You’re Not a Specialist

Yes, I can see that you’re vehemently opposed to a recommendation I’ve made on a topic of interest to you. And yes, I know that you’ve been doing deals for twenty years.

The problem is, for twenty years you’ve been relying on conventional wisdom. For twenty years, you’ve been paying the price for the lack of anything resembling coherent commentary on the building blocks of contract language. You’ve been paying the price for the lack of rigorous training.

I don’t doubt that you’re highly knowledgeable in your particular field. But that doesn’t mean you’re capable of creating clear and effective contracts for your transactions, any more than knowing how to drive makes you a mechanic.

Me, I know next to nothing about your field. Instead, I explore the building blocks of contract language—it’s my livelihood and my mission. I’ve written copiously on the subject. I’m blessed with a semantic acuity that allows me to cut through the clutter and propose effective alternatives. And I’m possessed of sufficient determination to offer a thorough analysis of a particular issue, then revisit it repeatedly over the years.

And I’ve heard you out, but the notions you hold so dear are just variations on tired old conventional wisdom.

I’m in the business of trying to change minds, but ultimately I’m indifferent whether you in particular accept my recommendations. But for your own benefit, you might want to set aside your complacency or umbrage, whichever it is. Have you really considered my analysis? Are you just relying on that canard, the notion that you have to stick with “tested” contract language?

It might be that you’re simply too busy being successful at what you do to devote much time to what I do. That’s OK. In fact, I think you’d be wasting your time trying to reinvent my wheel. We can’t be expert at everything that touches on what we do. Instead, we rely on specialists.

Relying on specialists necessarily involves a leap of faith, given that the whole point of specialists is that they know more than you. In that regard, I hope my credentials inspire some confidence. I think I have my field essentially to myself.

So you have a choice: You and your organization can stick with dysfunction and chaos. You can continue wasting time and money and assuming unnecessary risk. Or you can take a deep breath and accept my guidelines. I’d be open to suggesting that you consider another set of guidelines, except that no other plausible set of guidelines exists.

If something really troubles you, ask me about it. Or discard it. But A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting is in its third edition. I’ve weeded out anything that didn’t make sense.

You could pick and choose from among recommendations. But that sounds like work. And you’d be trying to be what you’re not, when it comes to the building blocks of contract language—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.