A handshake or a contract?

What brought this to my attention is a cartoon I recently saw. There were two little boys riding their three-wheel trikes, and one of the kids had a wheel fall off and tipped over, drawing a little blood. His little friend told him to go the bike store and inform them he was going to sue somebody.

What I am getting to is who promoted this mentality into the minds of so many people? A high percentage of misunderstandings can be solved very easily. There is still very successful people that do business the old-fashioned way:  A HANDSHAKE. You do not even have to pay to do that. My theory has been, if you do not trust somebody, do not do business with them.

For the people that read this opinion, I would like your comment on who started this “sue” mentality. Your comments will be very educational and interesting.

I especially like comments from all walks of life; this includes CEO’s to homeless people, dirt scratchers to bankers, even those that make a living the old-fashioned way: hard work, honesty and a handshake and maybe make a note for a reminder on a napkin.

(3) comments


Simple answer. Lawyers.


Lawyers may have started it, but it would not have continued if it wasn’t for peoples greed.


Dear Gail:

For those of us who grew up in the small towns of South Dakota, the thought of suing someone was unthinkable.

This was mainly because it was also unnecessary. And any broken agreement - written or otherwise - became widely known and judged by the entire community. Any questionable conduct would eventually be discovered by your grandkids in kindergarten. Who wants to risk that?

Later, as a “big city” businessman, I still frequently made contracts on a handshake or even a telephone call.

Unfortunately you can’t always know who you can trust. And when on occasion I was swindled, the price of the lesson that I should never again do business with that particular person was frequently cheaper than a lawsuit, since urban legal fees are so steep.

Unfortunately, a significant percentage of “misunderstandings” can’t be solved easily. So when I did business for sums I could not afford to “kiss off,” I paid for legal advice before the need to sue.

A lawsuit is often the last resort of someone who was too cheap to pay for good legal advice in the first place.

But sometimes a lawsuit is necessary and unavoidable. And then you want the best lawyer money can buy.

Nobody “promoted this mentality” unless you want to delve into the history of how American law developed from the common law system of English law,

It’s through our legal system that American capitalism and American society as a whole settles disputes without violence.

And its still cheaper and less socially disruptive than having to maintain your own private army to protect yourself and enforce your business affairs.

Welcome to the discussion.

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