Using “So” in the Lead-In?

Yesterday I saw this tweet:

Hardly a shocking proposition, but it brought to mind the one place in a contract that features therefore, the lead-in:

The parties therefore agree as follows:

So why not use so instead:

So the parties agree as follows:

I said as much on Twitter. That attracted the attention of notorious troll and denizen of the Darknet, @IPDraughts:

But the lead-in comes after recitals that state, in straightforward narrative prose, anything that the reader would benefit from knowing before leaping into the body of the contract. As such, a therefore or so simply greases the skids of narrative.

As regards the choice between therefore and so, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, I don’t use therefore much in my regular prose, so why cling to it for contracts? On the other hand, contract prose is limited and stylized, so there’s no point in pretending that it’s like everyday English. For example, I don’t use contractions in a contract (see this post). Is so too casual for contracts? That seems unlikely. I suspect that resistance to so, on anyone’s part, would be a function of resistance to change.

Mind you, change for the sake of change isn’t great either. It might be that the benefit of changing from therefore to so isn’t worth the disruption.

I’ll ponder, but I suspect that this is the sort of change that, once you think of it, acquires an air of inevitability. What do you think?

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.