What Bilbo Baggins’s Contract Teaches About Plain Language

Michael Braem

Michael Braem

Michael Braem is a 2006 WMU-Cooley graduate and works in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University.  He specializes in civil litigation and contract law, and has a never-ending quest for plain language in the law. He recently co-authored an article entitled “What Bilbo Baggins’s Contract Teaches About Plain Language.” 

If you have seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you may recall the contract full of legal jargon the dwarves gave to Bilbo Baggins. Braem and fellow contract attorney Chadwick Busk teamed together to write about this contract for the August 2015 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal.

“For those requiring a Hobbit refresher, here is the contract’s background. The wizard Gandalf recommends to a band of 13 dwarves that they hire the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to help recover their treasure in the Lonely Mountain. But the treasure is guarded by a terrible dragon, Smaug, and the journey to the Lonely Mountain is likely to be dangerous. The dwarves are reluctant to hire Bilbo despite Gandalf’s insistence that Bilbo has burglary skills, and Bilbo is even more reluctant to join the dwarves. The parties’ discussions culminate in the following dwarf-drafted “acceptance,” which is somewhat peculiar because there is no evidence of any “offer” from Bilbo:”

Read the entire article at:


Special credit and thanks go out from Braem to his colleague Chad Busk, WMU-Cooley Professor Joe Kimble, the Journal’s editorial staff, and the author/designer of the prop contract, Dan Reeves.

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