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LegalTech Advice
Mar 5, 2023

Document and contract errors could lead to claims against your firm

HaEun Yoon
Legal Data Analyst

Why errors in legal documents can be costly

Errors in legal documents can mean dire consequences for law firms. Small mistakes like undefined terms or incorrectly used pronouns can often lead to lawsuits and Definely understands the damage this can do to both firms and their clients.  

Forbes lists bad drafting as one of the top five ways to ruin contracts, while Travelers revealed errors in these documents were the grounds for 1 in 8 insurance claims. Crucially, these claims accounted for a third of all settlement payments. 

Law firms can expect drafting and legal contract errors to lead to the following: 

  • Damage to the firm's reputation
  • Loss of trust by clients 
  • Voided contracts 
  • Lawsuits and litigation

Thankfully, there is a solution. Legal proofreading is a necessary step to ensure mistakes and errors are corrected, and to prevent any issues down the line. Adopting legal tech that reduces these errors and spots any that lawyers might miss will help defend law firms against potential lawsuits. Understanding the most common errors in legal documents will improve the ability of proofreaders to spot them. 

The most common errors in legal documents

Some of the most common legal document errors, as reported by Travelers, are generally typographical, which relates to: 

  • Punctuation 
  • Incorrect pronouns  
  • Misspelling of key details, such as addresses and names
  • Accidental deletion of paragraphs 
  • Undefined terms, leading to disputes regarding the term's intended meaning

Most of these errors and mistakes can be corrected through proofreading, but the main reason they occur is that many lawyers fail to read over their drafts before finalising them. 

Don’t skip the proofreading step 

A study by Thomson Reuters found that 62% of the surveyed lawyers skipped proofreading steps so that they could spend more time on “cost-effective litigation”.

This statistic is seemingly in opposition to their other finding that 90% of lawyers said they valued accuracy above all else when drafting documents. This contradiction appears to stem from the fact that lawyers believe they do not have enough time to proofread. 

This argument is presented in a survey conducted by LexisNexis, whereby 66% of lawyers said they could not proofread properly due to time pressure. A further 33% admitted they skipped proofreading altogether for the same reason. 

It is vital that these statistics are turned around because the same study found that 90% of a random sample of “proofread” documents (taken from the 100 top UK law firms) contained errors. With this number of errors, firms might as well be opening the floodgates to litigation and lawsuits.

However, many of these mistakes will be difficult to notice, regardless of how well-prepared we are to find them. As humans, we conmonly correct and edit sentences in our minds, regardless of what is actually written down. 

For instance, did you notice we misspelled “commonly”? Or, that we used an Americanism for “misspelt” just now?

Digital proofreading software, such as Definely Proof, may be the solution to this problem. But unfortunately, it’s a problem that is exacerbated by lawyer burnout - something that has no easy fix.

Lawyer burnout may be a leading cause of drafting mistakes

Time pressure appears to be the leading cause of errors in legal documents and the wider proofreading process. Lawyers believe they simply do not have enough time to proofread their contracts, which can sometimes lead to successful lawsuits against their firms. Add lawyer burnout to the mix, and law firms are left with a difficult situation to navigate. 

The workforce is still recovering from the pandemic, found a study by LawCare. They reported that “[1700] participants averaged a score of 42.2 on the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory”. This test was conducted during the pandemic and corresponds to a “high risk of burnout”. 69% of the respondents said they had experienced mental health difficulties during the year before they were surveyed. 

As per the LexisNexis report, the increased time pressure to proofread, along with the mental health difficulties attributed to the pandemic, have resulted in a high-stress environment. One where lawyers are finding it incredibly difficult to spend time proofreading contracts and documents. 

Legal proofreading software is the solution

Most lawyers agree that LegalTech would give them some of this time back, allowing them to proofread competently. Indeed, 60% of lawyers said they would be able to do more work if they had access to tools that allowed them to be more efficient. 

We see this trend of increased efficiency in many law firms. A survey by Statista found that  84% of 490 practitioners believed that legal tech had done exactly that, while 77% believed their firms were well on the way to benefiting from the implementation of legal tech. By increasing efficiency, legal tech can speed up the tasks that lawyers are putting less effort into or intentionally avoiding, like proofreading. 

Legal proofreading software, such as Definely Proof, has the potential to solve these issues. Lawyers can harness this technology to maximise productivity while preventing problems like lawsuits and burnout, and maintaining the reputation of their firm. 

A major benefit of legal proofreading software like Definely Proof is that it allows lawyers to automate hundreds of proofreading checks with the click of a button, highlighting errors and mistakes that the naked eye might miss, such as double spacing, inconsistent capitalisation of defined terms and inconsistent punctuation, quotes, styles, and fonts. It also highlights leftover drafting notes, cross-reference issues, and inconsistent definitions. 

Book a free demo today and learn just how easy it is to maximise productivity and protect your reputation with our robust proofreading solution. 

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