In Contract Drafting, “Grunt Work” Isn’t a Valuable Training Tool

[Update 13 May 2017: I should make it clear that I’m not suggesting that automated contract drafting is by itself enough to make one an informed drafter. Instead, my point is that comparing the two means of generating the bulk of contract text, automated contract drafting is a better vehicle for training than is copy-and-pasting. But by itself it’s not enough. You’d also need MSCD and whatever reliable subject-matter authorities are out there. And a mentor of some sort would be valuable too.]

Via Noah Weisberg (@nwaisb), I learned of this article on Quartz by Sarah Kessler. It’s entitled AI Will Rob Companies of the Best Training Tool They Have: Grunt Work. Here are the most relevant bits, for our purposes:

Here’s the problem, Engelbert says: “Where do [those middle-level employees] get that experience and judgment? That’s probably the number one thing I worry about as we shift our model.”

Reviewing endless contracts may may be tedious, but it’s also instructive. And without this entry-level experience, Deloitte will have to find new ways to train and develop middle-level employees. Companies across other industries will face a similar problem.

… All that grunt work is actually instructive for workers. And without any experience in the trenches to draw upon, that training will be hard to replicate.

That might be the case for contract review, but I suggest that it doesn’t apply to contract drafting. If we’re presented with a glorious future in which we draft contracts by answering an annotated online questionnaire (something that, by the way, has nothing to do with AI), no one should mourn the good old days of copy-and-paste.

Copy-and-pasting involves recycling, largely on faith, precedent contracts of questionable quality and relevance. You generally have little opportunity to learn much about the dysfunctional language you’re recycling, but you become unhealthily habituated to it. It’s all you know. And much of what you do learn is likely based on flimsy conventional wisdom.

So there’s little reward in all the drudgery that goes with cranking out drafts the copy-and-paste way. You’d learn way more by consulting the guidance offered in an annotated document-assembly questionnaire produced by someone reliable. You’d learn still more by consulting an output document containing high-quality contract prose revised to reflect answers selected in the questionnaire.

That sort of rigorous, concentrated training is also more systematic than most of what passes for mentoring these days.

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.