Why You Shouldn’t Draft Your Own Contracts
I’ve always been a consummate student of languages. I began studying Japanese in high school and subsequently studied it in college along with a year of Chinese. I figured that since Japanese and Chinese used many similar characters, Chinese would be a cake walk. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While I could easily get the gist of something written in Chinese due to the similar characters, full comprehension was a completely different story.
When a non-lawyer drafts a contract, it’s a lot like a student of Japanese trying to translate something written in Chinese. Yes, contracts are written in English, but the words and phrases in contracts (legalese, as some call it) contain meanings and hundreds of years of precedent that are not apparent on the surface. You essentially need someone who speaks the language of contracts to draft (and review) your contracts for you.
It’s not only important to understand the contents of a contract, it’s also important to know when something is missing. Fill in this blank: “You’ve got a snowball’s chance in _______.” Now fill in this blank: “You’ve got ________’s chance. Unless you’ve lived in Australia, you wouldn’t know what the second one means because, yes, you speak English, but you’re not versed in Australian culture, so you have no way of knowing what is missing.
The same is true in your contracts. You can read English just fine. But you don’t have a legal education and years of practice in handling business disputes in court. So you don’t know what’s missing when you read your contract. And while it doesn’t matter whether you know Australian figures of speech, missing something in your contract could cost you big.
Thousands of breach of contract cases are filed all over the country every year. That means someone is fighting over what a contract says. If you end up in court with your contract, do want to have one written by someone who speaks the language or do you want to be like the guy who speaks Japanese trying to order dinner in Chinese?
Answer: You’ve got Buckley’s chance.