Contract Drafting as a “Niche” Subject

Twitter has become a low-key part of my public profile (my Twitter ID is @AdamsDrafting). Links to my new blog posts go out automatically on Twitter; I indulge in the occasional bit of flagrant self-promotion, these days mostly about my webcasts; and I sporadically offer up any halfway rational and maybe-interesting thought that otherwise doesn’t have a home. But my focus is elsewhere, so I’ve had no illusions of building any sort of following on Twitter.

In that regard, I was  pleasantly surprised to notice yesterday that Venkat Balasubramani, Seattle-based tech lawyer, proprietor of the Spam Notes blog, and Twitter man-about-town, had posted the following Twitter update:

the fact that only 180 of the 5000 Lex Tweeters or so are following @AdamsDrafting weakens my faith in the legal profession

Venkat’s generous tweet got me thinking. My relatively limited Twitter following comes as no surprise, as it seems to match the extent to which my stuff has made inroads in the contract-drafting world.

Among other indicia of traction, MSCD remains an ABA bestseller, and West has been pleased with the response to my webcasts. But my book and blog readers, webcast and seminar participants, and in-house seminar customers represent only a small fraction of the vast potential audience.

At the risk of sounding complacent, I don’t think my relatively low profile is a function of me or my work. Instead, I suspect that the market is reluctant to face two unpleasant truths: The first is that as a general matter, the language of mainstream contract drafting is dysfunctional, resulting in everyone’s wasting vast amounts of time and money, and there’s no easy fix. The second and related unpleasant truth is that anyone who has learned to draft by recycling the language of precedent is probably not as accomplished a drafter as they might think.

One small indication that the market is ambivalent about a rigorous approach to contract language is that this blog is every so often referred to as a “niche” blog. To me, “niche” connotes narrowness. It doesn’t just mean “specialized,” as pretty much every law blog is specialized.

So is this a niche blog? It’s the only blog devoted to contract drafting. Untold thousands of lawyers worldwide devote countless hours to contract drafting, and companies spend vast amounts of money on the contract process. To my mind, nothing about this blog, or the topic, screams “niche.” If this blog is considered a niche blog, perhaps it’s because many transactional lawyers are comfortable with the current dysfunction, regardless of the cost. Change is scary; if we ignore it, perhaps it will go away.

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.

3 thoughts on “Contract Drafting as a “Niche” Subject”

  1. Thanks for highlighting my tweet!

    I find this blog to be a valuable resource. My practice is about 70/30 between litigation and transactional work. What I like about this blog is that it constantly reminds us lawyers that we use less than optimal language when drafting, and there is plenty of room for improvement. I like the fact that you dig in and explain why certain language may be better then the alternative.

    The legal profession is slow to change, and really implementing the changes you suggest would take a commitment. But I’m not sure there’s an active resistance as such. I personally like it when people point out bad writing habits which I have. This helps me improve and put out a better product.

    I also think you are underestimating your reach. People are starting to throw around the term “MSCD,” in expectation that we all know what this refers to. I know I am!

  2. Ken:

    You know, it always surprises me how bad the contract drafting skills are among lawyers in areas where they don’t do drafting every day. Take litigators, for example. You’d think that, not being deluged with examples of bad writing all day long, they might at least be naive to bad drafting. Sadly, they must pick it up by reading cases or something.

    I’d think there is a market for a course called “contract drafting for people who don’t do it daily.”


  3. Chris: What’s fun about what I do is that one size fits all—I think pretty much everyone should it useful. Ken


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