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In Search of Perfect Client Service Why lawyers don't seem to get it

The importance of proofreading

Posted in Client Service, General

From the world of sports:

A dispute over contract language that affects seven fired Jacksonville Jaguars assistant coaches for over $3 million may have been one of the factors that led to the dismissal of Paul Vance, the team’s senior vice president of football operations and general counsel, according to league sources.

A source said the dispute is over an amount of money between $3.5 million and $4 million.

The seven assistants had signed extensions in 2010 and the club believed it was for two years that would expire at the end of the 2011 season. However, the applicable clause in dispute states, “shall terminate on the later of January 31, 2012 or the day after the Jaguars’ last football game of the 2012 season and playoffs…”

Consequently, the assistant coaches want to be compensated for the 2012 season, especially if they remain unemployed. Those coaches’ specific names have not been confirmed.

Vance, who was dismissed Sunday as the team’s senior vice president of football operations and general counsel, called it an incorrect reference and that it “should have read the 2011 NFL season.” Vance termed it an error and “there was no intent on your part or our part of the club to establish a contract for the 2012 season,” according to a correspondence acquired by ESPN that was sent to the coaches.

Currently, the dispute remains between the club and the coaches, but without resolution could end up as a formal grievance filed with the league office, sources said.

So the terminated General Counsel believes, as I understand it that the reference to “2012 season and playoffs” really should have read “2011 season and playoffs”.  This reading certainly seems plausible since, if the reference was really to the 2012 season, which doesn’t start until next September, there is no way January 31, 2012 could ever be “earlier.”  But the whole problem could have been avoided had someone carefully proofed the document.

I offer this as much as a reminder to myself as anything else.  Whatever strengths I may have as a lawyer, being a naturally good proofreader isn’t one of them.  The challenge for those of us who are challenged in this area is to redouble our efforts.  Hopefully examples like this serve as motivation.