For this blog, I felt it relevant to go back to the basics. On Tuesday, I went on a commercial contract drafting skills course specifically designed for lawyers. It bought back many memories of my contract law days when studying for my Graduate Diploma in Law and the refresher did me good. It was enjoyable and I felt like I learnt some things from it that will definitely benefit my clients.
As individuals, we enter into legal contracts every day whether that’s by buying our morning coffee, filling our cars with petrol, signing up to gym memberships or entering into a hire purchase agreement for washing machines or other household goods. Often it is overlooked but everything we do where there is an exchange of promises is governed by contract law. Like the rest of the English law, contract is no different. There is no single document out there which will tell you the rules to follow when entering or negotiating contracts or even what way something SHOULD go when there has been a dispute. The rules are scattered across other sources, many from case law where the judge’s decisions have set a precedent, some of which are centuries old yet are still very much valid today.
For a contract to be valid there must be an offer, an acceptance, a meeting of the mind/intention to create legal relations and consideration. It is important to remember that you may be entering into contracts without even realising it, however for the purposes of this blog I shall discuss the contracts that are properly drafted, require a signature and clearly lay out obligations and responsibilities of each party. These are the contracts often seen in business. It is important that you should never sign a contract that you do not understand, always consult a lawyer before agreeing to the terms of any contract as it is highly likely you will be bound by it should you accept. Later stating you did not understand the terms will not stop the contract from being legally enforceable. Also remember, a signature is NOT always required to make a contract legally enforceable. This is often a common mistake people make. (I will do a blog on this at some point too).
It is important to consider your contracts carefully because they are the basis for your business. If you agree to a badly-written contract or a contract you have not read properly, you may be signing up to do more than you had bargained for. You may have waivered some rights you may end up wishing you could rely on, or you may have allowed the other party to limit their liabilities. It is all ifs buts and maybes but it is better to be fully aware of what you are signing up to than it costing thousands to put right if a problem occurs.
It is also important that every single business has a strong set of terms & conditions in which they can rely on for their business. It does not matter if you are selling cupcakes or providing on going cleaning services, make sure you have a set of terms and conditions that are bespoke to your business. This is your contract that you can rely on should a customer want to get out of paying, or try and argue the service was not what they had asked for. This is your business, your cash flow and your terms that need to be protecting.
At BEB we can provide contract management services and draft Terms & Conditions all at a very affordable price.