I had occasion to represent a seller and as is customary, I prepared the contracts and sent them to the buyer’s attorney, Mr. Man.
Six months or so later, I represented buyers whose sellers just happened to have hired Mr. Man to represent them. When I received his contracts, I began to read them
At first I thought, Hmmm, this contract is comprehensive. Then I thought, Hmmm, this contract sounds very familiar. By the time I reached a clause about 2/3rds of the way through, I thought Damn, this contract is mine!
The crystal clear tip off was clause 24, which dealt with the duties of the escrowee (the one holding the downpayment money). As that is a seller’s attorney’s responsibility, as is drafting the contract, my clause reads, in part, The Escrow Agent shall be entitled to her costs and time in connection with the deposit procedure, as awarded by the court. Escrow Agent may resign all duties hereunder and she shall be discharged of all obligations hereunder at any time by giving notice to Seller and Purchaser, whereupon they shall designate a successor escrow agent…
Mr. Man, the escrowee in the second of our transactions, had been male in our first deal, but here was a clause that referred to a “her.” So I pulled out my form contract and read along, word for word and paragraph by paragraph!
Now, practically all attorneys read a clause that they like better than one they presently use, and so they incorporate it or adapt it for their own use. That’s fair, and very flattering. However, word for word pilfering is plagiarism, and an infringement of the copyright of my work. Not cool from an attorney.
I wasn’t going to send a “cease & desist” notice, and I sure wasn’t going to sue. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to let him think he'd gotten away with robbery.
So when I called Mr. Man to discuss some of the details of the contract, I started the conversation by saying, “How do I address you since the sex change operation?”
There was dead silence on the other side, and then a stammering, “Whaaaaaaaat?”
“Well,” said I, quite rascally, “I saw in your contract that you refer to yourself in clause 24 as her and she, so I figured you had to have changed your gender, not ripped off my contract word for word.”
“I guess you caught me,” he said. “Heh. Heh. No harm done, right?”
Still feeling peeved, I gave him one last riposte. “I’d say you were probably harmed by all our colleagues who got this contract and laughed at you for referring to yourself as female, not to mention whatever damage your not-so-bright secretary did on other stuff she probably copied without thinking!”
All my clients’ demands were swiftly accepted thereafter.