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Proposed Legal Thesaurus Might Help You Draft the Perfect Contract

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 28, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Contracts are critical instruments for keeping lawsuits at bay. Wouldn't it be nice to have a lawyer's thesaurus laying around during those times when we just can't think of another synonym to "person"?

The Perfect Term for Your Contract

As transactional attorneys know, contracts have a tendency to get more and more complicated the higher and higher the stakes get. In more innocent times, there was not much debate as to what the word "person" meant, or whether a business entity could be considered a person for some purposes, but not for others.

Ambiguities like these are, unfortunately, one of the very reasons people need the law and lawyers. Lawyers serve the function of covering their clients' butts.

Two organizations, the U.S. Open Data and OpenGov Foundation, have called for linguists, programmers and legal geeks to come together for a worthy cause. They're looking for someone with a D. R. Hofstadter-like mind to help them create a program that will run though contractual provisions on the X side, and spit out the entire list of synonyms provided for in the original contract language on the Y side -- with strength of correlation.

Now lawyers can calculate with greater precision how much of their necks could potentially be on the line because of disagreements over terms.

More Like a Synonym Analyzer

This legal thesaurus sounds like a real treat for transactional attorneys. It's too soon to tell if the terms with the stronger statistical overlap will be given higher listing priority because it was presented that way in the input, or because people really do think of "corporation" when they think "person." Frankly, that in itself is telling of our current society.

Anyhow, the goal is to use open-source software to create the process to get this done. And the primary goal is just to get this thing up and running. "We're looking for the minimum viable product -- not a polished tool," says U.S. Open Data on their site.

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