Readers of this blog will be familiar with the ever-raffish Alex Hamilton, but I haven’t had occasion to mention his UK-based business, Radiant Law, which describes itself as “a law firm leading the way in optimising how large companies create, negotiate and manage their commercial contracts.” I’m doing so now because two items on their website caught my eye recently.
First, there’s the Radiant Benchmark. A participant at my recent “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminar in Dubai mentioned to me that his company is looking to apply technology to its contracts process. He asked me if I had any ideas, so I introduced him to Alex. Alex in turn invited him to complete the Benchmark questionnaire as a way to get a conversation started. That seems eminently sensible. Radiant (and Radiant’s US joint venture, ConRad) will remain my default option for anyone looking for a more rational contracts process. For Alex’s explanation of what Radiant is seeking to accomplish with the Benchmark, go here.
Then there’s Radiant’s hot-off-the-presses In-House Guide to Contract Templates. It offers sensible advice; it’s a good place to start. I would add to it the following harsh fact of life:
If you’re creating or revising templates in-house, don’t expect optimal results. However expert your contracts people are at handling your transactions, they’re not contract-drafting specialists. (Go here for my take on contract-drafting specialists. Spoiler alert: I’m a contract-drafting specialist.) If you need someone to dig a 50-meter-long, 80-centimeter-deep, 20-centimeter-wide ditch, you can get some enthusiastic people with shovels to dig it, or you can hire a ditch-digging machine and operator to do it. Guess who will do the job much faster and way better. You face the same kind of choice in deciding whom you want to draft or revise your templates. The only question is whether you’re willing to pay a bit extra for better templates.
And note what the templates guide has to say about A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting:
How to improve the actual drafting of your templates is a huge topic. At Radiant, we have adopted A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting by Ken Adams.
MSCD is a highly opinionated book in an area where there are lots of opinions. The difference is that Ken brings an analytical rigour missing from most discussions. We are wary of heart-felt opinions handed down through the generations as “truth”, which started as some distant law firm partner’s personal preferences. Ken’s guidance is as close as we have to objectivity in this area and takes a no-nonsense, plain English approach. We recommend you adopt it too.
It’s gratifying that Alex is able to say that. In this post I describe my frustration at how the English legal establishment appears wedded to some nonsensical conventional wisdom. But that’s a sideshow. What’s more significant is that people in the trenches—people like Alex and his colleagues at Radiant Law—increasingly recognize that if you’re building contracts without a set of comprehensive guidelines to the building blocks of contract language, you’re doing you and your clients a real disservice.
(By the way, you can see Alex and me speak at The Legal English Event, which is being held in London on 1–2 November.)