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Drafting Skills for Lawyers

How to draft clearly and avoid ambiguity

Advanced Financial Issues in Acquisition Agreements Training Course

A Half-Day Course

  • Commercial management
  • Legal personnel
  • Contracts personnel

It is very easy for ambiguity to creep into drafting – maybe a sentence is a bit too long, maybe there is some inconsistent language, maybe the defined terms have not been used properly. This course is based around the seven deadly sins of drafting – avoid these and you will probably be fine. Then, after some redrafting exercises, it finishes with the ten commandments of clear drafting. Practise these and you will definitely be fine.

On completion of this course, delegates will:

  • Be able to state the seven deadly sins which lead to poor drafting
  • Be able to state the rules about maximum sentence length
  • Be able to use tabulation to deal appropriately with listed items, and create conjunctive and disjunctive tabulated sentences
  • Be able to redraft clauses with confidence
  • Be able to state the ten commandments that lead to effective and unambiguous drafting

Topic 1: Overview

  • Introduction – consideration of two negligence cases arising out of poor drafting, and the lessons we can learn from these cases
  • Aim: to show how easy it is for drafting to become potentially ambiguous

Topic 2: The seven deadly sins of legal drafting

  • Group discussion – how can we avoid committing these faux pas?
  • Aim: to show how easy it is for things to go wrong if we are not paying attention to detail

Topic 3: Preliminary redrafting exercises

  • Two redrafting exercises focusing on sentence length and the use of tabulation
  • Aim: to give delegates guidelines on how to split up information for reader clarity

Topic 4: Longer redrafting exercises

  • Four more challenging exercises based on real examples of legal drafting, featuring extracts from: (1) a property lease; (2) a share acquisition agreement; (3) a public sector supply contract; and (4) an undertaking to the court.
  • Aim: to give the delegates experience of identifying problems in drafting and in editing to deal with them

Topic 5: The ten commandments

  • Tutor presentation – ten points to go through before signing off on a piece of legal drafting
  • Group discussion on particular problems that the delegates have encountered
  • Aim: to give delegates a framework for producing consistently excellent drafting

Admitted in 1988, the trainer has many years of experience as a practising solicitor in planning and environmental law. He has worked at the Treasury Solicitors Department and three City Law firms, including Dentons. Since 2006, he has been in business as a trainer and consultant.

The trainer has worked across Europe and Asia to assess and deliver training for a variety of organisations including Baker & Mackenzie, Reed Smith, Addleshaw Goddard, Hogan Lovells, WS Atkins, Cambridge University, and the Civil Service.

The trainer has designed and delivered a range of courses including; Negotiation skills, writing and drafting, presentation skills, project management for lawyers, people management (including appraisals), managing across cultural boundaries, recruitment and interviewing, and equal opportunities.

Legal drafting is a core skill for solicitors, but one that is taught in quite a cursory way in the legal education system. Many lawyers also blur the lines between everyday writing and legal drafting, but really they should be seen as distinct disciplines. Writing a client email often involves summarising complex legal concepts in broad terms, whereas of course legal drafting requires more detail and a stricter approach.

This course is based around a series of redrafting exercises, based on real life examples of legal drafting. The delegates will be given clear guidelines on how to draft unambiguously, together with lots of hands-on experience and tutor feedback.

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