Posts Tagged ‘explanations’

Who Needs Legalese?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

By Brian Taylor Goldstein, Esq.


Dear Law and Disorder:

I need to add language to a contract that says that if we have to reschedule due to snow, we have the right to do so. What language do I need?

You need language that says: “If we have to reschedule due to snow, we have the right to do so”

Seriously, you don’t need legalese. You only need English. There are many people who believe that drafting a contract involves taking something simple, adding a lawyer, and producing something no one can understand. In truth, most legalese is really just bad writing. On the other hand, what people often mistake as “legalese” is really additional details and specificity that they may not have thought of. Whereas lawyers tend to take simple concepts and mangle them into undecipherable run-on sentences and tortured verbiage, normal people, in an effort to avoid legalese, all too often over-simplify complex concepts, leave important terms undefined, or exclude critical clarifications.

The sole point of a contract is to convey the terms that will govern a relationship as accurately and completely as possible so that all the parties can have an opportunity to review and evaluate all the various aspects of their relationship—ideally, before agreeing to enter into the relationship. This should include explanations of nuances and details. Too often, its not help with the language people need, but help sorting through the details. Such details, however, need not be buried beneath piles of arcane and confusing terminology. Rather, they just need to be spelled out.  For example, in your case, do only you have the right to cancel due to snow? What if the other party is snowed in? Can they reschedule, too? Is this limited to snow? What if the problem is ice, not snow? Or a flood or storm? Who gets to decide the reschedule date? What if the other party already is booked to do something else on that date? What if you have already booking a flight and will incur a fee to change it? An equally simple way of phrasing your right to reschedule, but which addresses all of these details, might be as follows: “Either party shall have the right to cancel due to inclement weather. In such case, the parties agree to reschedule on a next mutually available date. Each party will bear its own expenses incurred in the event of such rescheduling.”


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