Notes from the Road: Saudi Arabia

Last Sunday and Monday I gave back-to-back “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminars in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The seminars were held at the impressive offices of the Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration and were arranged by the Commercial Law Development Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce. My thanks to the SCCA for their gracious hospitality. My thanks also to CLDP for making the seminars possible, and to my minders at CLDP, James Filpi and Lucas Graf, for making sure it all went off without a hitch.

Around 500 people (!) applied to attend the seminars; the SCCA selected 50. Both groups were engaging, and they appeared to find the seminar worthwhile. I enjoyed seeing how some participants quickly demonstrated a basic grasp of what I’m trying to do with “the categories of contract language”—my framework for the different kinds of meaning expressed in contract provisions and the verb structures used to express them. (The easiest way to get a sense of the categories of contract language is to look at the draft “quick reference” in this blog post; the final version will be in the fourth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting.)

Why did I do the seminars? It wasn’t for money; the CLDP just covered my expenses. Instead, I did them for the same reasons I do any seminars in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. First, I’ll take any opportunity to spread the word in a country where what I do is less well known (although some participants at the Riyadh seminars have been reading my blog for years).

And second, I’ll happily do a seminar in a country that otherwise I likely would never have had the opportunity to visit. Most of my travel is of the airport-hotel-meeting-room sort, but engaging with seminar participants is by itself enjoyable and informative. And if I’m lucky, I’m also able to squeeze in a restaurant visit or two, and maybe even a run.

As it happens, in Riyadh, James, Lucas, and I were fortunate to have been able to spend an evening as guests of the Scientist’s Gift Program, a not-for-profit program that aims to introduce selected visitors to aspects of the culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

We were given a guided tour of Al Masmak fort in Riyadh, the site of an important episode in Saudi history—the storming of the fort in 1902 by King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. We strolled through a market, one result being that James, Lucas, and I were presented with local garb. (Clearly, I’m no Omar Sharif!) The evening ended with a delicious Saudi meal.

My thanks to our attentive and gracious guide, Abdulaziz Al-Shoumar. I expect that his goal was simply that we end the evening with a somewhat broader view of Saudi culture, as compared to whatever ideas we had casually picked up over the years. If that was the case, he can—speaking for myself—consider the evening a success.


(Go here for all my “Notes from the Road” posts.)

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.

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