Whether you’re using a contract for your business, or you’ve got an offer on the table, you should always have a lawyer review your contract. Why? Because it’s a legally binding document, and paying an expert to look at it will could save you a lot of pain, and money, down the road!
Knowledge is power.
When it comes to contracts, this cliché holds true. The majority of employees, clients and freelancers sign paperwork without even reading it. And even when they do read it, it’s impossible to understand what’s on there without a legal background, or without even knowing what to look for in the first place.
A good lawyer will review your contract, and they’ll translate complicated terminology to plain English. It’s their job to make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to. They’ll also make sure that you don’t agree to terms that don’t benefit you at all, and they might propose some revisions for you to take back to the other party. From there, a negotiation might take place, or the other party might agree to the changes. In the end, you’ll know exactly what’s in that contract, and there won’t be any surprises down the road.
Laws change all the time.
Even if you have a fundamental understanding of contracts, laws change all the time. There are new rulings, new perspectives, new arguments made that might change something that impacts you, your clients and your contracts.
As a business owner myself, I have my contracts reviewed regularly to make sure they’re still up to date. If you’ve been using the same contract for the past twenty years, or if you’ve been offered a new contract by a client or an employer, it’s definitely time to get it checked out!
You’ll sleep better at night.
The more you limit your risks, the better off you’ll be. I have heard too many stories of artists getting ripped off by their managers, employees getting the bare minimum after getting laid off, freelancers signing away their rights to their intellectual property.
A lot of these issues could have been prevented by paying a couple of hundred bucks to have a lawyer review things before they got signed. It’s such a small price to pay to make sure you’re protected.
You might lose clients.
Yes, you might lose potential clients or partners if you have your contract reviewed. Why? Because they might not agree to your lawyer’s revisions. The terms might not be agreeable. They might not even appreciate that you’ve sought legal counsel!
If anyone has a problem with you seeking legal advice before signing a contract, that’s a major red flag. In fact, that could became a legal issue on its own, depending on your local laws. So, don’t let anyone intimidate you into signing anything. And if they try to pressure you to sign something, let your lawyer know about it.
There’s also this perception within certain industries that people who seek legal advice are “hard to work with”. This is an unfortunate reality in some professional networks, and all I can say about it, is this: you’re either a professional, or you’re not. If people can’t handle that you like to do things the right way, then that’s a problem with them, not you. Find a new network, or find new friends. No one should be shamed for wanting to protect themselves.
You might gain clients!
As a professional, I enjoy working with people who treat themselves as professionals. I find it very attractive to see people who are organized, and who value themselves and their work. So, when I’m looking for people to work with, I absolutely judge them by how they conduct their business. If they want to start work without a contract, I see that as a turn-off. I’ve done it before, and it rarely ends well.
So, while you might turn off some clients, you’ll actually end up attracting the right ones! See, it’s not just about having your contract reviewed. It’s about conducting yourself as a proper professional. You attract who you become. And if you want high-quality clients, then you have to become a high quality provider.
Careful who you work with.
When selecting a lawyer, you want someone who’s cool-headed. You don’t want a ‘shark’ or a ‘bulldog’. You want someone who will handle challenges with a calm response. Why? Because aggressive behaviour doesn’t play well.
A good lawyer knows when to crank up the dial, and when not to. A good lawyer is pleasant to work with for you, and for the client. And a good lawyer will represent you to the best of their abilities. You never want someone’s ego to become central to a negotiation.
If you want to know what kind of lawyer they are, just ask them. Ask them situational questions, like how they handle conflicts. Ask them how they’ve handled tough situations in the past. And listen carefully on how they talk with you. Are they kind? Are they rude? Are they treating you like you’re stupid? Are they rushing the conversation? Listen, and let your gut guide you. Shop around if you have to!
But, it’s my buddy!
It doesn’t matter if you think you “shouldn’t have to”, when it comes to legal agreements, you should always care about your rights. Besides, buddies rip each other off all the time! So, even if you’re working with a trusted friend, secure that trust with a contract.
A lawyer will also help you make sure that “favours” are within the scope of your contract. For example, a lot of work between friends is done as exchanges. You do this for me, I’ll do this for you. Thing is, some people don’t deliver. And sometimes, that can cost you big time. Have it checked out, and have it written on paper. If your buddies are really trustworthy, you’ll never have to worry about it! But, on that rare occasion that a pal might screw things up for you, you’ll be protected if you work with a contract.
You’ll feel empowered.
I commented to one of my lawyers the other day that it was the first time in my life that I finally felt in control. When you have all your ducks in a row, when you have a team of professionals looking out for you, it feels really good. It feels like you’re less susceptible to the kinds of games the ‘big boys’ play to take advantage of people who don’t know any better. Like it or not, that stuff happens.
And while I don’t want to sew seeds of distrust in anyone, I know from first-hand experience that having a legal expert review and comment on your paperwork is one of the best investments you’ll ever make, for your business, but also for yourself.