Drafting a legal agreement

The most important thing to remember is that the sole and only purpose of an agreement is to accurately record what has been agreed.

There is no need for it to be in legal language; in fact, legalese is best avoided, except where legal terms are well known and understood by everyone.

Thus, the fewer whereas whereofs, and pursuant to’s the better. Omit any needless words and phrases. Keep sentences short and to the point.

  • Make sure that the clauses are in logical order. Only that way will the agreement be easily understood by the reader.
  • Use names rather than ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’. This can lead to confusion.
  • Divide clauses into sections where there are a number of things to say about one aspect of your agreement. Do not be afraid to set out a list.
  • Using a schedule can be a useful tool so as not to interfere with the flow of an agreement when it is necessary to include a detailed description of such things as property or assets.
  • Do not abbreviate, unless you first explain the meaning of the abbreviation.
  • Avoid the risk of double negatives. For example do not say ‘notice will not be effective unless served in person’. Instead simply say ‘notice will only be effective if served personally’.
  • Do not put in the any clauses which, although they may sound good, have little meaning and no relevance to the agreement.
  • Decide at the outset on how parties and items forming part of the agreement are to be identified. Then stick to this form of identification or there will be confusion.
  • Use numerals in preference to words to show amounts.
  • If you are handwriting your agreement, use black or dark ink. It will photocopy better should the need arise.

And finally, what you have downloaded is only a precedent – an example of the type of agreement you are considering entering into. Follow it, but do not be bound by it. You must amend it to fit in with what you are agreeing, and must not agree something in order only to fit in with the agreement you have bought.

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