Contract drafting is an essential skill for almost anyone working in the field of law. One of the greatest skills you learn in law school is writing. Whether you have a successful career or you’re still studying, you can attest to the importance of writing in the work of a lawyer. Writing contracts is not an exception!
There are many different elements that go into drafting a successful contract. With the rise of technology, people have begun to rely on legal document software for routine tasks connected with their writing and editing needs.
While software can dramatically increase the accuracy of your writing, save your time, and help you avoid typos and silly mistakes, it won’t do the writing for you. Here are some basic principles you should follow when drafting contracts!
The contracting parties
The contracting parties are those individuals and businesses the contract is written for and about. The contract creates a legal relationship between the parties and both parties must obey the terms of the contract.
Both parties must be able to perform their obligations and have a fair say in the terms of the contract. Keep in mind that the first draft of the contract rarely makes it to the end. Both parties will likely suggest changes to the contract before they are ready to sign.
The purpose of the contract
Before you get to drafting, you need to understand the main purpose of the contract. In business law, most contracts are centered around financial gain. Those are typical contracts between vendors and clients or business partners. Thus, you need to identify the purpose of the contract you are drafting and put it into words. Speaking of words…
When you get to writing the actual contract, you need to pay close attention to the words and phrases you use. It is common sense that inaccurate terminology can deem the contract invalid.
However, that’s not all you need to pay attention to. The same word used in two different industries may have two completely different meanings. Thus, you need to be familiar with the industry you are writing for.
In addition to that, it is important to avoid terminology that is vague or unclear. Unclear phrasing may cause problems for the parties in the future and create a conflict in court. Be sure to double-check all the terminology and make the terms and conditions of the contract as clear as possible. Leave no questions unanswered.
Terms and conditions
The terms and conditions of the contract define the rights and obligations of the contracting parties. In other words, each party promises to conduct certain actions and vows to not conduct others, expecting something in return. All the actions that are expected from both parties should be written out in-depth in the terms and conditions part of the contract.
This is the part that is often taken from templates. Why would you write something from scratch if you’ve already written it before? There is no shame in using templates; in fact, they are very effective in contract drafting and editing. However, make sure that your temples are up-to-date and relevant to the particular contact you are drafting. Thus, you would hardly use a prenuptial agreement template for a contract initiated between two business partners.
Each contract will have a number of dates. The first and most important date would be the date the contract goes into effect. Another important date is the termination date. The termination date tells us the date when the contract will no longer be effective. Following that date, you need to include the terms of termination. In other words, what happens after? Will the contract be automatically renewed? Keep in mind that sometimes contracts end before the termination date.
Here is a final tip: Get some help from technology! There are plenty of different contract editing programs that can help you spot mistakes and keep the formatting consistent. Pay close attention to details that need double-checking, such as phone numbers, addresses, and names. The software can help you with typos and errors in terminology, but you still need to put the work in. The software is here just to assist you in the workflow.
Contract drafting may seem repetitive once you get a steady inflow of clients. At the same time, it is always different. You can play with types of contract clauses, terms and conditions, dates, and more. Even if you’re simply updating an older contract, you need to make sure all the details are still relevant, and the contract is up-to-date.