A Comparative Corpus Analysis Tells Us Nothing We Don’t Already Know

Readers alerted me to an article in the journal Cognition entitled Poor Writing, Not Specialized Concepts, Drives Processing Difficulty in Legal Language (here). It’s also the subject of this item in MIT News. This article tells us nothing we don’t already know. It’s by Eric Martinez, a recent law school graduate and licensed attorney who is now a graduate student … Read More

Optimal Contract Language Requires More Than Enthusiasm: My Critique of Shawn Burton’s Article in the Harvard Business Review

Just in time for Christmas, the January–February 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review offers us a lump of coal in the form of an article entitled The Case for Plain-Language Contracts (here). It’s by Shawn Burton, general counsel of GE Aviation’s Business & General Aviation and Integrated Systems businesses. It describes “a three-plus-year effort to promote plain-language contracts at GE … Read More

Has “A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting” Failed?

[Updated 9 December 2017: I know that some of you wonder why I give airtime to people who disagree with me. Those people fall into two categories. First, there are those with some sort of credentials who publicly attack my work without justification; I think it’s in my interest to defend myself against them. An example is the person who … Read More

I Respond to a Comment by Angela Swan of Aird & Berlis and Osgoode Hall Law School

I noticed that John Gillies’s review of the fourth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting (here) attracted a few comments, including this one by Angela Swan, counsel at the Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis and adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University: Adams is dead wrong in his views on the various “efforts” clauses one … Read More

Being Systematic About Plain English: Some Thoughts on GE Aviation’s New Template

Thanks to this update on LinkedIn by lawyer Alexander Tyulkanov, I saw this GE Report, entitled “Honey, I Shrunk The Contract: How Plain English Is Helping GE Keep Its Business Humming.” It describes how GE Aviation’s Digital Solutions unit replaced their seven bloated and archaic templates, each a hundred pages plus, with a five-page plain-English contract. It’s a great story. It reflects what … Read More

Citibank’s New Credit Card Agreement: My Review

Via reader Raif Palmer, I learned that Citibank has rolled out a new form of credit card agreement, one that features, according to the cover note to Raif, “A new, clean design with simple language.” Consumer contracts are different from business contracts. Generally I don’t do consumer contracts, but I couldn’t resist having a look at the new card agreement. … Read More

I Dissect a Specimen of “Magic Circle” Contract Drafting

Yesterday evening I took part in a panel discussion in London organized by UCL Faculty of Laws and entitled “Dysfunction in Contract Drafting: Are the Courts, Law Firms, and Company Law Departments Stuck in a Rut?” (For more about the event, go here.) To give those present a sense of the dysfunction of mainstream contract prose, I opened the proceedings by … Read More

Revisiting Avvo Legal Forms, Part 2: “Minimum Viable Product” and Contract Forms

Early in the modest tweetstorm caused by last Friday’s post, I saw this tweet by @JEGrant3: Here's the power of an #MVP: @avvo just got @KonciseD to consult on improving their product. For free. #leanstartup — John E. Grant (@JEGrant3) April 8, 2016 I was mystified. “MVP”? WTF? But @anseljh came to the rescue, explaining that “MVP” stands for … Read More

Avvo Legal Forms: A Real Stinker

I learned from this post by Bob Ambrogi that Avvo, an online legal-services marketplace, has announced that it “has added a selection of no-cost, high-quality legal forms for family, business, estate planning and real estate to its website.” Avvo apparently expects to have more than 200 forms available by the end of 2016. With no enthusiasm, I duly completed the questionnaire for one … Read More