In the most recent (Early Spring 2012) issue of Home Digest, author Jim Campbell delves into the topic of trust. It is not a review of ethics but an observation that in today’s complex world we rely on trust far more than we used to.
I am almost never in agreement with these “slippery slope” theories about how the world is so much worse today than it was it the good old days. But Campbell does a great job of moving from our trust in technological advancements like plasma TVs and USB memory sticks (the inner workings of which are completely hidden from us) to our trust in legal documents.
In today’s complex and harried world, people often don’t want to know the details of the things they are signing. In my field, real estate, we are talking about the biggest purchase someone may ever make. I encourage all my clients to read the documents they are signing. I further try to go through the documents clause by clause. However, even with such a big purchase, many clients feel that they don’t need to know it all. Some prefer to rely on trust.
Campbell’s point is that a signature today represents trust in the sales representative or the lawyer far more than it represents actual knowledge of what is being signed.
All our lives, we’ve been warned to watch out for the fine print. Often the lawyers have added so many things to a standard agreement that it is ALL fine print. Sometimes, Campbell points out, there is ultra-fine print — presumably much more dangerous than the fine print.
I watch the reaction of salespeople when I actually read the things they put in front of me to sign. Most are annoyed that I am slowing things down. In fact, in Campbell’s article, he asserts that if we actually stopped to understand all the agreements we are being asked to make, the world would “grind to a halt”. I want my clients to trust me, but I believe the best way I can earn that trust is to ensure that they are entering into any deal with eyes wide open and full knowledge of the contents and terms of the deal: no matter how long it takes.