• Thu. Nov 30th, 2023

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Traditional legal contract writing fails everyone – time for change

International and UK-based commercial lawyers are being encouraged to break with a legal language that is archaic, wordy, and unclear.

International legal specialist Ken Adams says drafting in the transactional world is full of copying from precedent contracts of questionable quality and relevance. As a result, businesses waste time and money, hurt their competitiveness, and assume unnecessary risk.

“Traditional contract prose is embarrassingly dysfunctional”, he says. “We should work to eliminate whatever makes a contract harder to read and understand.”

He says it isn’t just a matter of lawyers making contracts more accessible to others: “Traditional contract writing fails everyone, including lawyers.”

Ken isn’t shy about taking the battle to traditionalists. Recently he described the English approach to use of ‘efforts’ provisions in contracts – an approach endorsed by pillars of the English legal community – as “intellectually bankrupt.”

Based in New York, Ken has built a career promoting clear and concise English when drafting contracts. In addition to his consulting work, he gives seminars in the US, Canada, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East. According to the Canadian periodical, The Lawyers Weekly, “In the world of contract drafting, Ken Adams is the guru.”

He is one of four keynote speakers at the high-profile, inaugural Legal English Event being held at The Law Society, London, on November 1-2. He will touch on some of the topics covered in detail in his bestselling book, A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, published by the American Bar Association. All delegates will receive a complimentary copy of his book.

This event is the first of its kind anywhere in the world, focussing on the legal, language and tech skills that international commercial lawyers will need in the next decade. The event is tailored to those who work at a global level, international law firms, international law students whose first language isn’t English, universities and large corporates.

During the two-day event there will be four keynote presentations. In addition to Ken’s contribution, law tech specialist Alex Hamilton who will highlight the combined threat and opportunity posed by technology in the legal sector. The event will also feature a series of training workshops aimed at international lawyers working in English.

In addition, the organisers, Catherine Mason and Natalie Canham of TOLES Legal, will launch their latest book, Advanced Legal English. Participating in the international workplace requires a basic fluency in English. This practical and useful book helps international commercial lawyers approach that requirement with greater confidence. TOLES Legal operates training centres around the globe and develops English-language training materials with input from experienced, English-speaking, commercial lawyers.

Catherine Mason, director of TOLES, said: “Law firms have told us that even international law graduates holding a wide variety of English language certificates lack the level of English required to carry out essential legal tasks. TOLES materials and exams were developed in 2000 to address this problem head-on.

“In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it has never been more important for practising lawyers to have a good grasp of English so they can negotiate, interpret and explain commercial contracts. Those who don’t are likely to have trouble finding work.”

  • More details about this event can be found at:  https://www.toleslegal.com/the-legal-english-event-2018/