Naseem Ameer Ali

Whether renovating a home or building a bridge, the client and builder need a construction contract. Typically these are based on published standard forms written in legalese and administered by construction professionals. None of these parties are normally legally qualified. Research shows it is not only possible to write construction contracts in plain language without losing legal intent, but that it is necessary to do so. 

Among an exception to contracts written in legalese is the Standard Terms of Construction Contract for Renovation and Small Projects (STCC – RSP 2015) published by the Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia. Two case studies are presented to explain how research on modern legal drafting led to the drafting and implementation of this contract in two projects - one each in Malaysia and New Zealand. 

The contract adopts a user-friendly project management structure and other plain legal drafting principles such as omitting redundant legalese and doublets, avoiding multiple cross referencing, and using gender-neutral language without the cumbersome she, he, or it. It was endorsed by professional bodies in Malaysia and accredited as a Clear English Standard document by the Plain Language Commission, United Kingdom. 

Following a Malay translation, it is now being considered as a model to be modified to suit other jurisdictions.