Creating an Online Set of Materials for Teaching Contract Drafting

My thoughts are turning back towards teaching. In particular, wearing my Mr. Commoditize hat, I’ve been considering how one of the big problems with teaching contract drafting is the improvised nature of it all.

You have practitioners teaching it, some of them perhaps imparting to their charges a grab-bag of conventional wisdom. You have legal-writing people teaching it, some of them perhaps not grasping the dramatic difference between litigation writing and the software-code world of contract drafting.

And currently, the materials available for those teaching contract drafting aren’t comprehensive enough.

So what I’d like to do is develop a set of online materials that would be made available to law schools throughout the country and, ultimately, beyond. It would in effect constitute a turnkey course in contract drafting.

The materials would include the following:

  • syllabuses for one-, two-, and three-credit courses
  • problem sets for class discussion
  • a broad and constantly updated selection of written assignments (together with password-protected annotated model answers)
  • reference analyses of key topics
  • video clips by practitioners

The site would also offer ContractExpress document-assembly templates, compiled by moi, for “boilerplate” provisions and a confidentiality agreement. They would allow students to sample a more efficient approach to contract drafting, and they would also provide students with the highest-quality version of the most basic provisions and the most common kind of contract. (One way to encourage quality contract drafting is to expose students to lots of quality contract language.)

The foundation of the site would be A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. I don’t know how one could teach contract drafting without incorporating a set of guidelines for the building blocks of contract language. You might as well ask students to build a grand edifice with mud bricks.

In designing the site and putting the materials together, I’d be assisted by an editorial board drawn from law firms, company law departments, and law schools.

Initial inquiries suggest that you wouldn’t have schools pay for access to the site. Instead, students would pay, just as they pay for course books.

The idea wouldn’t be to undercut the role of the instructor. Instructors would obviously be entitled to customize the materials as they see fit. But it’s important to recognize that it’s impossible to consider the effectiveness of an instructor apart from the quality of materials that the instructor uses. If the materials are lacking, the course will be lacking. That’s particularly true in the case of contract drafting, which is only now emerging from a primitiveness akin to witchcraft.

How might I make this happen? Well, I’d need backing, as I’m not about to embark on such a project on spec. I could imagine teaming up with some combination of one or more law schools, continuing-legal-education vendors, publishers, law firms, and bar associations.

If this is of interest, you know where to get hold of me.

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.