Would Contract Drafters Benefit from Using WordRake?

WordRake describes itself as “The first legal editing software for lawyers.” Here’s how it works:

Compose in Word, hit the “RAKE” button, and in seconds, WordRake editing software for attorneys suggests edits for a more powerful statement. You’ll instantly see that WordRake law office software saves time and money, and gives you the confidence your brief, contract, or memorandum is as clear and concise as you can make it.

When a reader asked me what I thought of WordRake, I recalled having spoken with the founder, Gary Kinder, a few years ago. Bob Ambrogi gave WordRake a try and wrote about it in this LawSites post, but I thought I should check it out from a contracts perspective.

So I signed up for the free three-day trial and I ran through WordRake two versions of a contract I know well—the “before” and “after” versions of the “golden parachute” termination agreement included as appendix 1-A and appendix 1-C in the third edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. WordRake proposed the same sorts of changes to both versions:

  • under instead of in accordance with
  • deletion of instances of that
  • because of instead of as a result of
  • deletion of instances of the amount of
  • regarding instead of with respect to
  • after termination of this agreement instead of after the date of termination of this agreement
  • deletion of instances of as in effect
  • to determine instead of for purposes of determining

In MSCD terms, these changes would all fall under “drafting as writing.” In the grand scheme of things, they’re trivial. WordRake isn’t capable of identifying the dozens of other issues that caused me to thoroughly rewrite appendix 1-A and turn it into appendix 1-C.

On the other hand, most fixes that WordRake proposed were worth considering. And making at least some of them would have shaved a few words off of appendix 1-C and made it marginally more concise.

So here’s where I come out on this: Comments made to the manuscript of MSCD3 by a squad of volunteers confirmed the obvious: my prose isn’t perfect. No one’s is; we all would benefit from having an extra set of eyes to point out the annoying tics in one’s prose. In fact, it would be best to have several sets of eyes reviewing your work. Consider WordRake just one level of review, one dedicated to reminding you of some basic ways to make your prose less flabby.

How much value you would attribute to that would presumably depend on how accomplished a writer you are. And trust me—no one is as accomplished as they think they are. It wouldn’t take much for WordRake to be worth the $99 it costs to use it for a year, whether for contract drafting or for all your writing. One year might well be enough. As Bob Ambrogi says in his post, “Use it for a year and, who knows, you may learn enough that you will not need a second year.”

It’s likely that some of WordRake’s proposed changes won’t work. Below are some recommendations it made to an article I’m working on:

Lawyers are fond of using strings of synonyms or near-synonyms in contracts, often because they can’t be bothered to pick the right word or because they think that more words means less risk.

Instead, the dysfunction is due to the nature of business transactions.

That can be achieved by using information technology—more specifically, document-assembly software—to turn contract drafting into a process of answering an annotated online questionnaire.

The result is prose that is markedly odd and potentially confusing.

It might result in might cause someone looking over your shoulder.

This kind of false positive occurred much less often in WordRake’s review of the termination agreement; they’re more likely to occur in prose that’s more freewheeling than contract language. I ended up rejecting around around three-quarters of the changes WordRake proposed for my draft article. But you can simply ignore proposed changes that don’t make sense; those that do make sense are the ones that matter.

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.