Certification in Contract Drafting?

I’d like to revisit a notion that I alluded to in this brief 2010 post on AdamsDrafting: offering certification in contract drafting.

Here’s how it would work: Contracts professionals could get a certificate of proficiency in drafting and review of contract language by (1) attending one of my “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminars or watching my “Drafting Clearer Contracts” webcasts and (2) taking an open-book, online, multiple-choice test. Individuals could sign up to take the test, but I have in mind that organizations would have their employees get the certification. You’d have to achieve a minimum score to pass. Anyone who doesn’t get a high enough score first time around could retake the test; there would be several versions.

And by adopting a style guide for contract language (more about that here), retooling their templates to comply with the style guide, and having their employees get the certification, organizations could get a broader credential attesting to their superior handling of contract language.

This isn’t anything I’d undertake on my own; I’d have to do it in partnership with a suitable trade group. An obvious candidate would be IACCM.

My reason for returning to this idea is my continued frustration at how suboptimal most company templates are, even though companies, compared to law firms, are much better positioned to put their contract process on an efficient footing. And they have every incentive to do so. The rewards are clear: you save time, you save money, and you avoid risk. You get the deal done quicker, and it better reflects your needs. Grand strategic contracting goals are all well and good, but you’re unlikely to achieve them if your contracts exhibit the confusion and clutter that characterize traditional contract language.

But inertia is the order of the day; maybe certification would help focus minds.

Do you think this idea is a good one? Would you like to see it happen? I invite you to post a comment.

[Updated 7:15 a.m. EDT, April 16, 2012: I see that Tim Cummins of IACCM has offered his thoughts on this here.]

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.