RE: writing drafts of legal documents?

Subject: RE: writing drafts of legal documents?
From: Jane -dot- Credland -at- quintus -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 09:08:48 -0700

All those years of working as a paralegal have to come in useful for
something, yes?

> From: anon [mailto:unknownidca -at- yahoo -dot- com]

> All of my instincts are telling me that I shouldn't be
> writing the drafts of any legal documents. I have been
> reassured that a lawyer will review any document I
> write, but there is no guarantee that the documents
> will be reviewed by the company's legal counsel. In
> fact, I suspect that anything I write will be
> immediately put into use.

As everyone else said, get the "lawyer will review this" in writing, and get
a lawyer to review that written agreement for you.

> For those of you with experience in this area - What
> are the legal ramifications for the author of a legal
> document if the author makes a mistake? Is this a task
> that can legitimately be assigned to a technical
> writer with no business or legal experience? If not,
> how would you handle such a situation (short of
> leaving the company)?

No problem writing a first draft. Companies provide first drafts to lawyers
all the time. However, lawyers also make major major changes to first
drafts. In some cases, simple English complicates things if a legal document
is challenged in court. All that "legalese" is backed by hundreds and
thousands of court cases that determine what each word and, in some cases,
its placement means in the context of a certain type of legal document.
Simplifying that for people is fine, but then you've got to argue over
meaning all over again.

Legal ramifications: well, if a lawyer doesn't review it, and the document
gets used, then you're on the hook for liability. This kind of potential
liability is why lawyers spend tens of thousands of dollars every year for
errors and omissions insurance.

For example, if you write a legal document that is not reviewed by a lawyer,
but is put into place immediately and someone sues the company, or the
company loses money as a result of that document, then you can be held
liable for the loss of income.

Even with 10 years of paralegal experience, I wouldn't draft legal documents
without a written, signed, dated, and witnessed release of liability that
had been vetted thoroughly by a lawyer first.

Oh, and FWIW, if you are sued, your reasonable doubt that these documents
won't be vetted by a lawyer CAN be held against you in court and used as
proof that you knew you would be solely responsible for producing the



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