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What It Takes to Be a Great Contract Drafter, by Ken Adams, Adams On Contract Drafting


If you write or work with contracts, this is a “must read” post by Ken Adams. Drafting a good contract is a special type of legal writing. A good, solid contract is a work of art. Also, please don’t ignore the Comments at the end of the post. There’s more good information there as well. -CCE

Here’s what it takes to be a great contract drafter:

Know the deal mechanics. As a drafter, it’s your job to express the transaction in a way that advances your client’s interests most effectively. You can’t do that unless you’re aware of the full range of options for structuring the deal. I don’t mean to suggest that you yourself have to possess that information—it’s enough if you’re able to pick the brains of people with that information.

Know the law. With some transactions, there’s no need for the law to rear its head in the contract. In other transactions, it would be appropriate, or necessary, for the law to feature in the contract. I discuss that in this 2013 post. As drafter, it’s your job to figure out what role, if any, the law plays in your transaction. Again, it’s enough if you can get that information from others.

Follow a comprehensive style guide. You don’t follow a comprehensive set of guidelines for the building blocks of contract language? Sorry, you’re not a great drafter. You’re not even a good drafter. Instead, you’re parroting whatever contract language you copy, which is likely dysfunctional. You’re following conventional wisdom, which more often than not is bogus. Don’t throw at me your education, your reputation, your long list of publications, your compensation, your track record as a dealmaker. They’re all beside the point. Of course, the only set of guidelines out there is A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, but don’t hold that against me. I’m not stopping anyone else from producing their own comprehensive set of guidelines. And following my guidelines isn’t rocket science. . . .