Writing in Contracts

Professor Alan White

I have two objectives in mind when giving writing assignments to students in the first-year Contracts class. The first objective is to support the basic learning and assessment that leads to the final exam. I usually have students work in groups to prepare case briefs, outline class material, and practice writing hypothetical case question responses, all of which support the basic doctrinal learning that needs to take place. I give feedback and allow redrafting for these assignments before assigning grade points.

My second objective is to introduce students to the special writing problems presented by contract drafting. Contract drafting, like statutory drafting, requires precision in organization, word choice, and syntax that develops both writing and thinking skills critical to effective lawyering in many areas of practice. I like to have at least one assignment that requires students to draft a very short text, usually only a paragraph or so, after we have covered material that helps students understand the problems and disputes that result from poor or ambiguous drafting.

This year I included student-drafted contract language from an assignment in a final exam problem, to show students the connection between drafting and the rules of contract interpretation they had learned.