Put the Best People to Work on Your Templates

I wrote here about Shake, the app that allows you to “Create, sign and send legally binding agreements in seconds.” But this post isn’t about Shake. Instead, it’s about the following extract from this post about Shake for Android:

Obviously, more templates would help. You could probably find quite a few recent law grads who are desperate for work who would gladly draft templates that could be included with the app.

This reflects the standard assumption that it’s appropriate to have people at the bottom of the food chain do the bulk of the work on contract templates.

It’s clear what drives that assumption. Template work is infrastructure work, so it’s treated as a lower priority than day-to-day work. And at law firms, it’s nonbillable work, and no one with any clout wants to get stuck doing that. So you give it to junior people.

But there are two problems with that approach. First, there’s no way that “recent law grads” are going to have the foggiest idea what you should say in a template and how you should say it. They’ll simply rehash whatever precedent contracts they’re given. And the first draft of a contract sets the tone: it would probably take a lot of time to work into the resulting draft template the insight and judgment that it lacks. It might well make more sense to start over again.

Another problem is that treating a template project as a low priority suggests that you can expect it to fall by the wayside. The landscape is littered with the rusting hulks of abandoned template initiatives.

So the person driving a template initiative should be someone in your organization who is informed about contract language. And I don’t mean someone who is adept at recycling random conventional wisdom.

In fact, it might make most sense to hire a specialist. By working with the appropriate people in your organization, a specialist could probably do a better job, and get it done more quickly. (Yeah, yeah, disclosure: I’m a specialist.)

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.