Aside: What Bilbo Baggins's Contract Teaches About Plain Language

If you're a fan of the Peter Jackson Hobbit movies, you may recall the intimidating contract that the Dwarves foisted upon poor Bilbo Baggins in the first movie (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). That contract was full of legal jargon. So my colleague Michael Braem and I decided to write about it for the August, 2015 Michigan Bar Journal'sPlain Language column. Here's the link: http://www.michbar.org/file/barjournal/article/documents/pdf4article2677.pdf.

For those of you unfamiliar with the first Hobbit movie, here's a link to a You Tube video showing the Dwarf-drafted contract - and Bilbo's reaction to it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2idYEBi51c

I'd like to thank Michael for our collaboration and Professor Joe Kimble for thinking out of the box for this Plain Language column. Also, much gratitude goes to the author and designer of the prop contract, New Zealand artist Daniel Reeve, for exchanging numerous emails with the authors about why he put together su…

The BUSKLAW August Newsletter: Ethical Contracting and "Gotchas"

It's August - the dog days of summer. The time when the heat is to some of us a bother rather than a comfort. So as we enjoy our favorite adult beverage around a sprinkler, pool, or larger body of water, let's talk about a vital purpose of any contract: the promotion of trust and transparency between the parties. Or to put it another way: a contract should express the parties' honest business purpose in a clear and comprehensive way, with no sneaky surprises ("gotchas") that could someday surface to cause unforeseen problems. 

A short amendment to a contract between my client and a major vendor once crossed my desk. The purpose was to adjust the pricing formula of a commodity that my client purchased from the vendor. The parties had been doing business together for the last seven years without any problem requiring a lawyer's involvement. 

I was reading the amendment and was about to approve it when a section captioned Release caught my eye. There, sticking out…