Arthur Goldberg once said, “If Columbus had an advisory committee, he would still be at the dock.” But at practicelaw, we have not set out to discover the New World; we recognize the benefits of committee input.
A premier example of that effort is the Minnesota Advisory Task Force on Uniform Conveyancing Forms. The Minnesota Commissioner of Commerce created this Task Force several years ago and charged it with job of recommending amendments to existing real estate conveyancing forms as well as crafting new forms.
Some members are new to the Task Force; others have served since its inception. I am one of practicelaw’s attorney editors and a member of the Task Force. The combined membership brings various perspectives to the table – real estate specialists from big firms, small firms, real estate development companies, title companies, county recorders offices, Torrens offices.
Some serve to explain why we do things the way we do and others to point out why we shouldn’t. Some look at the horizon, keeping us on course, while others focus on the rigging, grammarians at heart.
In his blog, Kenneth Adams, a leading authority in contract drafting, points out that group decision-making is not an efficient way to make drafting decisions. He does acknowledge, however, that if a document is intended for a wide audience, “giving them the opportunity to participate [in its creation] would likely make them more inclined to adopt the end product.”
Precisely the goal of the Uniform Conveyancing Blank (UCB) Task Force. Task Force members know that our work:
- Allows perspectives from various constituencies to be heard and taken into account, both in terms of substance and style. A form may be substantively sound but if its organization causes problems for County Recorders, for example, legal practice isn’t make any better, easier, or cheaper.
- Recognizes and promotes necessary legislative tweaks. When the Task Force drafts a form to comply with new legislation, for example, it is truly an instance of “the rubber hitting the road” (or should I say, the “ship sailing out of the harbor”). Often practical issues surface in the drafting stage.
- Promotes collegiality among members of the legal profession.
Because the Task Force often starts and finishes with a draft by one or two members, it avoids many of Adams’ concerns about “drafting by committee.”
The UCB Task Force meets monthly from September through June. Earlier this year we tackled forms to address the new Transfer on Death Deed legislation. Now we’ve moved on to updating mortgage foreclosure forms to bring them into compliance with recent legislation and to eliminate legalese. Simultaneously we are looking at what makes for a good “package” of foreclosure forms - something readily understood by the recipient, easy to draft and record, and, of course, substantively correct.
So, for mortgage foreclosure forms, that means adding information (about the mortgage servicer for example) and redesigning the forms (to make it easier for lawyers to complete and title company and Recorders Office personnel to find and catalog information).
The UCB Task Force is “mid-Atlantic” on the mortgage foreclosure document journey. When they dock later this spring, practitioners will have a solid set of mortgage foreclosure forms at their disposal. Watch for their arrival…