A client recently presented me with a contract asking my opinion of it. He explained the parties had downloaded the document from a legal website and revised it to fit their needs. He thought it was fine, but wanted an attorney's opinion. Unfortunately, there are several problems with this scenario that are becoming all too common with the expansion of legal websites and people wanting to save a few dollars. First, the contract was inadequate in many respects and simply misstated the parties' agreement. Worse yet, it was already executed. As a result, it was now a flawed document to which he could be legally bound.
I frequently hear "it's too expensive to hire a lawyer" or "we really don't need to write this down because we trust each other." While the idea of utilizing the services of a lawyer for contract drafting seems simple enough, the pitfalls of failing to do so often outweigh any cost savings. The investment in a few hours of an attorney's time can have huge savings down the road when the parties are not getting along as well. Even a quick contract review before execution may reveal catastrophic deficiencies and avoid problems later.
People who know me know I love sports! Not surprisingly, I believe in the old sport adage, "the best offense is a good defense." Involving counsel early in contract negotiations or drafting is investing in a good defense when it comes to protecting the business relationship. Engaging an attorney and discussing the terms and conditions surrounding a contract often avoids unnecessary disputes later when tensions are higher and an agreement may be harder to reach.
Part of Buechner Haffer's commitment to assisting small to medium sized, closely held business entities and their owners is spotting and avoiding issues that can damage their business and their success. If the cost of retaining counsel is truly an issue, the client should not be afraid to ask for the attorney reviewing or drafting the agreement to limit the time spent to a defined number of hours or to consider a flat fee arrangement. Either of these options can mitigate the stigma that it is too expensive to seek competent legal counsel.
If you, or someone you know, needs help surrounding contracts being negotiated (or even soon to be signed), please contact one of the attorneys at Buechner Haffer so that we can offer a better understanding of the rights, duties, and obligations owed under the terms of the agreement.