Are you planning an event or a retreat for your employees? What are the legalities you need for this? Stay tuned for some free legal advice for your next destination event! Joining us in today’s episode is Elissa Kaner. Elissa is an attorney for online entrepreneurs and a life and success coach. She loves helping businesses with their legal contracts when conducting retreats to protect both the host and other parties involved in the contract. Listen in as she shares her wisdom on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to legal matters surrounding retreats.
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Free Legal Advice for Your Next Destination Event With Elissa Kaner
Elissa Kaner is an attorney for online entrepreneurs and has certifications in the area of neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotherapy, and life and success coaching. Welcome to the show.
Thank you so much, Catherine. I am so excited to be here.
We met in a social media group. When I heard you were a lawyer interested in the retreat space and you had clients who hired you for that, I was like, “I need this woman on the show because it is such a big need in the industry.” Some people sometimes do not even think of the legal aspects. There is a lot of big liability that could happen during a retreat. I am very happy to have you on this episode to shed some light and share some of your expertise on this subject.
Thank you. I am so excited. This is such an important topic. It is often very overlooked by a lot of entrepreneurs because people tend to stick their heads in the sand a little bit when it comes to legal, they hope and pray that everything will work out. That is the opposite of what we want to do. We want to make sure that they are protected from the get-go, especially hosting retreats internationally. There are so many variables, so much liability, and so many things that happen that we want to make sure that you are protected from day one and avoid any issues down the line.
I do not understand why people would avoid it. Yes, you are covered legally whether waivers or full-on contracts. You are protected, but it also gives a clear message to the people that are signing what your terms and expectations are and vice versa. It is not only good for legal reasons, but it is also good for clarity. It is a step that should not be skipped.
Even if you have a misunderstanding that does not go the legal route, eventually, it leaves a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. That is the one thing that you need to avoid in any customer service industry because this is your servicing clients. How do you feel about that? Do you feel a lawyer should go through any waiver, contract, or even the application process to make sure things are clear at the right time? What is your suggestion?
One of the things that I tell my clients, any podcasts, and anyone that I speak to in a group is forget the legal. One of the most important aspects of having an agreement is laying out exactly what the retreat entails, what you are going to be doing, the pricing, all the things that the client is agreeing on, and any expectations you have for the client.
Besides all the legal jargon, it is important to make sure that you, as the retreat host, is going to deliver what you say you are going to deliver. If you have any expectations from the client, any rules, or do’s and don’ts, anything like that can go in the contract and the client is signing it, so they know the expectations from them. For both sides, it is a document that defines the relationship as well as sets aside some legal pieces that are very important too.
This goes as well with suppliers, right?
Contracts protect both the host and the person on the other side of the agreement.
It is anything and everything when it comes to relationships. In my experience, I find that sometimes we do not think about something. We do not know what we do not know. We just do not think about it. When you hire an expert, first of all, it is the third set of eyes. It is someone who is unbiased and can shed light on things that you maybe never even thought of.
It is so important. I always stress that it is important to make sure that you have an attorney either right from scratch or you send your contract that you are about to send to any client, suppliers, vendors, or independent contractors. It is important to have an attorney with a non-biased opinion look over those contracts to make sure that they cover everything, especially if you find someone’s template or something that someone gives you or you find it on Google. You may not know if you do not ask what you do not know and what else needs to be in there. It is important to have an attorney look at the contract at the very least.
In our course, we offered students and even our clients registration forms, group rules, waivers, and contracts that have been made by a lawyer. We tell them, “You have to run it by your lawyer because it is your business and it has to be specific to your business.” That reduces the costs because it is just a review rather than starting from scratch. Some people take templates off the internet and think that is good enough. How do you feel about that?
I do not endorse that because it needs to be a contract and specific to your business. Even though there are some terms that would work in that template, it is important to have something that is tailored specifically to you and your business. The template on Google is not going to cut it for that. We want to make sure that you are covered in every area. We have got all four corners covered. We have made sure that all the terms are correct.
There are such simple things where some of my clients come to me after the fact that they have contracts where they live in the State of Michigan, but the governing law in the contract that they found says California. Those are the things that you would not even think. As an attorney would know, it is important to make sure that someone is reviewing it or making sure that it is tailored for you.
It is not always, but a lot of times, retreats are international. You have to tweak it to fit that location.
I do not want to get too nitty-gritty with governing laws. It is usually whatever law you agree upon, but if someone is going to be doing something illegal in Mexico, that is something that the contract would not even cover. It is like, “This is beyond the scope.” We want to make sure that you are covered internationally. Any COVID restrictions that the country has, you want to make sure that are in the contract.
That kind of stuff is subject to change so quickly and could change between the client registering for the retreat and then the date of the retreat, and maybe the border is close or something like that. We want to make sure that you, as the retreat host, are completely covered. What if you cannot run the retreat on that date because all of a sudden, the borders are closed for wherever you are going to have it? You want to make sure you have backup measures and terms in place to govern those situations.
We never think about us getting sick as hosts or as planners. We always think of something that happens to somebody else, but it could happen where it is like, “I cannot make it. There is no retreat.”
It did happen to one of my clients. Luckily, 9 people out of 10 were able to reschedule for a new date, and everything was okay. That is something that needs to be covered in a contract because it happens. We do not think about it, but I have seen it happen.
There are different aspects to a retreat. First of all, you become a travel planner, not necessarily a travel agent, but there is a whole other legal aspect of that. You become an event planner because a retreat is an event. You are a host with a program. You have guests who are traveling with you, whether it is local or international. You have hospitality and food. There is a lot of stuff to think about.
You have suppliers, whether it is activities that are in-house or external. You might have them contracted versus not. These are a lot of different things that we have to think about. Would this be all covered in one contract with the guest and another one with the suppliers? How would you make sure that everybody is protected from liability mostly?
There are a bunch of separate contracts that you mentioned. There would be one between the host and the clients, the attendees. If you are bringing anyone in, like a private chef, you would want to have a contract with that person. If you hire a separate event planner that will be onsite or a retreat planner, you want to have a contract with that person.
You want to have a contract with anybody you will be hiring out as part of running the retreat. If there are any liabilities involved in those jobs, you would want to have something in there limiting their liability. That is your liability in the event of injury. We want to make sure that you are covered with every single person. There is a lot we could talk about there.
Who is responsible for making up the contract? For your guests, it is the planner or the host, whoever that may be. What about your venue, your yoga instructor if you hire one, or your chef? Who should be the one drafting? Is there a rule?
There is no rule. That is a good question. It depends on the situation. I worked on some contracts for one of my clients who is running a retreat where she is bringing in all of her own people. We wrote up contracts for each person. She is bringing in an event planner and some yoga fitness instructors that will be staying at the house and sometimes, they will participate in some of the activities. In that case, we will have the host write all those contracts.
It is also possible that if you are hosting a retreat in Costa Rica and hired a private chef for the house, they may have their own agreement. If they do, then great. You can read it, and you can have an attorney read it also. Review it and see if it is something that you want to sign. If it is not, you can introduce your own. There is no rule. It is standard practice for each person. The venues usually have their own, which makes sense because then they have their own rules they set for the venues.
It’s super important to have waivers of all kinds.
That is something that you do not have to worry about. If you are bringing in anybody, write up a contract and you can always negotiate the terms if they have their own. You can always work together to come to an agreement that is going to define the relationship for the two of you that you will both be happy with.
Here is where I find people feel a little touchy on it. It is when they bring in volunteers to help. These volunteers, most of the time, are friends. How should someone proceed with volunteers, especially when they are friends? ? It is touchy, right? What would be your approach? Would there still be a contract there, in your opinion?
Yes. There should be, especially if they are volunteers. They are going to be having fun in Mexico or Florida and participating in some of the retreats, so laying out the expectations of the volunteers is so important. Another thing that you mentioned is sometimes contracts can be contentious or feel contentious. Even if it is with friends or a regular client, they are like, “You make me sign a contract? I do not know how I feel about that.”
I like to reframe that because it is defining the relationship. It is not, “Sign this. You are waiving all your rights away.” No, it is making sure that you, as the retreat host, is delivering everything that you are expected to deliver, and then that person as the client, that friend as a volunteer, event planner, or whoever is on the other side of the contract is laying out their expectations as well. It protects both the host and the person on the other side of the agreement. It is not contentious because it is open communication. It is how we need to look at it instead of one person having all the rights, and the other person does not. It is not like that at all.
I agree with that. That is what we always suggest. Everything has to be clearly defined, even the group rules. We are dynamic people. Dynamics change with every person you add and every person that leaves. Things could change fast. At least it was set up in the rules, and people read it and signed it. Even if it is not a legal contract where you have to go through a lawyer, at least they are aware of what is expected as far as behavior, group settings, whatever it may be.
I am going to be the devil’s advocate here. I have somebody else coming in talking about insurance. Let’s say somebody says, “I have insurance for that. I am covered. I do not need contracts because if anything happens, I claim them to the insurance. I do not have to worry about it.” What if someone thinks like that? What do you feel would be the situation if something should happen there?
Those are two different things. Are you saying in the context of the host or the client?
We are always speaking about the host or the planner. Maybe they will have a contract with the clients, but they won’t have other issues. It could be other contracts where they feel like, “I am covered from my insurance, liability, planner insurance, or whatever it is. I am good. They said they will cover me for liability and cancellation injury.” What do I need to pay a lawyer to have a whole contract drawn up for?
You need one because if you have insurance, that does not stop your ability from getting sued. You can still get sued, and maybe the insurance will cover a lawsuit or it won’t. It depends on your policy. Insurance is not full-proof. It can help you in the event that something goes wrong, which is important, especially when you are international, but it does not limit your liability.
Let’s say something goes wrong or someone gets hurt on your watch. That person can sue the retreat host, but maybe insurance will cover some of the costs. Insurance is about cost-covering, not necessarily lawsuits and legal protection. You need both because you want to make sure that you are limiting your ability to be sued in the event that something goes wrong or there is injury or something like that during the retreat.
We covered so much. Is there anything we did not cover that you would like to add that maybe we did not touch base on here?
It is super important to have waivers of all kinds. We did not fully cover that. It depends on what the retreat is about. Having a waiver about COVID is so important these days, unfortunately. Everyone needs to have that so that everyone signing knows that it is a personal responsibility. When you go on a retreat, maybe you will get sick.
You need to have a waiver waiving you are not going to sue the host in the event that there is a COVID outbreak or something like that. That is super important. If you are doing any physical activity, even yoga, breathwork, or anything, even in one in a million caused somebody injury, you need to have liability waivers in place for those things, and the client needs to sign.
It depends on whether you need that or not in your contract or the facilitator, instructor, or whatever has its own. You want to make sure in the contracts that you have some clause somewhere, even if it is not a full-on liability waiver, limiting your liability for any injury for all the activities that may occur at the retreat. That is something I would say number one. For insurance, especially if you are going international, this may not be necessarily that important for the states, but it is super important to say that everyone has to have their own travel insurance because you never know what could happen.
If something happens to somebody, you are affected and it becomes a burden on everybody, including the host. What are you going to do? Leave this person there and just leave? I would feel so responsible for them because you are responsible for them. What are you going to do? This person does not have insurance now.
Let’s say they get COVID and they have to stay in a hotel for however long before they can come back to the US, that is something they have to have insurance for. The retreat host is not going to cover that. It is going to get expensive. Let’s say they are on a hike and they fall and break their leg. Their health insurance will not be covered in Costa Rica or Mexico if they live in the United States. That is what travel terms does. Also, in the event that something happens to a member that has to get moved, that helps protect your flight and all the expenses that you paid. It is super important.
If something should happen like a cancellation by the retreat host, your travel insurance should cover part of it, at least. There is also other waiver that we did not discuss yet, which is media release waivers. Let’s place a situation here. Everybody signs a media release form, but one person is like, “I am not interested. I am not signing this. I do not want to be on social media or any type of advertising. I just do not want.” What do you suggest in this case should be done when there is someone that is like that? You are doing group stuff. I can control myself, but what about the rest of the people? They do not have a contract with this person. How do you work on this? This is a little difficult.
This is a difficult situation. This is one of those things where you should have the media release when you send over the original client contract. It should be in there and very clear that you reserve the right to take photos. Let’s say there is going to be a photographer on-site for the whole retreat documenting everything. Make sure that this person knows before they even pay or after they pay saying, “We are going to sign a media release because we reserve the right to use all photos and videos in our marketing.”
Avoid your energy being off and avoid any problems down the line.
If there is this one person, at that point, maybe it is time for that person to decide whether or not they even want to go on the retreat because it is going to be difficult for the photographer if they are like, “Susie does not want to be in anything. Susie does not want to be on the website, on Instagram, or on any marketing for the next retreat. Anytime you take a photo, Susie cannot be in it.” That is going to be difficult.
That is another reason why we want to have all the terms laid out from day one before they even buy their plane tickets and they know like, “If I go to this retreat, I am going to have to be in marketing videos.” I may be able to avoid as many photos as possible, but there is no guarantee that she is not going to be in any of the group shots.
It is important to let people know that from the get-go so that if they are like, “I do not feel comfortable with this,” they can say no to the retreat. If you send that right before they are about to leave, and she is like, “I did not know that was going to happen. I thought we were going to be anonymous, and it was going to be this beautiful unplugged experience where I did not have to be in pictures.” That is a whole other issue that may be a problem. You, as the retreat host, maybe cannot kick her out when it is a week before the retreat.
You cannot control women and men that are there and what they post. You cannot control other people, but your media release is protecting you. It is not for any of the other attendees posting things on Instagram. If someone posts something or attendee posts a group shot that Susie does not like, that is something that she would have to take up with that person. For the media releases, it is for you, the host.
What do you think would be a deal-breaker for a client? Maybe there are physical restraints or something they would not be able to participate in, or if it is an activity that people might like a silent retreat. I mentioned it to you before that when somebody signed up for a retreat and they had no idea it was a silent retreat, and then when they showed up, they were like, “What do you mean I cannot speak for a week?”
Anything like that, you need to lay it out on the freaking sales page because if you are not going to be able to speak for a week, that is a big deal. How would this person have gotten from, “This retreat sounds fun,” to getting there and having no idea? That is where you define the expectations, especially if it is a silent retreat or sober retreat, and someone is expecting to pop bottles the whole week. With all of those things, you want to make sure that they know. It is respect for the other guests too, who came on this retreat in order to be silent, be with themselves, with their thoughts, have a week of detoxing and not drinking, or whatever it is. People need to know what they are getting into.
The message is put it out there as soon as possible, whether it is on the sales page or registration. That way, there is no conflict later on. We are always trying to avoid conflict. We do not even want to get to that point, not even the conflict part. The legal thing is much later, which nobody wants to get to. You want it to be a fun experience, something seamless, easy, and very clear for everyone involved. That is the goal. It is the clarity from day one.
That is what a contract helps you do. Everything is in the contract so that if they have any questions or if they say, “I did not know that this was happening.” You can say, “It is in the contract that you signed. It is on the sales page. Please refer to this page of the contract or this paragraph on the sales page. This was all laid out for you, and you knew what you were getting into.”
People will still try even though it is on the contract. The legal aspect and the insurance are not the fun part of the retreat, but it does make it fun because of the clarity that is involved. We would like to ignore it, but if it is ignored, it could become a very big problem. If you deal with it, clarity is there, and everything is very well-defined, you do not have the anxiety or the insecurity of thinking, “What if something should happen?”
We are all fantasizing about this retreat. It is a fun week or a few days, especially for anybody in the wellness industry, authors, event planners, whoever it is. They want to do this and create magic. If they do not put this in place, they will have that insecurity in the back of their head like, “What if something goes wrong?”
I always say that to my clients. One of the most important things is the energy behind what you are creating and the peace of mind you have knowing that everyone signed a contract and all signed a waiver. If you are doing breathwork, healings, or certain things that people may have never experienced before, they know they have signed the waivers and the possibilities. You can show up at 110% and truly create that magic if you take the precautions beforehand.
If you do not and you are like, “Maybe something will happen. We are probably okay. My clients do not usually get hurt. It is fine,” you are still going to have that gnawing at you in the back of your mind like, “If somebody could, I could get sued.” There is always some reason you could get sued, but you want to make sure you have an ironclad contract to protect yourself if a person who’s participating in everything is at their own risk. You are like, “I am free.”
It gives you freedom. That is what it does. Imagine always having this thought in the back of your head. How fully engaged are you? How involved are you in the program or retreat? You are not. That energy is felt by others. Whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, it is.
People can feel that. You just want to be in everything. In every aspect of your business, you want to be in the place where you feel 110% you are going to show up and create the magic. That is one of the most important reasons to get those productions in place now, early on, and avoid your energy being off and any problems down the line. That could get expensive.
Tell us, where can people find you? Is there anything you want to offer the readers? What would you like to finish off with?
All the readers of this show, I would love to offer you a free consultation with me. No strings attached. We can just chat. I do not usually offer this, so this is something that I would love to make sure that we drop in. We will talk about any legal aspects of your specific retreat. I would love to connect. You can find me on Instagram. My account is @ElissaKaner.co. Follow me for any legal information.
Elissa, thank you so much for such a generous offer to our readers. Everything that you talk about in this episode is so useful. What a great value. I appreciate your time and expertise in all the legal aspects. I am looking forward to working more with you in the future in this space. Thank you very much for being on the show.
Thank you so much, Catherine. This was so much fun. I loved it. I am looking forward to working with you too. I hope to talk to you all.
Until next time.
About Elissa Kaner
I am an attorney for online entrepreneurs, and I believe it is my superpower to help entrepreneurs step fully into their CEO power.
I am a true manifesting generator, and I opened a crystal shop in the fall of 2021 (Earth Soul Provisions). I also recently received my certifications in the area of Neurolinguistic Programming, hypnotherapy, and life & success coaching. I love helping business owners with the legal surrounding retreats!