Tales from a Form Book: Stock Stories and Transactional Documents

78 Mont. L. Rev. 501 (2017)

34 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2017 Last revised: 14 Oct 2017

See all articles by Susan Chesler

Susan Chesler

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Karen J. Sneddon

Mercer Law School

Date Written: 2017


Legal transactions are stories. They are the stories of marriages, business partnerships, acquisitions, births, and deaths. These stories are built around the hopes, fears, wishes, and concerns of the particular parties to the transaction. But at their core, these stories are not just about the individual circumstances of those parties. At the core of each of these individual stories is a stock story. Virtually every transactional document starts with a form. And stock stories are embedded within each form document. The forms feature ingénues, tricksters, misers, and sages who undertake journeys, confront mutinies, and at times achieve glory.

This article examines the tales of transactions by examining the stock stories within transactional document forms. This article will first define the term “stock story,” highlighting the applicability of the term “stock story” to the law and its primary focus to date on litigation-based legal documents. This article will then identify and analyze the stock stories embedded within a variety of transactional form documents, such as wills, trust agreements, employment contracts, premarital agreements, and advance directives. Specifically, the article will analyze the (a) stock characters, (b) stock plots, (c) stock situations, and (d) stock inevitable outcomes of transactional form agreements. This article will then address the possibilities and pitfalls related to recognition of the stock stories embedded within these transactional forms.

As with the use of stock stories by lawyers in any situation, there is a concern about misrepresenting the unique nature of the individual transaction, as well as the potential for overreliance on the stock story, which may ultimately lead to hindering drafting innovation. Yet to the contrary, the recognition of stock stories in transactional form documents may also allow for effective narrative shortcuts, providing valuable guidance to the formation of the transaction as well as enabling a better understanding of the transaction by the parties, drafters, and courts. Rather than undercut or negate the value of utilizing transactional form documents and transactional form books, this article seeks to use the understanding of transactional form documents as stock stories to better appreciate how to most effectively use such forms in practice.

Keywords: Drafting, Narrative Techniques, Applied Storytelling

Suggested Citation

Chesler, Susan and Sneddon, Karen J., Tales from a Form Book: Stock Stories and Transactional Documents (2017). 78 Mont. L. Rev. 501 (2017) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3039062

Susan Chesler (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

Karen J. Sneddon

Mercer Law School ( email )

1021 Georgia Ave
Macon, GA 31207-0001
United States

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