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Why Are Legal Documents So Long And Complicated?

13th May 2019

Why Are Legal Documents So Long And Complicated?

One question I’m often asked as a lawyer is why legal documents have to be so wordy and convoluted, and not written in plain English? It’s a fair question, because lots of contracts, Terms & Conditions, wills and so on, do seem lengthy and convoluted. Apple’s iTunes licence agreement is notoriously 56 pages long.

But the answer to why a contract or other legal document is like that is simple.

It’s so that it has only one possible meaning. And so it says what the people who put their names to it actually mean.

Let’s say I agree to sell you a hundred widgets. If you’re expecting to receive a case of large blue widgets, but I actually send you some small green ones, then we’re both going to wish that we had been more exact in our agreement, and perhaps that the sale and purchase contract had been more detailed.

That leads to another reason why legal documents tend to be long and complex: so that there is no dispute about the meaning afterwards.

If you would like to make sure that the contracts and other documents you use in your business mean what they say – and say what you mean – then please get in touch.

Notes

For more information about drafting contracts and other agreements, click here.