It’s Possible to Change How a Law Firm Drafts Contracts

We know that in general, BigLaw contract drafting leaves a lot to be desired. We also know that when it comes to changing how they draft contracts, law firms face greater obstacles than do companies. (See this article.)

But change is possible: at least one Australian law firm that I know of, Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King & Wood Mallesons), devoted considerable resources to converting to “plain language” drafting, starting in 1986. Go here for a copy of Using Plain Language in Law Firms, 73 Mich. Bar. J. 48 (1994). It’s by Edward Kerr, the Mallesons partner who managed the project, and it describes how they went about it.

Whether any U.S. firm ever undertakes such a project depends on whether there’s enough carrot and stick to overcome the dead weight of inertia. But first, you have to be open to the possibility of change. The example of Mallesons shows what can be accomplished.

On the other hand, I recall that about a dozen years ago, Jones Day apparently embarked on a grand template project of some sort that was scuppered after a mutiny in the ranks. I don’t know whether Jones Day’s project aimed to improve quality, but it shows that significant change, of whatever sort, has to be managed carefully.

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.