Contracts vary in their structure, complexity and goals, but they can safely be defined as legally binding agreements between two or more parties made voluntarily. They are frequently multi-layered and subject to endless back and forth negotiations before they are finally executed, but they share a similar language that helps streamline their creation. It is important to always read and understand exactly what is expected of you before signing a contract, but with a handy glossary of basic contracting terms, you can get know at a glance the terms you’ll see more than once during the contracting process.
While every contract has unique characteristics specific to the commercial transaction, there are certain features that lend themselves to standardization. Indeed, most contracts have been assembled by business and legal teams with a ton of “cutting and pasting” from various contract templates; however, with a lack of systemic control. This can create what is known as content customization, worse yet and a ‘legal exception’ given the amount of complexity and risk a simple word change can generate. That is, content changes in the document assembly process can trigger a significant change in the intent or context and not be caught by the ‘naked eye’ in such process. So, if your company is a behemoth, or the proverbial “800 pound gorilla”, then maybe you can get away with just locking down your assembly process so no internal changes can be made. And even not allow for editing or negotiation with your counterparty.
Contract standardization has a history that is almost as long as contracts themselves. Due to the complexity of contracts as well as to the legal aspects of contracts, businesses and individuals have long used standardization practices in conjunction with all phases of the contract practice, from what contracts say to how they are presented and approved.
Modern legal language and the future of legal drafting
A push towards Plain English language and a push back?
Read Parts 1 and 3 of this aricle series here: