By Bill Yanger
There is an old joke about lawyers never reading anything they sign, kind of like the cobbler's kid going barefoot or the haute chef gobbling drive-thru take out. Guilty as charged here.
But when my youngest daughter was preparing to leave on a marine biology trip to Belize and Costa Rica a while back, I spent much of one morning reading and signing a stack of documents that seek to release the program operators and anyone they know or have ever known from being responsible if, god forbid, something bad happens. Understand, this is a quality program with students from all over the country and the world, with a squeaky clean track record. Their reputation is their greatest selling point. They do it right.
And they obviously have very good lawyers. Some attorney at some point sat them down and had a conversation I suspect went something like this:
Program: "Why do we need all of these documents?"
Lawyer: "Because you have the lives of dozens kids in your hands in the third world for weeks at a time."
Program: "But we are careful, diligent and skilled professionals. Nothing has ever happened."
Lawyer: "And nothing may ever happen. But what of it does? Protect your company and yourselves."
Yes. "Protect your company and yourselves." Good advice, whether you take high-schoolers scuba diving in Belize or you manufacture a new-fangled widget in Largo. The first step is making sure the documents you use every day say what you want them to say and do what you want them to do. The second is to figure out what other documents you may need to optimize your protection. Do yourself a favor and make this happen sooner rather than later.
And oh yeah, you might want to read the darn things too.