Friday, September 19, 2008

The Rule of Three I’s

This rule is attributed to Warren Buffett, but I do not know that to be true. When I heard about it, I immediately thought about they way lawyers draft contracts

The rule says first come innovators, second there are imitators and finally come idiots. The commentator who described this rule and attributed it to Buffett was using the rule to describe how rational risk distribution became widespread and finally irrational.

I have litigated very bulky contracts drafted by very distinguished law firms, and was amazed at the level of confusion described in those large, undoubtedly very expensive, bound volumes.

The three I’s have an analogue in contract drafting. Initially a distinct problem is confronted by creative lawyers who draft a provision to address that issue. Then come the imitators, the bulk of our profession, they look at all those provisions in various contracts and copy them into their contract often without a complete understanding as to their relevance to the transaction—it is called boilerplate and tends to grow exponentially.

Then comes the last of the I’s. I actually saw a contract term that was in substance as follows: “In the event of two conflicting decisions by the United States Supreme Court on an issue addressed by this contract, the latter shall govern.”

Notwithstanding the extremely remote possibility that such a situation would exist, being invaded by an army from Pluto is probably more likely, this term does appear to state the obvious.

By the way, I did not make up this provision—someone was actually putting these in contracts.

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