Skip to main content

A BUSKLAW Newsletter Aside: Links to My Michigan Bar Journal Plain-Language Articles

Since my retirement from in-house corporate law in 2014, I've written or co-written several articles about using plain-language in contracts for the Michigan Bar Journal. And a new article has recently appeared in the October 2017 issue. But those articles haven't been a lone endeavor in any sense; I've had several plain-language experts give me their input along the way:
  • Plain English Scholar and WMU-Cooley Law School Distinguished Professor Emeritus Joe Kimble who invited me to write for the Journal to begin with and has since freely given me editorial advice that not only benefits the particular article du jour but also helps my legal writing generally. And a hat tip to Journal Editor Linda Novak who has put, editorially-speaking, the "frosting on the cake" before publication of these articles. 
  • Michael Braem, J.D., Contract Manager of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, who has co-authored some of the articles with me. Michael has also become a friend who doesn't mince words about 45's daily shenanigans. 
  • Dr. Peter Schakel, Hope College English Professor Emeritus. Peter taught me basic writing at Hope College as a freshman in the fall of 1970. He was also my debate coach and mentor while at Hope. After retiring from Hope a few months ago (he joined the faculty in 1968!), he is still teaching at Hope part-time We meet for lunch in Holland at least once a year and talk about good writing style. I quoted Peter's thoughts on The Burkean Pentad in the Curiouser article cited below. 
  • Ken Adams, J.D., legal writing expert par excellence and the author of what may be described as the plain-language Bible in contract drafting: A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. I've learned a lot from Ken's book and blog and don't pretend to match his expertise gained from years of thinking and writing about plain-language concepts. 
So I thank Joe, Linda, Michael, Peter, and Ken for giving this plain-language convert their valuable editorial assistance and sage advice. They refined my written thoughts on plain-language concepts and were never hesitant to give me constructive criticism. 

So here are the titles of and links to the Journal articles (in PDF format) that I have thus far authored or co-authored in chronological order (most recent first):

MBJ Month & Year
Author(s) & Title
October 2017
October 2016
August 2015
February 2015
January 2015

Finally, I would be remiss not to call out those few lost legal souls, deaf to the merits of plain language in contract drafting, who have crossed my path over the years. Debate is healthy unless you start from a bias that tolerates - or favors - legal jargon. Then it's pointless. 
If you find this post worthwhile, please consider sharing it with your colleagues. The link to this blog is and my website is And my email address is Thanks!


Popular posts from this blog

The BUSKLAW May Newsletter: Is There a Moral Imperative to Plain English? Part 1 - Examples

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." 

Thus begins Stephen King's epic story of the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and the popular Dark Tower series of novels describing his adventures. But King didn't have to write this sentence that way; he could have consulted with the typical lawyer, politician, or company PR department first. Had he done so, the sentence may have appeared so:

"The bad hombre who was dressed mostly in dark clothing and running fast across an arid land was pursued by a multi-armed, extremely dangerous, and notorious vigilante."
The difference in these two sentences is clear. King's concise short sentence creates an image that grabs the reader's attention and raises provocative questions. Who is the man in black? Who is the gunslinger? Why is he after the man in black? But the Bizarro World Stephen King sentence - with its ethnic slur, passive voice, ambiguity, suppositions, and superfluous adjectives …

The BUSKLAW July Newsletter: Horsing Around with Non-Compete Clauses

Non-compete provisions are part and parcel of many employment agreements. But these provisions must be carefully drafted to be enforceable. There are three sure-fire ways to have a court invalidate your non-compete clause without much judicial cogitation:
Failure to provide a reasonable duration for the clause;Failure to restrict the operation of the clause to a reasonable geographic area; andFailure to establish a protectable business interest as the subject of the clause.The first point is easy to grasp. In Michigan, you are on solid legal ground if the duration of your non-compete clause doesn't exceed one year. And you are probably okay if you add a year to that. But you're walking on quicksand if your non-compete provision lasts longer than two years. 
The second point is a bit more complicated. Courts don't like to enforce a non-compete clause if its geographical scope is too wide. For example, if I'm in the packaged ice business and sell my product mostly to retai…

A BUSKLAW Newsletter Aside: Is Your Website Compliant with the European Union's GDPR?

Effective 25 May 2018, the EU's General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect. The GDPR is a big deal and quite complicated. There are 99 articles and 173 recitals defining the privacy rights of individuals and data controllers’ and data processors’ obligations. 

Are you a U.S.-baseddata controller or data processor subject to the GDPR? You are a “data controller” if you, alone or jointly with others, determine the purpose and means of “processing” personal data of EU individual customers or businesses. The threshold is that you offer goods or services to customers or businesses in the EU (including the UK, despite Brexit) and collect their personal data. But even if you don’t sell goods or services to EU customers but engage in marketing or monitoring activities involving EU individuals’ personal data, you are covered by the GDPR.

You are a data processorif you “process” personal data on behalf of a “data controller,” i.e., a data controller contracts with you to process pers…