30 Years of the Michigan Bar Journal’s “Plain Language” Column

The Michigan Bar Journal’s “Plain Language” column recently celebrated its thirtieth year. Joe Kimble, its longtime editor, wrote this piece marking the event.

Congratulations to Joe and to the Journal. They’ve provided a valuable service.

My contribution to the “Plain Language” column was a two-part article published in 2002. It was the second article I ever wrote. It’s long been superceded by stuff I’ve written since, so I won’t bother including a link. Instead, I’ll link to two “Plain Language” articles that were the focus of recent blog posts.

This November 2013 post mentions this 1994 article by Edward Kerr, a partner at the Australian firm of Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King & Wood Mallesons), describing how the firm converted to “plain language” drafting. Given that innovation in how law firms handle the contracts process is so elusive, I had wanted to know more about what Mallesons did, so I was grateful to Joe for arranging for me to get a copy of the article.

This June 2013 post was prompted by this 2013 article by Professor Vincent A. Wellman, of Wayne Law. It addresses the notion of “tested” contract language, a subject dear to my heart.

While I’m on the topic of tested contract language, I noticed that Joe’s thirtieth-anniversary column contains an appendix entitled “Reasons (and Replies) to Use of Traditional Language.” I hope it isn’t churlish of me to point out what a possible omission from the list of reasons for using traditional language, namely “Courts have given the traditional language of the law established meaning, so departing from the traditional language is risky.” To get a sense of what my reply would be, see this 2006 post. Or better yet, read Professor Wellman’s “Plain Language” article.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.