Upcoming “Drafting Clearer Contracts” Seminars, Plus Thoughts on Some Negative Feedback

I’m gearing up for the fall seminar season. Here are the public “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminars I’ll be giving through the end of the year:

I hope to see some of you at these sessions.

I’ve also been looking over the feedback from the first part of the year. Most participants found the seminar worthwhile, giving feedback that’s consistent with the testimonials on this page [link no longer available].

But I’ve come to expect that half the time, someone will leave a seminar disgruntled. I’ve found it instructive to examine the feedback from any such unhappy camper, to see how I might win over anyone who comes to future seminars prepared to have a similar reaction.

With that in mind, here’s the gist of what one unhappy (and anonymous) participant had to say, along with how I might have responded, had I known that participant’s name:

Adams is a rebel, so following his advice is risky: Sure, many guidelines in MSCD run counter to the conventional wisdom. But that doesn’t increase risk—instead, following MSCD‘s recommendations allows you to reduce risk, in that you’re drafting clearly, rather than using opaque traditional language and relying courts to sort out any confusion.

I wouldn’t be able to implement the changes Adams recommends: The only obstacles to making the changes I recommend are lack of time and lack of authority. If you find yourself drafting contracts for a traditionalist, then of course you have to give them what they want. But in that situation, the MSCD approach would still add value—you’d focus on those contexts where a traditional usage could pose real problems, and you’d let slide other infelicities.

Adams isn’t into “plain language”: Sure, I’m a “plain language” guy. But I prefer not to use that label, because in some people’s minds it’s associated with the movement to simplify consumer documents, rather than business contracts. Instead, I refer to using “standard English.”

The seminar was too basic: What are you looking for? This seminar address how to say clearly and efficiently whatever you want to say in a contract. As such, it’s suitable for all levels of experience, because much of what I have to say comes as a surprise to even experienced drafters. Sure, we cover some basic stuff—that’s because drafters get a lot of basic stuff wrong. But if you’re looking for advice on substantive matters—how to handle disclaimer of warranties, what to put in an arbitration provision, etc.—this isn’t the seminar for you.

In responding to questions from participants, Adams shoots from the hip and is dismissive: When I respond to questions and comments from participants, I’m under two constraints. First, usually I can’t devote much time to a given question or comment. And second, the foundation of my approach to contract language is that for any given drafting goal, there will be one most efficient approach and a bunch of also-rans, and nothing is gained by my mollycoddling anyone. But evidently to some people I come across as abrupt or flip. That’s something I’ll continue to work on.

Adams is arrogant: As sad as it might seem, studying the building blocks of contract language is my grand passion. I try to share with seminar participants some of that passion—if I didn’t, things would get dull pretty quickly for all concerned. And sure, I’m no shrinking violet. So far my seminar persona has worked out fine, but I’ll keep an eye out for signs of bumptiousness.

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.