Virtually all companies have established a house style for the use of their logo, the look and feel of e-mails, letters and other communication materials. When it comes to the presentation of contracts, applying a contract house style, legal departments often fail to have established any ‘contract house style’-rules. It often appears that there are no strict rules on presentation (if there is a policy at all).

Many in-house lawyers do not bother about the presentation of their contracts because they believe that only the contents are relevant. If they do bother, they often create something for own use. In such situations, you will probably also discover that the style of one model contract does not necessarily match with other model contracts. Obviously, such lawyer’s house style may well contradict the ideas inherent in the corporate house style, and result in inconsistency amongst the agreements and contracting policies (if there is any house style at all).

Effective contract house style rules are established in consultation with the company’s PR & communication firm and enforced strictly. Because some people just fail to see the difference between contract clauses in Times Roman compared to Garamond, or between Arial 10 point versus 11 point fonts, it is recommended that the house style rules are provided both as a visual example (e.g. high­lighting font sizes, margins, line spacing, indentation and numbering styles) and in the form of a term sheet.

The enforcement of a house style is not an issue when all contracts are created through a document assembly application. In such case, the user would not have the chance to modify the presentation (at least not unconsciously).

House style rules (sample)

Page settings:
Page size: A4
Margins: 2.5 – 2 – 2 – 2 (cm’s: top, bottom, left, right)
Header/footer margins: 1.2 cm – 1 cm
First page: Different first page

Headers and footers:
First page header: (empty)
First page footer: page number (centred)
Subsequent headers: page number (centred) + confidentiality notice (right aligned)
Subsequent footers: document title (centred)

Paragraph settings:
Text alignment: left aligned (not justified)
Spacing before: 0 pt, except for ‘Level 1′ (article title): 12 pt
Spacing after: 6 pt
Line spacing: Exactly – 13 pts
Widow /orphan control: On
Keep with next paragraph: Off, except for ‘Level 1′ (article title): On
Keep lines together: Off, except in tables
Don’t hyphenate: On (= do not hyphenate words)

Font settings:
Font: Arial – not: Verdana, Calibri (i.e. no screen fonts)
Font size: 11 pt
Header/footer size: 9 pt
Article titles: Bold + all-caps

Tabs and numbering settings:
Default tab stops: 1 cm
Numbering (levels 1-4): 1., 2., 3. – 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 – (a), (b), (c) – (i), (ii), (iii)
Parties numbering: 1., 2., 3.
Whereas clauses: (A), (B), (C)
Definitions: Non-numbering, indentation as Level 2

Units: metric (per 1 cm, not per ½ inch)
Position number (levels 1-4): 0 cm, 0 cm, 1 cm, 2 cm
Tab space to first line: 1 cm, 1 cm, 2 cm, 3 cm
Indentation next lines: 1 cm, 1 cm, 2 cm, 3 cm

Captions (clause headings):
Underlined, followed by a non-underlined full stop and space