Treatment of the term ‘best endeavours’ and its variants shows that English judges and practitioners are interpreting contract language blindly, argues Kenneth Adams

Although English lawyers might find it galling to have an American lawyer say so, how the English legal profession goes about interpreting contracts is, in one important respect, dysfunctional.

In the English legal system, attributing meaning to contract language isn’t necessarily a function of the ordinary meaning of that language. Instead, practitioners and, crucially, judges are prone to treating contract language as inscrutable code. That poses a risk of confusion and of irrational outcomes to contract disputes.

One clear example of this dysfunction is treatment of the phrase ‘best