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Free clause language for drafting use was the right choice

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it was a good call to make the Drafter’s Choice clause language free for people to use in their actual contracts [as distinct from use in automated systems, form collections, etc.].

• Encourage user contributions: In the long term, I want this site to become accepted as a standard repository of contract language, in essence an online form file for lawyers and other contract drafters. That will require contributions of clauses and commentary from people with expertise in all kinds of different substantive fields. Folks who draft useful contract clauses, however, and who have the expertise to explain them in commentary, are generally busy. I’m going to have to provide some sort of incentive for them to make time to contribute to the repository. Freeing the repository language for all to use should be at least some incentive — contributors will know that, in the future, they can more easily find (and re-use) their work product because it will be organized, indexed, and waiting for them here.

• Speed up standardization: A lack of standardized clause language of known, labeled content is doubtless one of the biggest causes of delay in contract negotiations. I want the clause language at this site eventually to evolve into that standard, so that both drafters and reviewers alike are comfortable saying, “let’s just use the Drafter’s Choice provisions.” Part of how to make that happen, I’m betting, is to make the clause language itself free for use by all comers in actual contract documents.

• Drive sales of premium features: This site is not just a hobby for me; I’ve put a good bit of time into it, and I hope to monetize it (sooner rather than later, I hope) by offering premium features for subscribers. Everything I’ve read suggests that the best way to drive premium sign-ups is to give away something for free to attract users. In this case, the clause content and associated commentary appear to be the logical candidates.

• It’d be hard to sell clause language anyway: There are a number of Web sites that offer contract language for free (much of it harvested from the SEC’s EDGAR database, it seems). Without widespread brand-name recognition, I doubt I’d have much luck selling the Drafter’s Choice clause language in competition with the free sites. Someday, of course, I hope to have widespread brand recognition; for now, though, that’s a chicken-and-egg problem. All in all, I don’t think I’m losing anything by giving the clause language away, and I might achieve the benefits listed above.