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Slaying Redundancies in Contracts

by Vinay Jain

Slaying Legal Redundancies

One of our favorite books here at Shake is Richard Wydick’s Plain English for Lawyers.

Wydick writes disapprovingly about lawyers’ attachment to redundant phrases like “null and void” and “true and correct.” Some other examples of the coupled-synonym variety of redundancy: alter or change; force and effect; free and clear; full and complete; give, devise and bequeath; and good and sufficient.

As it turns out, there are interesting historical explanations for many of these redundancies, rooted in the fact that English contracts needed to speak to three different linguistic traditions (English, French and Latin), and synonyms helped cover all the bases.

Fortunately, we’re no longer bound by such archaic demands. But many lawyers cling to the old ways out of inertia and, frankly, laziness. The result is musty, stilted drafting that only makes legal writing more alien to non-lawyers and lawyers alike.

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Vinay Jain

As Chief Legal Officer, Vinay serves as Shake's general counsel, is responsible for the company's legal contracts and content, and leads efforts to educate consumers and small businesses about the law.

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