Swiss Law Firms and My Seminars

In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Geneva for my intime public “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminars. For more information, go here. My wife and I lived in Geneva for three years in the 1990s, my daughter was born there, and my brother lives there, so I always enjoy visiting Geneva.

I’ve given perhaps a dozen seminars in Geneva to around 200 participants in total. On thing has nagged at me: only one of those participants was from a Swiss law firm. And no one from a Swiss law firm attended my one public seminar in Zurich.

By itself, that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, U.S. BigLaw has long been mostly immune to the charms of my public seminars. For example, participants at my recent New York seminar for Thomson Reuters included people from a big Canadian law firm and smaller U.S. law firms, but no one from BigLaw. Various factors might account for this:

  • Law firms that subscribe to a given CLE vendor might not be inclined to go outside that vendor.
  • Associates might be reluctant to lose valuable billable hours by spending a day outside the office.
  • Associates might be focused on giving the partners whatever they want instead of developing their skills.
  • Law firms might think they can handle in-house their training in contract drafting, although whatever they offer is unlikely to resemble my seminars.
  • Copy-and-pasting dysfunctional traditional language has been profitable for BigLaw, so perhaps they have little incentive to pay good money to listen to someone agitating for change.

Some combination of those factors might apply equally to Swiss law firms.

But Swiss lawyers working with traditional English-language contracts are working in a second language. If English is your second language, the traditional prose of contracts is likely to seem that much more obscure, and on matters of wording you’re more likely to defer to whatever native-English-speaker lawyers you find yourself working with. My seminars offer a comprehensive antidote to that, so I’m confident that lawyers at Swiss law firms would find a “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminar worthwhile.

Pandering to Traditionalists

I’ve been doing public and in-house “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminars for, oh, 14 years now. That’s because people find them worthwhile and, shockingly enough, somewhat entertaining. Otherwise, I would have gotten the hook long ago.

So the feedback is positive, but occasionally participants suggest I adjust my approach. For example, here’s what a participant at my recent New York seminar for Thomson Reuters had to say:

A good conference, but I don’t think all of the guidance can be realistically implemented by organizations which apply the traditional approach. I think the focus should be on revisions that will be welcomed. I thoroughly enjoyed working on the examples.

I have three thoughts regarding the notion of focusing on those changes that traditionalists within your organization would accept.

First, apart from two of my recommendations—using this agreement with a small a, using states instead of represents and warrants—there’s nothing inherently shocking about my recommendations. So I have no idea what changes a given traditionalist might object to. I suspect that for most traditionalists, it’s not so much the individual changes that are disconcerting, but rather the cumulative effect: when you apply my guidelines in revising traditional contract language, a lot gets changed, as I discuss in this post.

Second, my recommendations make sense. Ignoring them just results in more nonsense in your contracts.

And third, even if you know you’re not going to be able to use, say, states instead of represents and warrants, it’s still important to understand the implications of using represents and warrants.

So I don’t think it makes sense to pander to traditionalists by deciding up front that you’re going to tolerate some some traditional usages. And it follows that I don’t think I should tailor my seminars to reflect that approach.

Instead, I suggest that you be pragmatic in your work with contracts, effecting change when you can and tolerating traditional usages when it’s expedient to do so.

London “Drafting Clearer Contracts” Seminar on 5 November 2018

I’m delighted that on 5 November 2018 I’ll be doing another “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminar in London for UCL Faculty of Laws. For more information, go here.

I seem to be making inroads in the UK market. For example, go here for my Practical Law Company video with Daphne Perry; go here for a recording of the 7 November 2017 panel discussion I organized with UCL Faculty of Laws; go here for the Law Gazette’s article about the 2016 panel discussion; go here for my 2015 Law Gazette conversation with Mark Anderson; go here for Charles Drayson’s review of the fourth edition of MSCD; and go here for Mark Anderson’s review of the third edition.

What makes my English activities particularly interesting is that English courts are prone to fits of semantic cluelessness. I feel compelled to push back. For an example of that, see my 11 October 2017 article in The Lawyer, here. (Free registration required.)

(Reminder: on 1–2 November 2018 I’ll be speaking at “The Legal English Event” in London. See this blog post.)

I’m Speaking at “The Legal English Event” in London on 1–2 November 2018

I’ll be the keynote speaker at an English legal event called … “The Legal English Event.” It’s being held in London on 1–2 November 2018. Here’s the description:

The Legal English Event 2018 is a unique assembly in the field of English language training for international commercial lawyers. It is an opportunity for lawyers, law students, legal translators and English language teachers to come together and look to the future of law and the future of language training for the legal profession. This is not a legal conference, it is an explosion of ideas, information and up-to-date professional development. Come and join us. Stay connected. Help shake things up.

Attendees will receive a copy of the fourth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting at no extra charge.

Among the other speakers is Alex Hamilton of Radiant Law, the only person I know who brings to mind the word “raffish.” (You might recall that he was on the panel at the UCL Faculty of Laws event last November; the recording is here.) He’ll be talking about legal tech. At some point in the proceedings he and I will appear together. Expect sacred cows to be slaughtered and oxen to be gored (although that’s perhaps more bovine and bloody than strictly necessary).

The Facebook page is here; you can register here. I hope to see some of you there.

(And on 5 November 2018 I’ll be doing another “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminar for UCL Faculty of Laws. More information about that soon.)

Geneva “Drafting Clearer Contracts” Seminars on 9 and 10 April 2018

I’m pleased to announce that on Monday, 9 April 2018, and Tuesday, 10 April 2018, I’ll be back in Geneva, Switzerland, to give “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminars. My host will be the Geneva office of the global law firm Orrick.

The Geneva seminars are always fun: beautiful premises, a small group (no more than 14 people), a particularly civilized lunch …. I hope to see some of you there. For full details and registration, go here.

And I’m currently exploring adding other seminars elsewhere in Europe. If you’d like to discuss having your organization host a public “Drafting Clearer Contracts” seminar in return for having your personnel attend at no charge, contact me. Companies that have acted as host include Maersk Line, SAP, and ABB.

(I snagged the photo from the website promoting Geneva tourism. I thought they wouldn’t mind; if I’m mistaken, let me know.)