Does this sound like you?
When we set up our consultancy practice, like many professionals we cobbled (cut + paste) together an appointment from documents we’d been provided by our professional body and or obtained from other consultants. We took an ‘that seems to look right’ or ‘it covers most bases’ approach. This is mainly because schools of architecture and professional bodies do not often tell you how to run and manage your business. It seems that only those people who have been in business for many years (or lawyers) understand the downsides and all the pitfalls, hoops and walls you need to scale.
A Steep Learning Curve
My very first job as a qualified lawyer, more than 20+ (ahem) years ago, was to prepare a suite of consultant appointments for a large educational institution’s development programme. I didn’t even know what an architect, quantity surveyor or structural engineer did, never mind an architectural technologist. The scope of their services – which should have made their role clear – included a basketload of generic tasks that anyone could do, so I wasn’t any wiser. In my view, a consultant appointment should be clear not just for the few people steeped in the project, but outsiders too (like a judge if it goes to court).
What is obvious is only obvious because you know it. For a consultant appointment, that means it has to be written down, not left in the minds of the parties…
Consultants face the same learning curve with legal documents.
99.9% of the time everything goes to plan and the cobbled together appointment is handily forgotten, and never referred to. Having a robust appointment can help with the 0.1% jobs: which may not be inherently risky but end in disputes due to misunderstandings, not managing client expectations and not meeting the client’s undisclosed needs. It is only when you are mired in email tennis with a disgruntled client that you wish you had set the project up properly – by which time it is too late.
Simple Robust and Clear
It’s not hard to ask better questions and clarify your role. It requires confidence in your own skills, and your willingness to spend a little time to get really clear at the very start.
Your client should not be leapt upon like prey! Tease out her real problems, needs and desires before you leap into providing a ready-made solution. As soon as you start talking the client’s language, you get her attention and she is more likely to say yes.
Adrian Williamson, Director at WMD Architecture and Design Ltd, read my new book How to Write Simple and Effective Consultant Appointments in Just 500 Words and said
“…having a book such as Sarah’s 14 years back would have certainly helped us and guided us to a more streamlined appointment… It’s essential that both you (professional) and your client (lay person) understand what is being said, asked for or implied in your agreement and that its simple, robust and clear. Disagreements often come as a result of a misunderstanding of what you think you have been asked for and what the client expects. A clear concise and simple appointment goes a long way to preventing those disagreements.”