Thomas Goldstein Phoenix, Arizona: Contracts in Plain English

Thomas Goldstein of Phoenix, Arizona practices law out of a small office located not too far from Camelback Mountain. He attended the Claude E. Pettit College of Law at Ohio Northern University and specializes in contracts.

Contracts, he says, do not have to be overly complicated and can be written in plain English. “Too many contracts are filled with all sorts of legal gibberish,” he says. “I think one reason for that is to make them dense, and hard to understand – even for lawyers.” He says that during his years in practice he has seen contracts so filled with legalese that he has had to read them carefully several times in order to fully understand them. “Usually, you pick up on some little nuance that might have tripped you up if you weren’t being careful. And it is usually by design.”


Thomas Goldstein of Phoenix, Arizona says that he has seen contracts so dense and jargony that it has made his eyes nearly glaze over. “All that ‘notwithstanding the forgoing’ nonsense made me realize, I don’t want to draft contracts like this. I want my clients to be able to read the contracts I write for them and understand them, without having to reach for the dictionary, or get a second opinion, or call me up with questions – although I’m always available to them for any questions, of course.”

He is a believer in and advocate for the “plain English” movement for legal writing. The ideas behind the movement have been around for a long time, he says, but are just beginning to gain some momentum. “There are hopeful signs,” he says. “The Federal Trade Commission, believe it or not, requires some documents to be drafted in plain English, and so does the Securities and Exchange Commission, which in the past has produced some of the most daunting legalese in existence.”


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