I Don’t “Tweak” Templates

A few months ago someone contacted me about redrafting their organization’s template confidentiality agreement. It was a simple enough matter, and after some back and forth, I was ready to start.

Then I had a phone call with a colleague of my initial contact. I soon gathered that this person didn’t have in mind my redrafting the template. Instead, I would be “tweaking” it—giving it some sort of plain English veneer. The call ended quickly.

Perhaps in some contexts, if you’re under some sort of constraint, “tweaking” a template makes sense. But if you ask me to improve one of your templates, there’s no saying in advance what I’m going to find when I review the template, and what I’m going to recommend changing. If you put constraints on that change, you’re essentially saying that you want a cosmetic fix.

And as a practical matter, if you want to improve a standard commercial contract, it’s going to be way quicker, and less expensive, if I simply plug in my language instead of performing surgery on yours. The result might be that you change a lot of words and relatively little of the substance, but there’s no reason to cling to the current language.

So no tweaking! :-)

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 “I Don’t “Tweak” Templates”

  1. This. Times everything. Contracts, standard policies, etc. Can you make it into a tweet? Or better yet, a full-page NYT advertisement?

  2. What lawyer doesn’t get frequent requests to take a “quick look” at a contract or even just a provision? My wife, an Italian lawyer, gets requests for a “contrattino”(sorry about my spelling) or “little contract.” Some lawyers tweak contracts–or provide a curry review–as if those lawyers were serving as in-house counsel. Ken, if your “no tweak” policy is part of the basis of your consulting practice, you might want to consider explaining why you do not prefer to do surgery on existing agreements.


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