We have a tradition in my family every Thanksgiving. Before we eat, we each go around the table and talk about what we are thankful for that year and in general. Usually, our gratitude surrounds our family, pets, major events, simple things (chocolate is not as of yet a scarce commodity), our health, our loved ones, and so much more. Rarely do business contracts make that list.
But if you are a small business-owner, I want you to be thankful for your business contracts. I bet even Santa has contracts( promises to all those houses for all those presents, employee agreements with the reindeers (or are they independent contractors?))
And if you do not have small business contracts set up for your business, because they just seem so, well, contract-ey, let me help you bring in the spirit of the holidays directly to your business.
How Contract-ey should my Contract be with my Clients?
People assume that because I am an attorney, l will put a lot of difficult-to-understand legalese riddled with Latin terms that sound scary in their business contracts. This is not a wrong assumption to make about an attorney (a lot of them are like that), but your attorney has an obligation to both protect you and not scare away your client (or you!)
- Consider calling your Contract a “Client Services Agreement” or “Client Engagement Letter” or any permutation thereof.
- Make sure you balance the right “tone” with the right amount of You do not want your pet-services contract to read like you are going to war with Fido; you want it to sound like you will love Fido but if Fido bites a baby, it’s game over (this is why I have a toothless dog).
- Concise and to the point is always better than paragraphs and paragraphs of explaining things that may get lost, misunderstood, ignored, or, worse, scare the client away.
- Do NOT let an attorney make business decisions for you that seem uncomfortable. An attorney should explain the legal ramifications of terms, and perhaps use her own experience with businesses to explain certain clauses, but ultimately there are many business decisions that you should feel free to tell your attorney to incorporate because that is how you run your business.
- The language of the contract should be the same for all clients. It is the Scope of Work/Statement of Work that will vary (including the services and prices outlined therein)
- While those who like just one document may incorporate policies, goals and client responsibilities into their contract, please know that you may opt to have a separate “Business Policies” document (aka “Client Responsibilities” or “Mutual Goals” or whatever else you would like to call it). It is personal preference.
- Ensure you do not just insert legal terms randomly because you saw them on someone else’s contract and you assume they will protect you. If you have a question about what something means, post it here, and your fellow business-owners and fellow attorneys here should be able to provide insight.
- Finally, remember that your Client Contract sets the tone of your working relationship with your Client. You set your boundaries and you decide how to do it. Let us attorneys do (and explain) the boring stuff (that we love).