Standard Form Contracts

Recently, I had an occasion that required a service contract to be drafted. So, I asked a lawyer friend of mine how much it would cost to draft a simple legal contract and my friend informed me what it would typically cost. In my opinion, it would cost too much to do it. So, my friend suggested that I draft one myself and my friend helpfully suggest that I start with Butterworths Forms and Precedents.

So, I happily trudged down to the UM law library and looked up the documents. Lo and behold, Volume 5 turned into a goldmine. It had all sorts of Computer Contracts in it – contracts that are useful for most computer services companies such as mine. I was quite happy with my find, but I then realised that this was a problem with the legal industry.

Things like standard form contracts should be made open source. Everyone should have direct access to standard form contracts. Furthermore, the standard form contracts should be regularly updated as per open source principles. This allows the standard form contracts to evolve with the changing body of Law.

What made it worse was when I looked up the price of such forms and precedents. Some of these things can cost up to RM30,000!

Nobody should be charged for standard form contracts that are useful enough to address most issues in normal cases. By all means, Lawyers should charge for their services to customise the contracts but the standard ones should be made available for free.


Firstly, for most normal cases, a standard form contract would suffice and most people would benefit by having regular transactions protected by a properly structured and worded contract. This would help in any dispute as the terms are reduced to writing. This would benefit society as a whole.

Secondly, the open source standard form contracts would serve as a living document as it constitutes the wisdom of the masses. It would not be built from the sum of the experience of any individual lawyer but the sum of the experiences of all contributing lawyers. Such standard form contracts would be stronger for everyone.

Thirdly, just like open source software, customisations can be forked. This will essentially extend standard form contracts to ultimately address almost any case on the planet. If you need a contract for a specific scenario, you should be able to find one from the myriad forks available.

Eventually, it would all benefit the legal fraternity as a whole.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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