On Demand Audio

Avoiding Bad Contracts: Re-Thinking The Way Lawyers Draft Contracts

(201 reviews)

Produced on October 05, 2020

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$ 99 Legal Research & Writing and Business, Corporate, & Securities In Stock
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Course Information

Time 1h 30m
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

Much of the litigation arising out of consensual transactions are the result of a poorly drafted document – a “Bad Contract.”  This fun program provides a fresh look at contract drafting from the perspective of an experienced litigator and expert on plain English. 

Many contracts today are lengthy and complex, and this increases the likelihood of misunderstandings that can lead to disputes. In this program, seasoned practitioner Mark Cohen will explain how American law reached a stage where many contracts are unnecessarily long, structured archaically, and filled with ambiguities, jargon, massive paragraphs, redundancies, undefined terms, and imprecise boilerplate that is often cut and pasted from other documents without careful analysis. 

Using real-world examples, Mark will show participants dozens of ways to draft a "Bad Contract." This program provides practical tips that help participants learn how to draft contracts in a way that avoids disputes and maximizes the odds of prevailing if a dispute is unavoidable.  

The materials include many useful sample boilerplate clauses in plain English and a comprehensive drafting checklist.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain why so many contracts today are long and complex, and why that increases the likelihood of disputes
  2. Explore the three types of ambiguities and how and to avoid them
  3. Examine why any ambiguity in a contract will increase the cost of litigation and make it more difficult to win summary judgment
  4. Review real-world examples of what not to do when drafting contracts and why not to do it
  5. Help lawyers understand the practical benefits to them and their clients of reducing jargon and using a plain English approach

Credit Information

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Mark Cohen

Mark Cohen, J.D., LL.M

Mark Cohen has 36 years of experience as a lawyer. He earned a B.A.in Economics at  Whitman College and earned his law degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  He earned an LL.M. Agricultural and Food Law from the University of Arkansas, where he also taught advanced legal writing.  His diverse legal career includes service as an Air Force JAG, a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, a prosecutor, a municipal judge for Boulder, six years on the Advisory Board The Colorado Lawyer (including one as chairperson), and service on the Executive Board of the  Colorado Municipal League.  Mark has represented clients in more than one hundred jury trials.

Mark's amusing paper, How to Draft a Bad Contract, first published in The Colorado Lawyer has been republished in several journals and won praise from Harvard Professor Steven Pinker. Mark is the current editor of the contract law column for The Colorado Lawyer.  He founded the nonprofit Plain English Institute. 

Mark wrote six articles in the Am. Jur. Proof of Facts series, including the seminal article on piercing the corporate veil. He has written numerous articles and book reviews for  The Colorado Lawyer.  In 2004, he won 2nd prize in the SEAK National Legal Fiction Writing Competition. He wrote two mysteries published by Time Warner, and his first mystery, The Fractal Murders became a Book Sense ® mystery pick and were a finalist for the Colorado Book of the Year.  His non-legal articles have appeared in magazines such as Inside Kung Fu, Camping & RV, and Modern Dad. He is a member of the Institute of General Semantics and the Mystery Writers of America. He writes a regular column for the Nederland Mountain-Ear.

Mark’s practice focuses on drafting and reviewing legal documents including contracts, corporate documents, real estate documents, employment documents, intellectual property documents, motions, pleadings, and briefs.  He also litigates cases arising out of poorly drafted documents. He enjoys helping businesses and other lawyers improve their legal and non-legal documents by translating them from Legalese into plain English.

Mark holds a black belt in karate and serves on the board of directors of Dart, Inc., a Boulder non-profit that offers training in personal safety, violence prevention, and appropriate dating relationships.


John A.

Excellent Written Materials. Good Course

Linda B.

very good

Suzanne V.

Really good

Margaret H.

Thank you, clear and concise!

Mary L.

Well structured and easy to follow, thank you!

Lauriette W.

Excellent content. Very informative.

Alizabeth H.

Very informative course. I highly recommend if drafting contracts is a part of your duties.

Michael J D.


Lizzy S.

Great for all types of practices

Jonathan B.

Concrete, immediately usable tips. Good course. Quality reference material.

W. Darin L.

Lots of good information, presented well.

David G.

I found this CLE quite good.

K Blake T.

Excellent theoretical and practical content.

Laura H.

Loved this! I teach contract law to undergraduates, and it's so helpful to hear the latest practice tips. Thank you, Mr. Cohen!

Enoch W.

This was best CLE I have watched. I really liked the presenter

Sylvia R.

Terrific information and practical tips - thank you!

Charles C.

Way too long for the content. Way too basic.

Susan M.

Thank you!

Thomas W.

Nice job. Thanks!

Julie C.

Although there was no new ground covered, this presentation was a great summary and I appreciate the comprehensive course materials. I will definitely use them as a resource / refresher.

Reid S.

very enjoyable, excellent materials and very helpful

Maria M.

A well thought out presentation with substantial material for future use.

Rodney R.

One of the better, and more practical, MCLEs I've seen.

Laura B.

Great, practical content! Exactly the review I was hoping for!

Thomas B.

Thank you!

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