Using MSCD in Law School

At my recent “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminar in Portland, Oregon, I met David Hill. Dave teaches contract drafting at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, so we chatted about what he does. By email, he followed up with some thoughts about how he uses A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting as part of his course:

I designed my Drafting Contracts course with the goal of teaching students to understand the fundamentals of drafting so that they might adapt to challenges of drafting in a variety of contexts and settings.

When choosing a textbook for the course, A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting stood out from others by identifying fundamental categories of contract language and constructing consistent, logical rules for their use. With those rules in place, I have been able to use assignments of various complexity to test student understanding of the fundamentals and create opportunities to practicing drafting throughout the course.

Additionally, in conjunction with your blog, MSCD allows my class to engage in the marketplace of ideas regarding use of contract language so that they can enter practice with the information necessary to make informed choices rather than simply replicating precedent. My students also rely on MSCD as a desk reference for practice, especially when addressing questions of selected usages and avoiding ambiguity.

I didn’t write MSCD with teaching in mind, so I’m gratified that Dave and others have nevertheless found it useful. I can’t say I’m surprised: whether you’re at law school or practicing, you can’t expect to draft coherent contracts if you don’t understand the implications of the words and phrases you’re using.

But using MSCD for teaching requires some work to make it fit with your curriculum and assignments. Someday I’ll produce a full set of online materials, as I discussed in this 2014 post. But that will have to wait.

Until then, I’d be happy to send anyone who uses MSCD in a law-school course a copy of the “before” and “after” examples I use to discuss the categories of contract language.

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.