Reading, Writing, And Protection
Small-business owners need to do more than sign on the dotted line
For a more in-depth review of what makes up a contract, visit www.mycoun sel.com and www.nolo.com. Both sites are designed to bring business managers up to speed and make “working with a lawyer a more satisfying experience,” says White. As the Nolo site suggests, these sites should only provide an outline and not be substituted for professional legal advice tailored to your situation.
Finding Legal Help
White provides these five suggestions:
Retain experienced commercial counsel early in the process. Interview prospective candidates to ensure that they have experience dealing with commercial transactions. An experienced lawyer can tell you what is standard in the industry and whether the contract is unreasonably one-sided. Most lawyers and their résumés can be found at their firm’s home page, or by visiting Websites serving the legal profession. One of the most prominent is Martindale and Hubbell (www.martindale.com). Also check www.lawyers.com.
Ask your lawyer to walk you through each of the provisions of the contract so that you understand what promises each side is making.
Ask your lawyer to explain what the contract says about resolving disputes between the parties, and breaches of the contract. In certain circumstances, you may want to provide for mediation or arbitration of certain types of disputes in an effort to limit the costs and obtain a quicker resolution of the problems.
Find out from your lawyer, before concluding negotiations, how much time and what costs will be incurred in resolving disputes according to the terms of the contract. Knowing these expenditures and weighing the risks are important elements to have when pricing the contract and reserving sufficient funds to enforce it.
Keep a file for each of your significant contracts. The file should contain an original contract signed by each of the parties, together with any significant correspondence and documents relating to the dealings between the parties. Remember: not having quick access to these documents when a dispute arises can delay seeking enforcement of your rights and add significantly to your costs.