Today’s grammar lesson is brought to you by the word “etc.,” short for etcetera and generally signifying “ah, screw it and such.” But are lawyers using etcetera in their practices? You betcha. Sprint’s online terms and conditions have 40 etcetera’s sprinkled throughout the contract. Lawyers for Mail Boxes Etc. use the term liberally throughout most of that company’s legal papers. Should the common lawyer use it in important legal documents? Yes. Here’s how and when you should use this nifty little legal gem.
Settlement and Release Language, etc.. Somewhere in legal drafting history, some longwinded hosebag decided that releasing only the heirs and assigns, etc., was tantamount to legal malpractice. So he or she added attorneys, agents, administrators, next-of-kin, acquaintances, Facebook friends, mistresses, and the like. Knock it off. Use etc. instead. For example, a typical release clause in a settlement agreement looks something like this:
Plaintiff John Doe, himself, his agents, heirs, administrators, attorneys, successors and assigns, does hereby dismiss, release and hold harmless, the Company, its stockholders, officers, directors, employees, agents, insurers, attorneys, predecessors, successors and assigns, of any from any and all matters, debts, dues, sums of money, covenants, controversies, agreements, promises, trespasses, damages, losses, expenses, costs, liabilities, obligations, claims, demands, grievances, suits, causes of action, complaints, judgments, decrees, executions of whatever kind, in law or in equity, absolute, contingent, likely or unlikely, known or unknown, which have existed from the beginning of time to the date of this Agreement.
Using etc., you get this more finely crafted result:
Plaintiff John Doe, etc., dismisses, releases, etc., the Company, its stockholders, officers, etc., from any and all matters, debts, etc., of whatever kind, in law, etc., absolute, contingent, etc., likely or unlikely, etc., etc., which have existed since the birth of to the date of this agreement, etc.
Or you could just say “Plaintiff John Doe releases the Company from all claims.” Done. Except it seems most lawyers are paid by the word, so this probably won’t fly among the firm’s bean counters.
Prefatory Whereas Shit. Please, someone point me to one, just one, contract case that was resolved by reference to the contract’s Whereas clause section. You know, the three page recitation of the “facts” that led to the dispute, including the “Whereas, we tasked a young associate with copying and pasting previous Whereas clauses used in prior similar cases.” Solve the whereas mania with a simple double etc., as in:
“WHEREAS, etc., etc.”
That’s it. Does the trick.
Titles. For the successful lawyer, using the term “et cetera” at the end of your name and after your various degrees and honors is a sign of prestige. Tsar Nicolas of Russia, for instance, signed things with “Nicholas II, By the Grace of God, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” You could do the same with your signatory line or business card. Better yet, with bar associations and PR thugs cracking down on the misleading use of “and Associates” in solo firm titles, a quick use of etc. fixes it, as in “C. Hank Peters &c.” While Joe Q. Public has no idea what “&c” means, it nevertheless breathes total lawyer awesomeness.