I had a prospective client call the other day who was hoping to get out of a purchase agreement for a new car. If you’ve bought a car before, you know how difficult that battle can be without a guaranteed return policy or a promise that you have “48 hours to change your mind.” This purchase agreement had no such language. Fortunately, we were able to find a solution to the problem, but this serves as a good reminder: any time you are signing a document, it’s a good idea to have an attorney review it first.
Often when you are handed a contract by another party, it’s safe to assume that it’s drafted heavily in their favor (probably because they also hired an attorney). But before you sign, there are lots of provisions to consider: warranties, force majeure clauses, insurance requirements, attorneys’ fees and costs, completion dates, licensing rights, intellectual property and trade secret protection, indemnification, required mediation or arbitration—the list goes on and on. What appears to be a “standard” contract can differ greatly from your expectations, and from one “standard” contract to the next. Allowing an attorney to review these contracts can certainly help you understand your legal rights, but it also can help you negotiate a better, fairer contract.
Sometimes “standard” contracts are missing important provisions entirely. These omissions are frequently intentional, and can be troublesome for you if a dispute arises. Although it’s possible to read and critique language that’s right in front of you, it’s not very easy to read language that . . . isn’t there. More often than you’d think, when a contract omits language, a court will say “the parties could have agreed to that, but because they didn’t—you’re out of luck.” However, an experienced attorney may be able to identify this missing language and ensure that your rights are protected.
Now to be fair, were I reading this post, the cynic in me would say, “Well, of course this attorney wants me to pay him to read basic purchase agreements.” Touché, cynic—touché. However, the short-term cost of having an attorney review your contracts before you sign them may protect you from thousands of dollars in long-term litigation fees if a dispute does arise.
So whether you are starting a new job and signing an employment contract, renting, leasing, or purchasing a house or car, or hiring someone to perform services for you, consider having one of our many qualified attorneys review your agreement first. We’ve got your back.