I find it salutary to be reminded periodically why I do what I do. Today I received an email from a reader based in England that had that effect. Here’s the relevant part:
I felt obliged to write an email to you.
Thank you. I’m a London-based fan of your work. Many of the complaints you raise with how drafting is taught to young lawyers chimed loudly with me. My perception is that there are three challenges in drafting—what is the concept you need to communicate, what legal issues are associated with that concept and what language should be used in communicating it. Challenges 1 and 2 come from legal education, thought and on-going learning. This is all well covered by my pre-career training and general intellectual pursuit of law. Challenge 3 is, as you say, taught by rote or by copying. My concern has always been that this does not teach principles, and without principles my job is mostly about filling in blanks.
Having now worked a lot with your book and blog, I feel I’ve learnt the basic principles. Your chapter on types of language of contractual drafting should, I believe, be obligatory reading for anyone out of law school. And now that I’ve begun to have a better sense of how contractual drafting works, I’m not intimidated by it as if the existing document is some kind of set in stone specimen of how things are, but rather something for me to grapple with, rework and present as the product of my own understanding of how it should work. My supervisor may not agree, but I will have arguments in support of my position stronger than ‘because it is in the precedent.’
So, as I said, thank you. There are many aspects of being a lawyer that I love. The high expectations, the need to really understand things, working for clients. But only now am I beginning to work out a system, based on your recommendations, of how to present all that in what ultimately is a lawyer’s ‘product’.