Toward a New Language of Legal Drafting

By Roach, Matthew | The Journal of High Technology Law, October 2016 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Language of Legal Drafting


Roach, Matthew, The Journal of High Technology Law


Contents

1. The Problem

1.1. what got me thinking

1.2. How lawyers draft and publish contracts

1.3. Why this is a problem

2. Solution

2.1. Thinking about the roles that contracts perform

2.2. More functional contracts

3. What This Could Look Like

3.1. Key Elements

3.2. Authoring in a legal markup language

3.3. Sharing content like a coder

3.4. What it could look like in practice: construction contracts

4. Possible Objections

4.1. Lawyers can't or won't draft like this

4.2. This won't be effective without industry-wide standards

4.3. This can be done as well or better within traditional word processors

4.4. The structure is vulnerable to changes in technology

5. How This Compares to What Others are Doing

6. Conclusion

List of Figures

1. Example clause

2. Example clause with markup

3. How a software interface can refer the author to other elements in their document, as they type

4. Example of a change to a HTML document tracked by GitHub

5. Screenshot of ContractExpress Author (BusinessIntegrity 2015)

List of Tables

1. Description of tags used in Figure

2. Examples of legal XML development

3. Examples of companies providing contract automation services

4. Examples of companies providing legal data analytics

1. The Problem

1.1. What got me thinking

A common experience of being a lawyer that you don't think much about process improvement or product design. The key focus for many lawyers is meeting client needs as quickly as possible and billable hour targets. Having been a transactional lawyer for several years, I had never thought of drafting contracts in anything other than Microsoft Word.

When I started my LLM I met math and engineering students, who were involved in various forms of data analytics, machine learning and natural language processing. They showed me their projects and the software tools they were using. I realized that in other disciplines, people are adept at switching between the languages of math, coding or natural language, often within a single document, in order to use the tool best adapted to the task at hand.

Taking classes in design, technology and law, I began to think about the potential for changing how we generate and access legal content. I began to reflect on how we access content in various forms through technology, and how far the design and accessibility of legal content lags behind what we now take for granted everywhere else. This paper explores the thought that there is an enormous potential functionality that can be added to legal content if lawyers make modest efforts to add machine readable structure to their drafting. Lawyers would enjoy learning new skills, and clients and lawyers alike would be excited to discover how the way they produce and access legal content could be transformed.

This paper discusses what authoring in a markup language might look like, some of the advantages that this could have, and some of the barriers to implementation. A related question is what it would take to shift lawyer behavior to this style of writing, and what transitional steps might be appropriate. This could be the subject of further work.

1.2. How lawyers draft and publish contracts

Lawyers draft documents in word processors that focus on formatting and final appearance, usually Microsoft Word. Their documents are almost universally accessible and editable by the lawyer's clients, the other side and the courts. Following initial preparation by a lawyer, a draft contract may be emailed back and forth many times, with the parties making and tracking various changes.

once the parties agree the terms, a junior associate tidies up the formatting of the document, prints it out and walks around town getting it signed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Toward a New Language of Legal Drafting
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.