About Me

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I am a consultant and general counsel to International Ride Training LLC as well as a practicing attorney in Avon, Connecticut. A particular focus of mine is the legal needs of the amusement and tourism industry. My focus on the amusement industry derives from my pre-law career as an operations manager with Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Universal Orlando. Having started my career as a ride operator at Cedar Point in 1992, I progressed through the seasonal ranks and ultimately became the Manager of Ride Operations and Park Services at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I also worked in Universal's operations department during the construction and development of Islands of Adventure. Today, I am an active member of the New England Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions and the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. I have been invited to speak at amusement industry meetings and seminars and have worked on a variety of matters relating to this industry.

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This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice (or any legal advice). By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher and / or author nor can such a relationship be created by use of his Blog / Web Site. By using thisBlog / Web Site you understand that any statement on the blog site are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wiggin and Dana LLP or International Ride Training LLC. By using this blog site you understand that the Blog/Web Site is not affiliated with or approved by Wiggin and Dana LLP or International Ride Training LLC. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction. This blog is not published for advertising or solicitation purposes. Regardless, the hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

IAAPA 2011: Five Sessions That Could (Unintentionally) Help You Avoid Legal Trouble (and why)

Well, its Day Two of my special buildup to IAAPA 2011.  Yesterday, I put together my five recommendations for legally-themed educational sessions at this year's expo.  Today, I've assembled a list of five non-legal seminars that could, as a fortunate side effect, help you avoid legal trouble down the line.  These seminars are not, to the best of my knowledge, taught by lawyers or meant to delve deeply into legal issues.  They all seem designed with an operational or business purpose in mind - to help you, the owner or operator, better manage your operation and maximize profits.  Nonetheless (and based solely on the course descriptions and my personal opinions), there is a good chance that something you learn in these classes will help keep you out of court someday.  And as much as I love going to court as an attorney, trust me when I tell you that it's a lot less fun if you are a litigant.  So, here they are ... the Five Sessions That Could (Unintentionally) Help You Avoid Legal Trouble (and why):

No. 5:  Cash Management Procedures:  Best Practices
(Monday 11/14/11, 9:00-10:15 AM, Room S330B)

In any park I've ever been around cash control is easily the most highly secured location in the facility.  Games, foods, admissions, and merchandise employees are trained in proper cash handling procedures and every till is closely monitored from the time it leaves cash control until the time it is returned and balanced.  And yet ... theft still happens.  Not only does this expose your business to financial loss, it can also cause legal problems that are best if avoided.  Employee and guest theft can lead to criminal charges against the perpetrator and the consequential burdens on your employees caused by involvement and cooperation with  a police investigation and, potentially, criminal trial.  Mismanagement of funds or improper cash handling procedures can also be red flags for financial auditors, which can easily lead to further inquiries from authorities, shareholder discontent, and, possibly, civil litigation.  Solid planning and institution of sound cash handling procedures and monitoring mechanisms is a great preventive solution for unnecessary legal entanglements.  So get up early, grab your coffee, and settle in for this one.

No. 4:  Media Relations Fundamentals:  How to Engage Reporters Important to Your Attraction
(Thursday, 11/17/11, 3:30-4:45 PM, Room S330B)

I have had the pleasure of doing a lot of work with the media, and if I have only learned one thing, its that it is the most powerful force in America.  It is vitally important to use the media appropriately to tell your story, whether its a great one about your brand new attraction or a not-so-great one after an incident has occurred.  The way you deliver that message and interact with the media can have a profound impact on the public perception of your facility and operation as well as a profound effect in any subsequent litigation.  Your words, expressions, and body language are all recorded forever whenever you speak to the media, and those recordings are all impressive evidence to present to a jury.  Which side it will favor, however, largely depends upon the skill of the person in front of the camera and their ability to tell an effective and credible story.  Learn how and you can help your legal position immensely should you ever end up in court.

No. 3:  Working with the Public and Dealing with Difficult Guests
(Tuesday 11/15/11, 5:00 - 6:15 PM, Room S320EFG)

Guess how many lawsuits in our industry start with a really bad guest complaint or experience?  A lot!  For years, I have pushed my "No Guest Left Behind" philosophy of litigation avoidance.  This is where your ability to resolve tough guest problems through great guest service can actually pay off by avoiding a lawsuit that might otherwise eventually be filed.  While the guest is at your facility, you have a limited-time opportunity to make that guest satisfied and avoid much bigger consequences down the line, both from a business and a legal perspective.  If you want to avoid a good number of time consuming and expensive lawsuits, you've simply got to be good had handling the toughest guests and the worst situations before they have the opportunity to call their lawyer.

No. 2:  Go or No Go:  How to Determine Whether A Project or Event is Worth Doing
(Wednesday 11/16/11, 9:00-10:15, Room S330A)

I can't begin to tell you how many cases I have been involved in that started with a "great idea" that either wasn't as "great" in execution as it seemed in inception or was so fraught with unforeseen burdens and expenses that it had virtually no chance of ever becoming successful.  Not only is that bad for business, this is where bills start to not get paid on time, creditors get antsy, and pretty soon - lawsuits get filed.  Before you know it "great idea" can land you in the middle of a lawsuit or in bankruptcy court - neither is nearly as fun as your facility I assure you.  This class has some serious litigation-prevention potential.  I'll be there and so should you.

No. 1:  Micro-Culture:  Navigating the Motivation and Satisfaction of Young Employees
(Tuesday 11/15/11, 5:00-6:15 PM, Room S330A)

Our industry routinely does something that very few others do, something that is not ideal from a legal perspective, but absolutely necessary nonetheless:  we turn over our entire businesses to several hundred high school and college students and trust them to keep things moving right everyday.  Not many other businesses put such high levels of safety, guest service, and financial responsibility in the hands of someone who has just started their first job - but we do.  These employees are, without any question, the most important employees at your facility.  They have far more guest interaction than management does. They literally have guests' lives at their fingertips day in and day out.  It should be obvious that keeping these people motivated and satisfied has a huge impact on the chances of you ending up in court or ultimately succeeding there if you do.

And, by the way, shame on you, IAAPA, for scheduling two of my five picks at the same time.  You're going to just have to choose between this and the Guest Relations course.  Sorry, but I didn't make the schedule.  I'll leave you in suspense about which one I'll be at (and I'm sure you'll all lose a considerable amount of sleep pondering that one over the next couple of days).

So there it is folks.  Tomorrow I'm switching gears a bit and I'll be presenting Five Exhibitors You Have To Visit (and why).  Until then .... See you in Orlando!

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