Although I love simplifying contracts and enabling smoother contracting, contracts are simply a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Most lawyers think contracts are about the law – but they’re really about building and recording relationships between a client and their suppliers.
Trust, Links and Collaboration
As you may know, I am a bit of a contract nerd and waste no time signing up to seminars by those who are at the cutting edge of new ways of thinking about contracts and contracting. At a recent Law Insider webinar, Electra Japonas, the co-founder of the crowd-sourced OneNDA, said that contracts are there to facilitate healthy relationships.
This view was echoed by others during the contract corner sessions at the World Commerce and Contracting Vibe Summit 2023. Elizabeth de Stadler talked about the role of a contract professional which is to help clients to form relationships and to define the rules of those relationships in a way that is clear and compelling to everybody, not just lawyers.
As a contracts professional, I firmly believe that one of my key roles is to make sure my contracts enhance any existing trust, build balanced links between the parties, and help the parties to collaborate throughout the contracting process. The contract is part of the background to a better relationship –I never want a contract to create distance between the parties to the deal.
My clients generally tell me that their simple contracts help them build good relationships with clients and suppliers. Perhaps you should ask your suppliers or clients if that’s true in your business?!
Part of that role is also to take obstacles out of your way – such as ‘traditional legal language’. That language has developed over decades of training from a lawyer’s mindset of trying to avoid bad things happening to clients or projects. However, by fixating on the negatives, we have inadvertently created complex, one-sided and adversarial contracts. And these contracts can break trust, damage relationships and create a blame culture.
I write contracts in the hope that a judge never reads any of the contracts that I have co-created for my clients. I want your contracts to operate seamlessly and positively within your business relationships and so help you avoid disputes.
What’s the best way to build or trash a business relationship?