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Brevity in contract clauses: Lessons from writing legal briefs

A clause in a contract draft has much in common with a legal brief — the purpose of each is persuasion. In a contract negotiation, the first task of each clause is to persuade the other side’s contract reviewer not to delete it or drastically mark up its language. Brevity is a cardinal virtue in legal briefs; it’s no different with contract clauses:

  • Judges must read hundreds of legal briefs every year; likewise, contract reviewers must review hundreds of draft clauses.
  • Judges overwhelmingly prefer brevity in in the briefs they read; we have no reason to think contract reviewers feel any differently about draft clauses.

If we were to take a poll of contract reviewers, I suspect most would prefer to read a contract that, while somewhat longer, was composed mostly of short clauses.


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