Upon creating David Shen Ventures, LLC, one of my first tasks was to create a standard advisor agreement. My lawyer and I worked on it for a while, and when it came back it was very much written in standard lawyer legalese. I had to spend time to go through each line item and figure out what it meant, as it was written using vocabulary that I almost never use. And certainly in my career, I am not used to reading that style of writing; I had never done contracts before and so I spent time with my lawyer to go through everything so that I could understand it and articulate it to others.
As I sent this document out, I started discovering many things.
The world of entrepreneurs is filled with people not accustomed to reading documents written in legalese style. That meant more explaining on my side as well as meetings with lawyers on their side, equating to more time spent and legal fees incurred. Incurring more legal fees for entrepreneurs is definitely not a good thing. They need to conserve cash and don't want to spend several thousand dollars negotiating an advisor agreement.
The length of my document, covering every little point in excruciating legalese detail is daunting to others. I have encountered many times already where the sheer length and size of the document has caused people to back away from working with me, or to question what I was trying to do. The issue of trust has come up many times, as I suspect they thought I was trying to slip something in there by them that would ultimately screw them in the end.
I also encountered some simply worded docs, which seemed perfectly acceptable as well from a legal standpoint. How could this be? Up this point, I had thought that all docs needed to be written in official legalese. But my thinking was dashed. My belief is that over the years, legalese has evolved from the language of lawyers for a variety of reasons. However, since the simply worded docs were also acceptable, I was determined to create something much simpler to read and understand, and get through the advisor signup process quicker.
I went back to my lawyer and we developed a much simpler advisor agreement. We tossed out a whole bunch of extra stuff that didn't need for an advisor agreement. We reworded the whole document to be more easily understood, and removed extra text which confounds the reading process.
It was an amazing change. Since the document was changed, in EVERY instance, the sign up process was quick and clean. There were questions about a point here and there, but in general it was accepted very fast. I attribute this to instant understandability by the entrepreneur and the raising of the entrepreneur's comfort level that I wasn't trying to turn this into a legalese nightmare. Both of us saved many legal dollars by not creating extra billable hours going back and forth between us and our lawyers to figure out what the agreement was trying to say and whether it was acceptable or not.
It is now my aspiration that all documents I prepare will be more simple than not, and minimal or not in legalese. But I know this is just a dream; too many lawyers exist out there and not enough people are demanding their documents be written in simpler form. I know that at some point, I will need to get used to reading documents in legalese, and surely I must treat this as a new language to learn.