A lawyer is telling you to write your own contracts?
Perhaps, I shouldn’t be telling you this. I’ve been a lawyer for over 28 years. I’ve spent my career drafting, revising, and editing contracts for technology-based businesses. I know how complicated contracts can be whether you are a lawyer or non-lawyer. Why would I recommend that you create your own contracts?
Think of it this way. It’s like writing a love letter. Would you hire someone else to express your innermost feelings to the one you love? It didn’t work out so well for Cyrano de Bergerac…So, why would you hire a lawyer to write contracts for you?
WTF? How is a contract like a love letter?
A contract describes the relationship between two parties. It expresses each of their rights and obligations, but more importantly, it expresses the true nature of their relationship.
Don’t believe me?
Think about the last contract you signed with a customer or a vendor. What was the most important part of the contract? Was it the amount of money being transferred? No, you probably wrote a check or paid in cash. The person receiving the check knows whether or not they got paid. And for most transactions (e.g., going to the grocery store), there is no contract, just a receipt for payment.
So why do we need contracts?
To describe the more complicated part of the business relationship. The part that goes beyond money, the part that describes each party’s expectations and expresses the true nature of the relationship. This is the hard part of writing a contract and its the part that lawyers are not necessarily best suited for.
It’s like a love letter. Oh…
Do you fall in love with everyone you sign a contract with?
Maybe you should.
Why do business with customers you don’t love. Wouldn’t you rather spend your days working with customers or clients you do love? Why buy goods or services from suppliers or vendors you don’t love? Wouldn’t you rather give your business to suppliers or vendors you do love?
As a lawyer, I recommend that clients not sign any contracts with people they don’t trust. No matter how well the contract is written, the contract won’t protect you from someone who is willing to cheat, lie or steal. It’s really import to do business with people you love.
So, when you are in love, you share your innermost feelings by writing a love letter. In the case of business, you create a contract.
A detailed, boring, lengthy agreement heavily laden with legalese almost never inspires either party. Typically, a contract written by a lawyer is overly formal or neglects to describe the most important business points that are essential to setting expectations and building a strong business relationship.
That is why you must create your own contracts – ones that reflect your business style, what your business stands for, and is consistent with your business strategy, marketing and messaging. These contracts define your relationships with your most important people – customers, suppliers, employees, and advisers. These are the people who help to make your business great. Shouldn’t you be the one creating those relationships?
Why do you need a lawyer?
A lawyer has knowledge of the law. A lawyer can help you protect your business. A lawyer can spot potential problems before they arise. After you create your contract, you should send it to a lawyer for review. If you draft your own agreement, the lawyer will be in a better position to know what is important to you. And the end result will be better.
Even a love letter, you might share with a close friend or family member before you send it. It helps to have someone review it, to make sure that you are not overly infatuated with someone you just met or promising the world without getting to know the person. What’s important is that you write the letter. It is your words, your beliefs, and your wishes that provide the basis for your relationship.
If you are a lawyer, this puts you in the position of being an expert by reviewing the contract. You are sought out for your legal expertise. The client knows their business better than any outside attorney. They are in the best position to create the first draft, if they know how. I always said “a sophisticated consumer was my best clients”. Teaching clients to draft their own agreements means your clients will become more sophisticated consumers and value more highly your legal expertise.
How do you draft your own contracts?
That is what the ContractsGuru is all about. In this blog, I will share how anyone can create their own contracts, where you find the best contracts as models, how you customize those contracts to fit your business, and, yes, how the law and lawyers can help protect your business.
My intent is to make contracts fun…I know that sound impossible, but I will try. I promise to write at least weekly or maybe more often (if inspired and time permits). Let me know how I do by subscribing to this blog, sharing helpful tips with friends, and posting your comments below. Feel free to ask questions about contracts that you would like me to write about in future blog posts.
Roger Glovsky is a business lawyer who believes legal documents should be accessible, affordable and comprehensible. As author of ContractsGuru.com, Roger coaches business owners how to draft and negotiate their own contracts through workshops, teleseminars and online programs. As founder of LEXpertise.com, he plans to make it easier for business owners to find the right legal documents when they need them. Originally from Massachusetts, he now lives in Boulder, Colorado.