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Practical Law

Distracted drafting: How to stay focused while creating contracts

· 5 minute read

· 5 minute read

Distractions, interruptions, diversions. These can all steal focus away from your work. According to a University of California Irvine study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully re-focus your concentration once you’ve been distracted. And when you’re drafting contracts, attention to detail is critical.  

Missing or misinterpreting even a small detail can leave your client at risk. A misplaced comma or the wrong verb tense can change contract clauses in a meaningful way. So, what can you do to maintain your focus while drafting? Eliminate the focus-stealers and lean on technology. 

Here are some common distractions found in everyday work – we’re sure you’ve experienced a few of these!  


Curious colleagues 

Socializing with co-workers is one of the joys of the workplace. We like to get to know the people we spend eight (10, 12?) hours with each day. But putting limits on those interactions can help you stay on task. When you need uninterrupted time to work on a contract, consider a professional ‘time out.’ Start by closing your door. While it may seem anti-social, it provides a physical barrier between you and others. Adding a sign requesting privacy adds another layer of defense. If that doesn’t help, consider this white lie: change your sign to say, “Client Call in Progress.” This sacrosanct legal activity will virtually eliminate interruptions. 

Alternatively, if you have the good fortune of working with an administrative assistant or paralegal, make sure they know which interruptions are worthy of disturbing your workflow. 


Environmental essentials 

With so many of us working from home, our ‘office’ may be the kitchen table or the couch. Take care to keep your environment free of innate distractions – turn off the TV, put the dog in another room, and keep your water bottle close by. The more focused you stay, the faster you’ll complete the contract and the sooner you can take a break with your furry friend. 


Digital diversions 

Your virtual environment is equally important. Put your office chat app on Do Not Disturb (or sign out altogether.) Put an auto out-of-office reply on your email system then log out to make sure you’re not tempted to offer a quick reply to an interesting alert. 

Here’s the hard one: manage your mobile phone. Most of us don’t turn our phones off, fearing we’d miss an important/emergency call. Shifting to vibrate mode isn’t a big help, since your quiet environment will probably allow you to hear (or feel) the vibrations. So, managing the inevitable interruptions will help you concentrate on the contract you’re drafting. Invest a few minutes in mastering the priority notification features on your smartphone. These functionalities enable you to pause the influx of incessant notifications while guaranteeing that your crucial alerts are still delivered. 


AI advantages 

Like so many things these days, artificial intelligence (AI) can help. AI tools are available to assist with drafting contracts, plus they can help you stay focused. The process of searching, cutting, pasting, deleting, and editing contracts is an area fraught with diversions. 

Consider this scenario: You’re composing a contract in Microsoft Word when you need to switch platforms to find a previous version of a contract in your in-house database. You jump back to Word to add a clause you found, then wonder if your counterparty has filed similar contracts with the SEC. So, you’re off on a search to find their previous filings. Once you’re online, all focus is lost. Returning to Word to finish requires you to re-engage with your contract language and regain your concentration. New AI advancements can help reduce the distractions inherent in the drafting process. Without ever leaving Microsoft Word, new AI technology can search and pull current clause language from a variety of source documents, both in-house and online. This saves time and adds efficiency to your workflow. You can keep your focus on the draft, without being distracted by rabbit holes within other programs. 


Extending efficiency 

With the billable-hours clock ticking away, staying focused while drafting contracts is as important as the precision and clarity of the draft itself. Your clients depend on you to create documents that will safeguard their interests. By controlling for human, environmental, and digital distractions, and by using the latest AI technology, your contract-drafting process can become more focused and efficient. 

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Trusted AI technology for legal drafting

When evaluating AI technology options, consider content, tools, and technology. 

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