What Thomas Jefferson Might Say About Your Business Arrangements

March 15, 2016 - Posted by: admin - In category:

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Ever heard of the Declaration of Independence? Any question about what Thomas Jefferson included in the declaration?

We can Google it and read for ourselves at any time. Had Thomas just “declared” independence and not actually written his historic declaration, things might be different. Thankfully, Mr. Jefferson was a very wise attorney. Whatever you may think about his political views, one cannot question the brilliance of Thomas Jefferson. Ok, but what does Mr. Jefferson and his famous Declaration of Independence (all 1137 words of it) have to do with you and me, especially you and me as business owners?  Let me suggest a thought or two below.

Written contracts are almost always better than “oral” understandings or even a “handshake deal”.  Why? You already know the answer. When two or more people have a discussion and eventually come to an agreement, each person in that conversation is going to have a different perspective and interpretation and memory about what was said and agreed. As human beings, we each hear, interpret and remember things through the prism of our life experience, our personalities and our unique attributes.  You have had many experiences where you said one thing, but what was heard and remembered by another person was something entirely different.  This is true even within moments of the conversation. As days, weeks and years pass, the likelihood for misunderstanding and distortion of information grows exponentially. If something is important, write it down and then keep a copy of that writing. While this is an obvious point, you would be surprised to know just how universally this simple concept is forgotten and neglected in the world of business.

 The Declaration of Independence wasn’t written by a no-name dunce who had nothing better to do one day, so he decided to forever change the course of the free world.  Rather, Thomas Jefferson was one of the most intelligent and supremely gifted attorneys, statesman and all-around intellectuals ever to walk the earth.  In short, Jefferson was fully qualified to compose the Declaration. He knew how to write it, what to write and he understood at least in some measure what would result from the publication of his writing.

By analogy, as long as you are going through the exercise of writing down your business agreements, why not enlist the help of someone who is qualified to write such important documents? Are there costs associated with such legal help? Of course. But you spend a great deal of time and money doing things for your business. Why not allocate a proper amount of time and financial resources towards ensuring that the foundational agreements for your company are valid and appropriate for their intended purpose? If you elect to cut corners on the front end, you may risk being forced to spend significantly more money and resources later to clean up messes and resolve problems.  Said another way, you will almost always spend significantly less paying a contract attorney to draft your papers properly on the front end compared with what you might later be required to pay a litigation attorney to represent you in a lawsuit or other legal mess later.

I believe it is safe to assume that Thomas Jefferson was not much a fan of “handshake” deals.

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