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Transactional documents do more than allocate the risk of loss or select the governing law. Transactional documents, whether employment contracts or lease agreements, encapsulate the wishes, hopes, and fears of the transacting parties. The documents share a series of events, identify the key actors in those events, and anticipate particular outcomes or future events. In other words, the transactional documents are narratives. The transactional lawyer is thus more than a transactional intermediary. The transactional lawyer is the narrative agent or storyteller.

The “narrative” is often associated with the following words: story, tale, fiction, and entertainment. These associations may appear to have little in common with transactional documents. Yet, these associations do not reflect a full understanding of narrative. Dismissing the applicability of narrative to transactional documents also does not reflect a full understanding of the purpose of transactional documents and the role of the transactional lawyer.

To begin, this essay will define narrative and explain why transactional documents should be considered to be narratives. This essay will then explore the role of the transactional lawyer as a narrative agent and share five practical strategies to foster the role of the transactional lawyer as storyteller.


With Susan M. Chesler, Arizona State University College of Law.