I was raised in a small city with a population of less than 15,000. For most of my childhood, it was literally a “one stoplight town” that had eventually graduated to three by the time I left for college. Growing up in a small town certainly has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that a small town is often populated by unique individuals that you would never meet in the busyness of a large city. These individuals, through tough times and personal experiences, have developed a common-sense perspective often missing today.
One group of individuals I remember who possessed this common-sense perspective were the owners and mechanics at a local gas station. It was a Cononco station in an older building consisting of two sets of gas pumps (one full service and one self-serve) and two mechanic’s bays to maintain and repair automobiles. It was my grandfather and father’s service station of choice because they trusted the mechanics and owners. I remember as a child sitting in the chairs in the waiting area, which was also the office, cash register, old soda vending machine, and shelves to display oil cans and promotional materials. While waiting for the oil change or other repair work on our vehicles to be completed, I noticed that it was often a stopping place for old-timers in the town who would purchase gas, a soda from the vending machine, and stay and talk for a while.
The desk in the office/waiting room included the service paperwork and cash register as well as pictures, stickers, and plaques. Most of these consisted of humorous sayings about fishing, hunting, and cars. One that I remember to this day was a plaque that simply stated:
Pay me a little right now
Or pay me a lot more later
This not-so-subtle statement was to highlight the importance of preventative maintenance from a car mechanic’s perspective. They knew that keeping the car up to date on minor service and repairs (e.g., oil changes, tire rotations, filter replacements, etc. . . ) prevented the major car repairs from occurring. In essence, paying the few dollars on occasion prevented the larger, unexpected, and unmanageable bill from ever occurring. Through years of experience and multiple examples, the mechanics understood this fundamental truth.
I have often observed business owners not recognizing this fundamental truth. Businesses and their respective leaders often either ignore and consistently choose not to perform this “preventive maintenance” on their business. They justify their decision because it is a low priority or to save a little bit on the bottom line. Rarely, if ever, does this approach benefit the business in the long-run. Instead this approach eventually leads to events that jeopardize the long-term health and survivability of the company.
I often see this behavior when business leaders choose not to perform basic legal preventative maintenance. Preventative legal maintenance for businesses includes areas such as, updating pre-existing contracts, modernizing employee policies and manuals, keeping abreast of new laws and regulations, the initial negotiation/development of new agreements, and the review and drafting of new contracts between parties. In these circumstances, these business leaders/owners place legal maintenance at a low priority. They assume that the status quo will continue to work, what they have now is sufficient, they can independently draft or negotiate the agreements on their own, and/or the legal work would be expensive. Unfortunately, it is usually only a matter of time until this lack of proactive maintenance leads to a major legal dispute, complaint, or litigation that has the potential to lead to the ruin of the company. Once a dispute has reached this stage, the legal costs of correcting the issue or defending the corporation in the dispute is now exponentially more expensive than the preventative legal maintenance costs would have been.
In that way both an attorney and mechanic’s approach is the same. We do not want to see a business breakdown occur that could cost substantial fees, costs, and expenses to correct. As an attorney representing clients, I will always prefer and recommend that regular legal maintenance occur. The costs are substantially less than the alternative and it better protects the client when an unforeseen event occurs.
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This website and article have been prepared by Harrison Law, PLLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.