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Playing Nice

I concluded long ago there is no uniquely non-profit way to practice law. Sure, we in-house non-profit lawyers have a specialty, but so does every other lawyer in every other kind of practice. All lawyers manipulate language in one way or another, but different practice settings require different styles.

Non-profit organizations put great stock in being nice. In the absence of a profit motive, the mission motive takes over and that usually means doing something good which, in turn, means people tend to be nice about it. And that's great--but it means most of the legal forms you may use in handling the daily business of your organization will have to be tweaked. As legal documents they're fine, but as legal documents for non-profit organizations they aren't nearly nice enough.

In this particular case I rewrote the contract agreement as a personal letter from "us" to "you" in a conversational tone, yet without stinting on any of the legalities. In the end, it was longer than the original document and I had to ponder a bit on how to express certain concepts. But it was nicer. It might even have been nice. And I've tried to be nicer in my drafting ever since.

Bruce Collins is the corporate vice president and general counsel of ?? 1/2 C-SPAN, based in Washington, D.C.


Bruce D. Collins

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