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Forget short contracts – focus instead on short clauses

“Wow, this is a long contract!” Most lawyers have heard this from clients or counterparties.

True, sometimes contracts run too long because of overlawyering, where the drafter(s) try to cover every conceivable issue.

But too close a focus on contract length may obscure the more-important issue: contract readability.

This isn’t just a question of aesthetic taste. The more difficult a draft contract is to read and understand, the more time-consuming the review process, which delays the deal (and increases the legal expense).

Readability has little to do with how many pages a contract runs. Many negotiators would rather read a somewhat-longer contract, consisting of short, understandable sentences and paragraphs, than a shorter contract composed of dense, convoluted clauses.

(Short sentences and paragraphs also make it easier to cut out unneeded verbiage, as well as to save your work for later ‘mix and match’ reuse.)

So the better way to draft a contract is to write as many short sentences and paragraphs as are needed to cover the subject.

Even if the resulting draft happens to take up a few extra pages, your client will thank you for it.

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