This is the third in a series of articles that intends to provide a road map to improve our legal system. Our legal system is stuck in the mud. It is antiquated, it is inefficient, it is expensive. It is corrupt. There is no leadership trying to fix the system. To the contrary, the rich and the powerful are deeply wed to the present system intellectually and financially. The first Theory for Improvement is on Page 2 below, dated 1/2/08, and proposes the elimination of Probate court. It outlines why this court is useless and is costing middle class America. The second Theory is on Page 3 below, dated 2/13/08, and discusses how our legal system has it exactly backwards in how disputes should be settled. Now, here we offer a third Theory for Legal Improvement which proposes the elimination of Legalese from the earth.
We work so we can have free time, a vacation even. Consider the simple transactions in going on vacation. What happens if the airlines loses your luggage? Are your rights to recovery and recompense known to you? To what limits? It gets worse when you present yourself at the rental car counter. The Mustang convertible will allow wind to blow through your hair. To read and understand the fine print on the back of your rental agreement will cause you to tear your hair out. Never mind the upselling (do not buy the additional insurance--that is a separate profit center for the rental car companies. Your insurance policy on the car back home should provide all the insurance you need).
Insurance companies were required to put their policies in an EZ read format for their customers in the 1970's. They have backslid some, but that is the sort of reform that is within our grasp if we will only tell our legislators and businesses what we want. Don't wait for a controversy or dispute with the rental car company or airlines to register your indignation at the state of LEGALESE in our lives and in their contracts. Recommendation: Register your protest now by sending a polite letter to each; your local legislator and the first business entity in which you encounter a contract with legalese that you cannot understand. Anyone with a credit card in their pocket or bag is engaged in a commercial transaction in which the ordinary citizen has no idea what the written rules require from you or allow the financial institution to do to you. No one!
There are only two times when citizens normally need a lawyer and don't get one. First, people need a lawyer when they do their wills. Usually a simple will will suffice, but with the proliferation of second marriages, people need a lawyer's help when planning for the next chapter of life. Second, people need a lawyer when buying a home. This is usually the most important time in your life and is the biggest purchase one will ever make (except for purchasing that Hummer!!), so you need a lawyer. Here is where the wheels have fallen off. Twenty years ago, the Earnest Money (real estate purchase) Agreement was one page long. Now it is over eight pages with the most spectacular array of additional do's and don'ts written with indecipherable language. Caveat emptor! There is much Latin that remains in LEGALESE. Caveat emptor means "Buyer Beware". You are buying a pig in a poke (you are buying something in a bag that you are not allowed to see until you have forked over your money). Here is why you are buying a pig in a poke.
There are three components to a real estate sale: The Earnest Money Agreement, the Preliminary Title Report and the Closing documents. These three paper packages cannot be understood by Philadelphia lawyers much less the average home buyer. Consider this -- a 'trust deed', used in virtually all land transactions, is not a deed at all!! It is a security agreement not a deed. These legal documents could easily be put in short form and put in understandable language, but there is no motivation to do so. Why? Because the real estate industry lawyers have designed the first package of documents, the Earnest Money Agreement (EMA), to protect real estate agents. This has resulted in that ridiculously complex real estate purchase contract, the EMA, with LEGALESE of no practical use to buyers. Then the lawyers for the title companies have designed the Preliminary Title Report to protect themselves. Title companies are nothing more than insurance companies and their contract excludes most of what a citizen needs coverage for in a title insurance policy. Finally, the Closing documents are hopelessly complex to protect the interests of banks and financial institutions.
Who is left out of this protection racket? The common ordinary citizen. Trumped-up complexity is the lifeblood of lawyers. This thicket of sharp language is not just confined to everyday commercial transactions. The complex papers devised by lawyers to resolve a dispute over these wordy contracts in court is the next subject for Theories for Legal Improvement.........and Revolution. Watch for the next exciting chapter in how you can rid yourself of lawyers and their hold on society. And I am one.