Thinking about sending a document to your attorney to review it?  I thought I’d take a moment to give a simple overview of the process I use for reviewing a document with a client.  It’s not how every attorney does it.  But I find this process is easy for the clients to digest, and pretty fast (translate: less expensive).

  1. Client receives a document, and sends it over to me to get an idea of what the review will cost.  I typically estimate based on number of pages, but it’s important to also look at the complexity of the language.  If it contains a lot of “lawyer speak” it will take longer to review.  Note: This is why I choose to draft in plain English.
  2. Once I get the go-ahead, I’ll start making my way through the document making redline changes.  This is a process by which any word that is deleted is crossed out with a red line.  Any words added are shown in red.  It’s used to make it very obvious where changes are made.  A good attorney never tries to sneak changes past the other side.  It’s not ethical, and you’re not really doing your client any favors.  You’re only creating an even larger conflict after the deal is struck on terms which were never truly agreed.  Tip: Demand that your lawyer use the redlining features built into MS Word.  Some lawyers actually go through and manually change fonts, etc. to create what looks like a redline.  But it is a nightmare to unravel on the recipient’s end.
  3. While redlining, I also add comments to the margins using Word’s comment feature.  In the old days, we would write a letter to the client saying, “See Section 12(c).  I would recommend deleting this section.”  This is a hassle for the client because they have to flip back and forth between my letter and the document, searching for the applicable section.  With margin comments, the message I need to convey is right there next to the text I’m referring to, making the client’s review of my thoughts much easier.
  4. Once the client has reviewed everything we get on the phone and start going through my changes and comments one by one.  It’s very quick and easy with the comments falling right in line as we go.  This phone call will often lead to a few more changes I need to make to the document.  If it is a quick change, I’ll actually just draft it right on the spot with the client still on the phone.  Often, it’s literally just a word or two that needs to be updated.  If it’s a change that will take some time, I make specific notes on what needs to be changed right there in the text, or within my little comment bubbles in the margin, as opposed to keeping the client on the phone while I type.  The key is detailed notes.  I never assume I’ll remember the conversation in detail.  It wastes my client’s time (and money) if I have to call them back for clarification on something I should have taken better notes on while I had them on the phone the first time.  I draft those as soon as I hang up the phone with the client so it’s all fresh in my mind.  Again, this saves time and saves my client money since I’m not having to re-read through things to refresh my memory days later.
  5. Once the changes are made, we ship it off for signature or to the other side for their review.

So that’s it.  A basic run-down of how I do document review for clients.  Even if you don’t use me for your document review, this gives you some idea of how a document review process works.

Have an awesome day.  And go launch, build and exit your business strong!

JDV

One thought on “5 Steps to Reviewing a Legal Document

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