“Read Before Signing”

Yesterday @WestMichiganLaw sent my way on Twitter the release by journalist Ben Jacobs in favor of the Republican who assaulted him. (PDF here.)

What caught my eye was the notation “CAUTION: READ BEFORE SIGNING!” above the signature block (highlighting added in this image and the others in this post):

(Bonus: the half-witted successors-and-assigns language. You’re welcome.)

The read this notation got me wondering whether I’d find something comparable in business contracts. And I did. Here’s an extract of a settlement agreement:

In this example, the read this notation comes after a sentence that says exactly the same thing, although more conventionally.

You also see this notation in agreements between a company and an employee, whether it’s an employment agreement or a separation agreement.

So I guess I’ll have to add to the fourth edition of MSCD something about signature-block notations urging the parties to read the contract. I guess they’re unobjectionable if you’re dealing with an individual, in the context of employment or a release. I’m not sure I’d bother for a contract between companies.

Here’s another example of a more traditional read this provision (this example is from a loan modification agreement):

Generally, how necessary do you think it is to tell parties to a business contract that it would be a good idea to read the contract?

[Updated 10 June 2017: On reflection, I’ve decided that the more traditional read this provision is ridiculous. Someone would see it only if they’re reading the contract, so you’re preaching to the converted.]

 

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.