Do Lawyers Actually Read Boilerplate Contracts?

by Fred Abramson on October 1, 2010 · 4 comments

Whether you rent a car at Avis, purchase a KLM ticket to Amsterdam on Expedia or buy a new Ferrari 612 Scagletti from your local car dealer, you have probably encountered a boilerplate or an adhesion contract.  You probably don’t read boilerplate contracts.  But do lawyers actually read boilerplate contracts?

David Lat, writing in Above the Law, noted that Judge Richard Posner made one remark that stole the show at a panel about regulation at the recent American Constitution Society conference. He summarized his remark on Twitter:

Judge Posner at ACS panel: For my home equity loan, I got 100 of pages of documentation; I didn’t read, I just signed.

Judge Posner is perhaps one of the most important legal thinkers alive. If he doesn’t read boilerplate language when entering into an important home equity loan contract, should you?

I generally read boilerplate language.  I try to get a general idea of what I am getting myself into. If I am purchasing an airline ticket, it is important to know the cancellation policy.  I pay special attention to amendments to the boilerplate contact, especially those credit card mailers, which often change late payment fees or interest charge changes.

Don’t expect that you can change the provisions of the boilerplate, particularly in consumer transactions involving multinational corporations. If you have difficulty understanding certain provisions of the agreement, ask questions.

If you don’t like certain provisions of the boilerplate, your only recourse may be to walk away.

Do you read boilerplate contracts?  Have you ever had any success in negotiating terms that were unfavorable?

Frederic R. Abramson of The Law Office of Frederic R. Abramson practices contact law in the state of New York.  If you have any questions regarding contract law, call me at 212-233-0666. This is not boilerplate.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stefanie Devery October 2, 2010 at 11:24 pm


As a Real Estate attorney, I get “boilerplate” contracts all the time. However, we ALWAYS read them. What looks boilerplate may have one word added that will change the meaning of the entire paragraph, or contract. I know that other attorneys do not always read a “boilerplate” real estate contract but I would be so upset with myself if I missed something little, because it looked boilerplate but wasnt.

However, in my personal life, I would have to say that I sign whatever the airline, car lease company, etc. puts in front of me, with a cursory read through.

Of course, as a Real Estate attorney I did read my mortgage and my refinance documents. 🙂 (I have read a mortgage and note more than once.)

Daniel Alexander APC October 3, 2010 at 3:33 am

I am not going to lie. I don’t either. I do read them if someone retains me too. I rememeber reading a provision in a loan document that surprised me. I went back to my loan docs and saw the same provision and was pissed. I always tell my clients that they can cross out provisions and initial them.

Shaheennawaz October 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Sure, I make it a point to see important sections of a boilerplate contract.

Shaheennawaz October 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Sure, I make it a point to see important sections of a boilerplate contract.

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