Contracts: the Essential Business Desk Reference by Attorney Richard Stim

Contracts are everywhere.  Richard Stim makes this obvious in the introduction to Contracts: the Essential Business Desk Reference. Enumerating everything from employment contracts to those involving insurance, credit cards, toll roads, and music and book downloads, contractual relationships are everywhere and nowhere.  Because of this situation, Contracts is an essential tool for navigating the occasionally intimidating aspect of signing the dotted line.  Following or breaking contracts have real consequences for all involved.

The book organizes the various terms associated with contracts in alphabetical order.  Aided by cross-references, it provides easy navigation of topics.  Nolo, the publisher, also boasts dictionary definitions written in “plain-English.”  What this means is that explanations are not cluttered with needless jargon or legalese.  Definitions range in length.  Larger topics can get broken down into subgroups and may have the addition of sample forms or sample clauses.  (The book devotes five pages to “real estate contracts.”) Here is an example of a shorter definition:


Like a cap, a ceiling is slang for the upper limit for something.  For example, the term is commonly used in real estate transactions to refer to the upper limit over which the interest rate on a variable rate mortgage may not rise over the life of the loan.

Related term: cap.

The usefulness of this book cannot be denied.  For a novice or for those writing a specific contract, the book offers easy navigation, clear and precise definitions, and abundant cross-references.  Since this book deals with legal topics, the usual disclaimer applies: This book is a guide to contracts, but not the substitute for professional legal counsel.  (In the same way CliffsNotes are not an effective substitute for actually reading the book.)  Prior to receiving legal assistance, Contracts will give the reader an added advantage.  Reading the definitions will give the reader an opportunity to craft precise questions to ask his or her lawyer.