Contracts are tools to help you do business, and in that sense, you (rather than a lawyer) might be the perfect person to write your own contract.
This might seem counter-intuitive coming from a contract specialist, who helps companies to write their own contracts. When I work with clients, I ask them to tell me (in their own words) what they do and also why. This forms the basis of my contract. Each has a very different style as it needs to reflect that company, not me!
A legal contract
The elements you need for a legally binding contract are not that tricky to create in practice. If you have a signed document between two companies then four out of the five legal requirements are already in place: offer and acceptance (the signed document), intention (presumed between two companies) and there will be some form of value referred to (consideration).
What’s left is to make sure that document contains enough clear and certain terms to create a workable agreement.
Like any writing, there are five steps to creating a contract:
- Who? Why? this requires you to think about who you are writing a contract for and why you are bothering.
- Research you need to ensure your contract contains the terms needed to make it workable. If it is a construction contract, start with my 10 essentials.
- Index there is no particular order for contract terms, although it makes sense to deal with the most important aspects first.
- Text once you know what you need to include, then write it in plain language, without jargon or legalese.
- Edit this step is intended to make sure your contract is accurate, brief and clear. It needs to reflect your company’s values, stories, and tone of voice.
What could you do?
Many business owners ask lawyers to write their contracts – resulting in long, wordy documents you cannot read, understand or use. You may find your current contracts hard to negotiate, embarrassing to send to prospective clients, and tools which do not help them do business.
Other business owners write their own contracts anyway. You might copy & paste from a variety of (unreliable) sources, with predictable results.
None of these are wrong…
What should you do?
However, you can start from a blank sheet of paper, and – by following these 5 steps – produce a workable contract. Having a set of T&C which reflect your ways of working and help to sell your services can also substantially reduce the time taken to get to ‘yes’ .
Contracts written by users for users might not be perfect, but then no contract ever is!