“Evolution”? “Revolution”? Whatever, Just Fix Contracts Already

Recently I noticed blog posts written by thoughtful people under the auspices of prominent names. One is The Evolution to Modern Legal, by Jason Barnwell; it’s on the Legal Evolution blog, which is edited by Bill Henderson. The other is is here; the other is We Need a Legal Revolution, Not Reformation, by Leigh Vickery; it’s a guest post on Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog.

I assume that there’s a readership for those posts, so  I intend no disrespect when I say that those posts and others like them don’t speak to me. By temperament, I don’t respond to broad strokes, to theory. That might be a character flaw. Instead, I have a mania for order. And when I encounter disorder, I try to fix it. My grand self-appointed task in that regard has been fixing contract language and, more broadly, contract substance and the contracts process.

Because I know what afflicts contracts, I also know what’s required to fix them. I have no need for broad strokes or theory, so it would be perverse of me to invoke them. Instead, I do whatever it’s within my power to do, and I do whatever cheerleading I can in an attempt to see that the rest gets done.

Now that my work on guidelines for effective contract language is mostly done, I’m moving on to bigger tasks. One is automation, which offers the only means to sweep away the current dysfunction. Through my work as an advisor to LegalSifter, I’m involved in automating the review process. And I continue working to build a constituency willing to devote resources to building a high-quality automated library of customizable contract templates.

I don’t know whether that work constitutes evolution, revolution, or something else. That matters if you’re interested in the view from high above. I have my nose to the grindstone, so all I care about is that the work gets done. The need is evident, and so is the way forward. Whether we make progress depends on whether people care enough.

I’m inclined to think that the more specific the polemic, the greater the chance that enough people will pay attention.

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.

1 thought on ““Evolution”? “Revolution”? Whatever, Just Fix Contracts Already”

  1. Here’s my concern about automated review of contracts. I often see contracts that are complete and utter hot messes. These are put together by non-lawyers, frankensteined from legal-sounding things they’ve found on the internet. The writing is poor, and the substance is even worse. These are the types of contracts where I tell the client it would be a lot cheaper for me to slide their draft into the shredder and start fresh. Can tools like legalsifter handle those types of contracts, or does smoke start billowing out of the machine (much like it billows out of my ears)?


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