by Art Pfenning | November 01, 2003

Even in the increasingly litigious hospitality industry, only about half of meeting planners seek legal advice before signing meeting contracts.
   In a recent online survey of 234 planners conducted by M&C and NTM Research, 53 percent say a lawyer reviews their meeting contracts at least some of the time. Of those, the vast majority say a general in-house attorney conducts the review; only 5 percent show contracts to an attorney who specializes in hospitality law. 
   Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents report they have been showing meeting contracts to an attorney for at least eight years.
   Among those who aren’t using an attorney to review contracts, 79 percent feel comfortable reviewing provisions on their own, while 30 percent find there’s not enough lead time for that extra step.
Yet, 79 percent feel their meeting contracts have become more complex in the past two years, and 88 percent say executives have grown more concerned about meetings-related liability. 
   However, a great majority 94 percent have not been sued in the past five years over a meetings-related incident. Of the 6 percent who have faced such suits, 1 percent took the battle to court, while the others settled through alternative means.
   More than one-third (36 percent) of planners polled have created their own meeting contracts for hotels. The top three clauses they’ve added or revised: guest room attrition (83 percent), cancellation (81 percent), and food and beverage attrition (71 percent).

By Art Pfenning, director of NTM Research, a division of Northstar Travel Media, LLC