You know how when you say any word over and over again, it starts to sound like nonsense, and then you lost confidence that you are saying or spelling it right, and finally it’s just gobbledegook? Absorbed as I am in writing my new series of AML books (first four came out last week, for Guernsey – now working on the UK set), this has happened to me with the phrase “due diligence”. I have written it so many times that I am no longer sure that it’s the right thing at all.
For a start, are we actually using a legal phrase without realising its significance? (I was pulled up on this last week, during some training, when I said that the goal was to use “best endeavours” to get information. “Best endeavours?” asked a lawyer in the group. “Do you mean the legal standard of best endeavours, which is high?” I hadn’t realised that “best endeavours” means something specific to the courts – I just liked the sound of it, and actually didn’t think that it was that high a standard. Must be more careful in future – and in case you’re now wondering too, the law firm Clifford Chance has published a handy guide to the various endeavours. Except Morse, of course.) So maybe the phrase “due diligence” means something more specific that I imagine – although it does not appear in my law dictionary.
So if it’s just a phrase, how has it come about, apart from the pleasing alliteration and rhythm? It may surprise you – and you might want to remind yourself of this as you wrestle with a recalcitrant customer relationship manager and his laughingly incomplete take-on forms – that the word “diligent” comes from the Latin diligere: to love or take delight in. Oh the irony. In other words, by exhibiting diligence, we are taking pleasure in being careful and conscientious in carrying out our duties. Yes we are. Honestly. Don’t laugh/cry. As for “due”, I do wonder to whom all of this diligence is due. Actually, it’s not that sort of due: it’s the sort that means “proper” (as in “driving with due care and attention”) and “required as a moral and legal duty”.
So although I am almost overwhelmed by the temptation to replace “due diligence” with “alligator nostrils” or something equally nonsensical in the middle of one of my books, to see if anyone notices, I shall – with delight and duty – continue to recommend due diligence instead.