Write your contract in just 500 words

Many years ago, I sat in Ed’s diner at Euston Station (London) waiting for my train. I was chatting to my sister and she challenged me to write a contract in just 500 words.

In a rash moment I agreed, and being a woman of my word, I had to get on with it and develop a 500-word construction contract.

Workshop Tool

Initially I used the 500-word contract in my construction contract workshops. I’d noticed that:

  1. delegates mostly hadn’t read the contracts I was training them on
  2. the standard forms were too long for them to read in the workshop… never mind understand and then apply
  3. standard forms had made us lazy, so we didn’t know what a contract needed
  4. delegates were more vocal in debating the merits of my contract than their own in-house T&C
  5. the jargon, structure and complexity of standard forms positively discourages reading

Contract Series

After the first 500-word contract was legally complete, reviewed and revised, designed by an information designer, and I’d introduced it at the PLAIN Conference in Dublin in 2015, I was challenged to write a collateral warranty in 100 words. Tick!

Then I started to question whether my own contracts for my business could be reduced to 500 words. Clearly, as someone who understands the benefits of short and simple contracts, it would be a nonsense to use complex, convoluted documents with my clients. This broadened the contracts to include a framework agreement for services, a workshop agreement and speaker contract.

Book Series

Three years later and I am an author – the first in my planned series of books was published today.

My book focuses on Letters of Intent and challenges you to stop recycling ‘precedents’ or earlier versions from your database. My twitter survey showed both lawyers and non-lawyers create their letters of intent by recycling – an earlier example or using a precedent. Having read lots of cases, I had yet to find one I would recommend as a starting point so I can only assume that most writers are recycling rubbish…

My book explains why existing drafting doesn’t work, with chapters on what letters of intent are not and what clauses you can leave out. It doesn’t explain why you shouldn’t use them as there is loads of advice to that effect and no-one seems to listen anyway. Instead, it will give you the confidence you need to draft your own, knowing it will not be a disaster waiting to happen!

By reading the book you will learn

  • the benefits of writing short and simple contracts
  • what happens if your letter of intent says nothing on 10 key topics
  • why current letters of intent do not meet your needs
  • how to write or review a letter of intent
  • what to do once you’ve sent it (to avoid getting burnt!).

What should you do?

Remember: letters of intent are like a firewalk – you should get them over with quickly and learn in the hands of an expert.


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