Ambiguous wording in contracts

This article appeared on this blog over 6 years ago, but it has come up in the viewing stats recently so it may be time for another airing…

IP Draughts

One of the tasks of the contract draftsman is to try to avoid using words and phrases that could have more than one meaning.  Here are a few expressions (only some of which regularly feature in contracts) that could mean the opposite of one another, depending on the context:

  1. To the Licensor’s knowledge, the moon is made of cheese…  This is usually intended to mean “as far as the Licensor is aware”, but it could conceivably be interpreted as a statement that the Licensor has personal knowledge that enables him to assert positively the composition of the moon.  We prefer to use the “as far as aware” formula, as it does not have this potential ambiguity.  (There is a separate question as to whether such a warranty implies any duty to check or do searches, but that is a different issue.)
  2. Completion. In contracts, completion often refers to an…

View original post 151 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Which is more important – experience or ability?

Everyone has to start somewhere. In entry-level jobs, the candidates tend to have limited experience, so an interviewer is inevitably focused more on ability, and potential, rather than their track record. Academic achievements sometimes get undue prominence, simply because there is nothing much else to go on.

The more senior the role, the greater and broader the expectations on the candidate. A senior associate in a law firm may be expected to have have several years’ experience of practising law, interacting with clients, managing projects, and so on. There is more data on which to assess whether the candidate is good at the technical aspects of the job, at getting on with clients and colleagues, at working hard, and at achieving the client’s objectives. Candidates for partnership need these skills but, depending on the firm, they may also need an ability to run and build a business, work with fellow owners, manage budgets, hire and fire, and so on.

It doesn’t stop there. IP Draughts has recently applied, unsuccessfully, for two part-time roles chairing organisations in the legal field. He thought he had the ability to do both jobs well – he wouldn’t have applied otherwise – and that he had relevant experience. But it seems that his CV lacked certain elements that were considered important. Sometimes, these elements are not fully brought out in the job specification and only become clear when the recruitment panel considers the candidates who have applied.

For one role, the feedback after the first interview mentioned various desirable traits. On several, he thought he had a strong or reasonable case. The one on which he probably had least experience, and which had only briefly been discussed at interview, was “holding the Chief Executive to account”. It is true that his various chairing roles haven’t included that responsibility, though he does have experience of managing people. Whether this means he couldn’t have performed that role well is, of course, a different question.

For another role, the recruitment exercise was re-run without interviewing the candidates who had applied the first time. The stated reason was that the candidate pool wasn’t sufficiently diverse to enable the recruitment panel to make a choice. This sounds, of course, like a polite way of saying that they didn’t like any of the candidates.

But taking it at face value, what does it mean? Are white, middle-aged men no longer suitable candidates? Having gone through compulsory diversity training at the Law Society, IP Draughts is aware that diversity comes in many forms. If he had known that this was going to be an issue, he could have laid it on thick about how his parents left school at 15 and 16, how he was the first person in his family to go to university, etc. But this wasn’t one of the stated criteria when he applied. As a good lawyer, he answers the questions that are asked, and isn’t so good at anticipating and answering the questions that are not asked.

IP Draughts’ message for anyone applying for a job (including our current vacancy for a trainee) is that you just have to give it your best shot, and hope that the job advert is an accurate reflection of the selection criteria. Beyond that, it is out of your hands. We all experience rejection, and we just have to keep plugging away.

Leave a comment

Filed under Legal practice

10 tips when applying for IP lawyer jobs

As we are currently advertising for a trainee, and are always on the look-out for more experienced lawyers who want to work for us, it is timely to re-post this golden oldie, which is one of the more popular articles on this blog.

IP Draughts

giggsIn two weeks’ time, Anderson Law will be welcoming its eleventh (lawyer) employee.  The first joined about 15 years ago.  Of the first ten, eight are still with our firm, although one of the eight (Paul) is now a partner with Mark, rather than an employee.

Most of these lawyers joined us after responding to job adverts.  In the last 15 years we have considered several hundred job applications.  This is small beer compared with the number of applications that large firms receive every year, but it has given us an insight into how some applicants spoil their chances by making very poor applications.

Employers have different priorities, so this article makes no claim to universal truth.  The wise applicant will try to make their application attractive to a range of employer preferences.  For example, IP Draughts cares not a hoot whether an applicant, in his application letter and CV…

View original post 1,548 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Our debate on Modern Contract Drafting is now on YouTube

Some readers may be aware – some may even have attended – the debate that we ran at University College London last week on the subject of Modern Contract Drafting. A recording of the event has now been uploaded on to UCL TV, which is hosted on YouTube.

Chaired by IP Draughts, the stellar cast of debaters comprised:

  • Ken Adams, author of a Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, which has recently appeared in its 4th edition. (Humble brag: one of IP Draughts’ books, Execution of Documents, gets a mention on page 158).
  • Iain Biddle, Cisco Systems
  • Dan Deacon, Clifford Chance LLP
  • Alex Hamilton, Radiant Law
  • Marcella Sampic, Orange SA
  • Andy Wishart, Contract Express

Thanks to Marcella for the photo below of the debaters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Contract drafting