July 30, 2019

What Does Redlining Contracts Mean and Where Did the Term Come From?

Written by
Henal Patel

Redlining contracts as we know it today in the legal profession refers to the act of performing edits to a document and/or comparing mark ups. Redlining also can refer to a form of document comparison (usually contracts) that is generally done by computers. The computer will pull up two versions of the same document and review and compare them, looking for differences and discrepancies between the original and the second version.

Through the process of comparing two versions of the same document, the software-based version of redlining will produce a third document, using either a different font, highlighting, or a different text color to indicate areas that have been added to or removed from the original document.

How Redlining Contracts Originated

Redlining contracts has been done for decades in the legal and financial industries, since long before computers and computer software were around to make the process simple and easy. In fact, the term “redline” is very literal, referring to the markings that a person would make by hand using a red pen when they reviewed changes to an original contract or other legal documents. The reviewer would use a ruler and a red pen to make lines to indicate areas that had been removed or included. Deleted text was marked with a single strikethrough line. Inserted text was marked with a double line.

Redline referred to the original copy that had the red marks. Once the document was copied by the copy machine, it was called blackline, since the lines were now black instead of red. In today’s world, there’s rarely an instance where it makes sense to refer to a redlined document as blacklined, but you might hear the term thrown around now and then, especially by colleagues who had to endure the monotony of redlining contracts back in the early days of their career.

Room for Error

You can imagine what a tedious task it was to redline by hand. And not only that, but the process left room for human error. It required diligent attention to detail to notice and correctly notate what parts had been inserted or deleted from the original to make the final document. Imagine the problems that would arise if a lawyer missed an important deletion from opposing counsel, or if an addition was made in the wrong spot.

Fortunately, we live in the digital age, where computers can handle important tasks like document comparison. There’s software that can make the process of redlining simpler not only simpler but also more accurate since there isn’t room for human error. Contract review software like DocJuris saves law firms a lot of time by producing redlined contracts on a clean interface in a short amount of time, so lawyers and law firms can focus their time, money, and energy on other tasks that require a human touch.

Written by
Henal Patel

Henal is a native Houstonian and the CEO of DocJuris. Before founding DocJuris, he worked as a senior in-house lawyer and legal ops specialist for over fifteen years.

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