A Note About Self-Promotion

I’m both a commentator and a guy who sells stuff. Those two roles sometimes bump up against each other in a way that can look awkward.

For one thing, I tell anyone willing to listen that if an organization wants to put its contract process on a rational footing, it should adopt a comprehensive style guide for contract language, but that it’s not realistic to expect that it would have the resources and expertise to create the style guide itself. Now, if there were a bunch of comprehensive style guides out there, that wouldn’t pose a problem. But the fact is that A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting is the only game in town, and I haven’t been shy about recommending that any organization that wants to adopt a style guide should piggyback off of MSCD, in the manner outlined in this post. That opens me up to accusations that my recommendation is motivated by self-interest.

The clearest way to avoid this issue would be for me to stop making that recommendation. But I’m not going to engage in that sort of self-censorship, as it would prevent me from presenting a coherent analysis of what’s wrong with mainstream contract drafting and what’s required to fix it.

In any event, I hope that I’ve built up enough credibility over the years such that anyone interested in contract drafting wouldn’t worry that I’m shilling my own wares.

But the question I’m currently pondering is whether I should acknowledge this issue in an article I’m working on. Here’s a sentence that’s in the current draft, right after I recommend that organizations piggyback off of MSCD: “The awkward fact that this author has no option but to recommend his own work shouldn’t render that recommendation inherently suspect.” What do you think? [I know it’s lame! Thanks already to @rickcolosimo for emailing me an alternative.]

Here’s another, related, issue. I recently sent that work-in-progress to a law-school professor for his review. One of his comments was “I increasingly felt like this turned into a self-promotional piece (by my count, 15 of the 35 footnotes are cites to yourself).” Here’s my I have no problem with citing myself lots:

A citation in an article serves one of two functions. Either it says, “This guy supports my interpretation!,” or it says, “Find more information here!” In the article in question, most of the citations are of the latter variety. And the fact is that there’s very little out there comparable to what I do. A few years ago I set myself the informal goal that I would write the definitive account of any issue that interested me, and I think I’ve succeeded in doing that (although there’s doubtless stuff out there I don’t know about). So for the most part I have no choice—if I want to provide the reader with optimally informative leads, I have to cite myself.

Some of the writings that I point to cite analysis by others. I could cite that other analysis in the article in question, but I don’t want to clog up a short law-review article with a bunch of clunky citations to tangential authorities.

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.