My father, Shelby Yastrow, is one of the most un-litigious lawyers you will ever meet. He was general counsel of McDonald’s at a time when they had no written vendor contracts – just handshakes.

Dad told me of advice he got from one of his first mentors, Glenn Seidenfeld, shortly after completing law school: “If you have a good relationship, you don’t need a contract and you’ll never look at it; if you have a bad relationship, no contract is good enough.”


  • Michael Lee Stallard
    May 10, 2008 - 14:46 pm


    Love your post! It seems that valuing people and relationships was part of the Yastrow family’s identity. It was a value in my family too and has become the primary value in our family’s identity.

    Reading your post reminded me of something in my past. McDonald’s was an investment banking client of mine years ago and I remember when they told me with pride that their vendor contracts were based on handshakes.

    I love to see organizations that build strong relationships throughout their organization as well as to customers and suppliers. The Connection Cultures I’ve studied seem to naturally do this because it’s in their DNA to connect and to seek win-win outcomes with everyone they do business with.

  • David
    May 13, 2008 - 15:00 pm

    Wow. That kind of blows my mind. I’m an in-law partner in a family business where we have agreements for just about everything down to blowing your nose in public.

    I think the family’s prevailing assumption is that the contract helps create clarity and avoid heartache, although this has not proven to be an iron-clad truth. And in my case, getting unwound from this business has required the creation of another agreement, the size of a small-town phone book — a process that has required the participation (and the costs) of lawyers, financial planners, tax advisers and more lawyers.

    Even though I’d have preferred a handshake, I see the virtue in spelling things out this carefully. On the other hand, your dad’s mentor’s advice was certainly good once upon a time; do you still feel that it’s sound advice, across the board?

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