“A wizard is never later, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings. You’ll hear something similar from most lawyers. A contract is never too long, nor too short, it’s precisely what it’s meant to be.

I don’t buy that.

Here’s my rule of thumb: contracts can be one page, a couple of pages, a few pages, but shouldn’t be longer than 20 pages. Anything longer is a sure sign of a lawyer who is cutting and pasting provisions from past contracts into a new contract. It’s like a custom-made suit made up of a hodgepodge of patches and pieces left over from previous suits. These sorts of contracts appear to be air-tight, but in reality are full of contradicting terms, ambiguities, and are a field full of budding loopholes that lawyers love to pick from.

So tell your lawyer that you want short contracts. But before you do, ask your lawyer to draft the contract for a flat fee. Otherwise you’ll pay for what the lawyer should have done in the first place.