Do It Yourself Contracts – Is Boilerplate Necessary?


Ever heard someone say, when reviewing a contract with you, “that’s just boilerplate, don’t worry about it…” ? Maybe you and a customer considered saving some money by drafting your own agreement and decided to skip all that “boilerplate.”

So what is boilerplate anyway? The term originally meant exactly what it said. Boilerplate was standard, high-strength steel plate used to make boilers. Nothing fancy – just flat and strong to keep the boiler from exploding. Later, the term took on a meaning in the printing industry when blocks of text that were reused frequently were sometimes cast in steel as opposed to lead to make them more durable. Over the years, the word acquired a more general meaning, connoting anything highly standardized and commonplace. Lawyers adopted the term to refer to the language at the end of the contract that doesn’t seem to change very much from deal to deal.

It’s true that contract boilerplate language doesn’t change much, but the changes, while subtle, can be important. Boilerplate language is just as much part of the contract as the price, the delivery date or the description of the goods or services. What’s different about boilerplate is that it mostly matters when there’s a dispute. Of course, that’s when you really want the contract to be clear, unambiguous and, ideally, drafted in your favor.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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