Drafting contracts is one of the pleasures of practicing law. In what other profession will someone pay you by the hour to write? But if your contract ends up in court, you’d better be ready to defend your work. This article provides fifty simple tips for writing the contract that is so clear no one will want to litigate it. It’ll be the “Contract That Stays Out of Court.”
These tips apply to writing all kinds of contracts: sales contracts, lease agreements, employment contracts, licensing agreements. You name it. They even apply to stipulations and settlements in litigation. Wherever clarity and simplicity are important, these tips will guide you there. And appended to this article are some sample forms.
Before you write the first word…
- Ask your client to list the deal points. This can be in the form of a list, outline or narration. Doing this will help the client focus on the terms of the agreement.
- Engage your client in “what if” scenarios. A good contract will anticipate many possible factual situations and express the parties’ understanding in case those facts arise. Talking to your client about this will generate many issues you may not otherwise consider.
- Ask your client for a similar contract. Frequently, clients have had similar transactions in the past or they have access to contracts for similar transactions.
- Search your computer for a similar form. Many times you can find a similar form used in a prior deal. It may be one you prepared for another client or one you negotiated with another lawyer. Just remember to find and replace the former client’s name. Starting with an existing form saves time and avoids the errors of typing.
The Practical Lawyer
CLICK HERE for the free download of the full article, which was originally published in ALI CLE’s The Practical Lawyer.