How I Contract Interview with Lucy Bassli

Oct 19, 2022

“How I Contract” is a series of interviews with lawyers and professionals sharing their tips and stories on contract drafting and negotiation. 

In this interview, Lucy Bassli, founder of InnoLaw Group and the author of the book "CLM Simplified" shares her contract drafting and negotiation techniques and her approach to dealing with imposter syndrome when drafting contracts.

Lucy Bassli will teach an in-person workshop "Conquering CLM and Contracting Chaos" at ContractsCon in February 2023 in Miami.

How did you learn to draft contracts? 

On the job, at a law firm. Most of the learnings came through trial and error in live negotiations. I learned a lot from the attorneys of the counterparty (especially the good ones!). If I would get frustrated with them often I’d realize it is because they are doing something smart and “winning” the debate. So I’d apply those strategies in my next negotiation.

Do you remember any significant events or lessons you learned in the early days of learning how to draft contracts? 

Feverishly looking for samples. I discovered everyone did things their own way and kept their own samples.

Who was the mentor that taught you the most about real-world contract drafting and negotiating? 

Hard to answer. I feel self-taught by accessing others’ samples I could get my hands on.

How did you view negotiating when you were starting out? 

It was exciting, though a bit intimidating.

Do you ever feel imposter syndrome when you are working on contracts? 

All the time. However, with time and experience, it becomes much easier because logic sets in… I know what I’m doing by now, and it makes no sense to question myself at this point in my career. I simply have a talk with myself to remind myself.

What do you enjoy the most about working with contracts? 

The challenge of getting to agree on terms I found acceptable.

What frustrates you the most about working with contracts? 

The waste of time on insignificant details that have no impact on the meaning of the actual deal. How do I deal with this? It is like any other job. You can’t love every aspect of it. I power through and get to the stuff I enjoy.

What is the biggest misconception other lawyers and professionals have about working with contracts? 

Negotiations require high-level legal analytical skills for all parts of the contract. Other professionals can be taught.

What advice do you have for someone interested in working on contracts as a career? 

Remember that you are working on contracts that enable a business goal. You are not lawyering for the sport of lawyering.

What advice do you have for dealing with difficult counterparties? 

Sometimes you have to give in on points that you really don’t care about solely for the purpose of showing good faith, willingness to negotiate, and making progress. No sense in explaining that the counterparty is not making sense.

What advice do you have for managing the stress and work demands of working on contracts? 

Remember that we are not emergency room doctors. We feel like it sometimes, but we are not. People do not die in our business. Keep it in perspective.

How much of contracting is legal advice? 

Some specific sections of complex commercial agreements require nuanced legal advice. Most parts of the contract become recurring issues that once taught/learned can be replicated without getting into legal advisory.