4-minute read, 10-minute exercise
#Efficiency #Effectiveness #HumanIntelligence
How often do you come across a document that is fairly similar to many of the same type of document?
You know, the older style of a document where every clause is generic, and then there are several schedules at the back with the unique information that you need to be able to interpret the generic clauses.
Or even worse, the documents that have the unique information embedded within the otherwise generic clauses. And there are so many generic clauses to cover just about every conceivable scenario in the future.
How much time does it take to flip between pages to understand a clause then decide whether it applies to a situation? Or to read through a document and finding that only a handful of clauses every few pages seem to apply? Whatever it is, it’s way too much.
It can be difficult to read and understand a document when you need to decide what applies to you and what doesn’t.
Your Client Should Not Have to Figure Out Which Clauses Apply to Them
You’re the lawyer, that’s your job.
If reading and using your document is difficult, you are wasting time that your client could use for more important tasks. Even if you know that your client has the skills to interpret and correctly apply clauses, they shouldn’t have to.
It is your responsibility to draft a document that your client can read confidently and use without too much effort. It means that you need to make the tough decisions on whether or not you should include certain clauses. It also means that you need to make sure the clauses that you do include apply to your target client.
Your client should be able to look at your document and know what they need to do. Simple.
Your Document Should Only Have Relevant Clauses
You’ll need to consider who your target client is and the purpose of your document for them.
Who is your target client, and what are their characteristics? You can’t say that your target client is everyone. Try again. You need to be able to clearly define your target client and the reason they are using your document. For example, your target client may be the owner of a small retail business who works in the business and who intends to sell the business. You also need to be able to identify their characteristics. For example, this target client may be an experienced business manager who is entering retirement.
But what if your document is useful for a wide range of people? That’s perfect! It also makes effective use of the document. We can incorporate this into the customisation. But to customise your document well, you still need to identify your target client. You might have several target clients that can use slightly different versions of the same document. For example, another target client may be the owner of a small retail business who is an investor and who intends to sell the business. This target client may be a less experienced business manager who is looking to be an investor only.
Now, what is the purpose of your document for your target client? The purpose of your document may be to record an agreement or manage a transaction. That’s great for very generally drafted documents, but it doesn’t help us to customise a document. You need to look further. The keys words being “for your target client”. For example, the purpose of your document may be to sell the assets of a retail business in exchange for a lump sum of money.
But what if you can use your document for different purposes? That’s perfect! Another effective use of the document. We can also incorporate this into the customisation. But to customise the document well, you still need to define each purpose. For example, another purpose may be to sell the assets of a retail business in exchange for a combination of a lump sum of money and shares.
Let’s look at your document. Only clauses that are relevant to the purpose of the document should be in there. If you have more than one purpose for the document, you should mark any clauses that are relevant to one purpose but not all of the purposes as optional clauses.
Similarly, only clauses that are relevant to your target client should be in your document. If you have more than one target client, you should mark any clauses that are relevant to one target client but not all target clients as optional clauses. Make sure that each of the clauses is also appropriate for the characteristics of your target client. For example, if your target client is an experienced business manager, you’ll be able to assume a certain level of business knowledge and redraft the clauses at that level.
You might be wondering about clauses that aren’t relevant if things go well but may be relevant if some unlikely event in the future occurs. It will be necessary to include clauses to deal with likely future events, but strongly consider whether you need to include specific clauses for unlikely future events. You might find that for this document, it can manage unlikely future events with a more flexible process. For example, instead of detailing timeframes and specific obligations for mediation in the case of a dispute, consider whether it would be appropriate to include a general process that the parties must follow and if they cannot agree then include a right for either party to provide notice and take the matter directly to litigation.
Don’t forget to go over your document and make sure that it functions well. If it doesn’t, you may have been a bit eager with letting go of redundant clauses so you may need to fill in any gaps.
How You Can Customise Your Document for Your Client
Now that you have set up your document with optional clauses for your target client customising it for your current client is straightforward.
If you manually produce each of your documents, include the optional clauses that are relevant for your client. It should take less time to produce the document and take away some stress for you because you’ve already considered each clause in detail and checked that the document is functional.
If you’re ready to automate your document, you can design the automation to do the same manual thinking process to decide which are the appropriate optional clauses. There will then be a series of questions for you or your client to answer, which will result in a custom document for your client. It should take you only a few minutes to produce a customised document.
Lastly, you’ll need to think about how to spend the time that you’ve saved. Now that you’ve thought about your target clients and their characteristics, perhaps you can think about other products or services that you can offer them. For example, the target client who sells their retail business for a lump sum may need an SMSF set up or assistance to invest the money in property. Hint – now you’re thinking about valuable legal solutions!
Try It Now
Use the next 10-minutes wisely.
Choose one of the precedent documents that you commonly use for a transaction or to record an agreement. Make a copy so you can work on it.
For what type of client do you use this document? Now, define the target client or target clients. What are their characteristics? What is the purpose of your document for your target client or target clients? Do you have multiple purposes?
Now go through your document. Be ruthless. Use track changes so you can go back if you need to. Delete any clauses that are not relevant at all. Highlight any optional clauses for different target clients. Using a different colour, highlight any optional clauses for different purposes.
Now switch to review the document in No Markup mode. Is your document still functional? You’ll probably need to do a bit of filling in gaps to make sure everything fits together.
When you’re happy with your document, make some notes about when the author should use each optional clause.
Congratulations! You now have a document that you can customise for your client!
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