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Boilerplate

Law Faculty Publications

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Boilerplate’S False Dichotomy, James Gibson Jan 2018

Boilerplate’S False Dichotomy, James Gibson

Law Faculty Publications

The argument against enforcing boilerplate contracts (contracts that no one reads) seems clear. Indeed, if this were a court case we would say that the jury is in; the evidence against boilerplate is overwhelming. Yet the judge has yet to render judgment. Courts continue to enforce boilerplate terms, and even those scholars who have exposed boilerplate as an emperor with no clothes are reluctant to gaze upon its nakedness and condemn its use.

This reluctance originates in an assumption that pervades the boilerplate debate—namely, that courts and commentators alike view boilerplate as necessary to the modern transaction. When asked to …


Vertical Boilerplate, James Gibson May 2013

Vertical Boilerplate, James Gibson

Law Faculty Publications

Despite what we learn in law school about the “meeting of the minds,” most contracts are merely boilerplate—take-it-or-leave-it propositions. Negotiation is nonexistent; we rely on our collective market power as consumers to regulate contracts’ content. But boilerplate imposes certain information costs because it often arrives late in the transaction and is hard to understand. If those costs get too high, then the market mechanism fails. So how high are boilerplate’s information costs? A few studies have attempted to measure them, but they all use a “horizontal” approach—i.e., they sample a single stratum of boilerplate and assume that it represents the …