How can you increase communication and mutual understanding between contracting parties? In a comment to this post in Tim Cummins’s Commitment Matters blog, Dick Locke of the Global Procurement Group states, “The most important method is to minimize the amount of your contract that lawyers write.”
I was stunned when I read that. If it’s true, it’s a sad commentary on the performance of commercial attorneys.
I’ve often heard complaints about lawyers slowing down deals, raising unnecessary issues, and using hard-to-read legalese, but Locke’s observation strikes me as a whole new class of complaint. Does the involvement of a lawyer actually reduce communication and mutual understanding?
The theme of the post where Locke’s comment appears is the importance of agility in business relationships. Agility—the ability to change and adapt—is important because it facilitates innovation. Cummins writes, “Today’s contracts are not agile; they tend to stifle agility and flexibility, because we try to create precision in situations where there is great uncertainty. Contracts must first be vehicles for mutual understanding and communication, a record of our expectations, promises and responsibilities, and an understanding of what happens when circumstances change and how we will deal with those changes.”
Contracts should memorialize business relationships. Working out the details of the clauses should help the parties consider aspects of the deal that they otherwise wouldn’t. The language itself should be clear and unambiguous. But does a lawyer’s involvement in this process harm the relationship? Is “thinking like a lawyer” bad for business?
What do you think?