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Putting a law firm’s precedents into plain language - Daphne Perry

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  • 1. Putting a law firm’s precedents into plain language
    Daphne Perry
    Lisbon | 13 October
  • 2. The law firm
  • 3. Denton Wilde Sapte
    • Big
    • 4. Commercial
    • 5. International
    • 6. Convinced plain language is good for our clients.
  • Client feedback
    “Ambiguity costs my company money.  Counterparties will exploit it.  We only want the minimum ambiguity that lets you move on in negotiations.”
  • 7. Clients whose customers demand plain language
    “Plain language is very important to our organisation. All our policies have the Plain English stamp and that is what we try to achieve in our bespoke contracts.”
  • 8. International business
    “We deal with clients all over the world. For some, English is very much a second language – it can be quite challenging.”
    “I try and write things plainly, knowing that at some point on the circulation list there will be a reader whose first language isn’t English.”
  • 9. In-house lawyers
    “A big part of our job is summarising. Presenting something to us that takes the minimum amount of work to present to the business people - that gets our vote.”
  • 10. More client feedback
    “I like Denton Wilde Sapte because there must be someone beating you up to make your advice understandable.”
  • 11. The precedents project
  • 12. Which precedents first?
  • 13. Organising the work
  • 14. Legal issues
  • 15. Legal issues
    (from another law firm in the UK top 100)
    Without prejudice to any other right or remedy we may have, we reserve the right to set off any amount owing at any time
    by you to us, whether under this Agreement or any other agreement which may exist from time to time between us, against any amount payable by you to us under this Agreement.
    (56 words)
  • 16. Legal issues
    Without prejudice to any other right or remedy we may have, we reserve the right to set off any amount owing at any time
    by you to us, whether under this Agreement or any other agreement which may exist from time to time between us, against any amount payable by you to us under this Agreement.
  • 17. Setting standards
  • 18. Setting standards
    • Average sentence length
    maximum 20 words
    • Passive verbs
    maximum 30% - but 10% would have been more helpful
    • Total style points measured by StyleWriter software
    maximum 40 in every 100 sentences.
  • 19. Measuring success
  • 20. Measuring success
  • 21. Measuring success
    Before
    Time shall be of the essence as regards the times and dates referred to in Clause ** and as regards any times and dates which may be substituted for them by agreement between the parties.
    34 words, Style index 88 (Poor)
  • 22. Measuring success
    After
    The times and dates referred to in Clause **, and any agreed substitutes, are of the essence of this Agreement.
    19 words, Style index 0 (Excellent)
  • 23. What next?
  • 24. no more for now
    Daphne.Perry@clarifynow.co.uk