It comes up from time to time. We see people using form contracts. Forms are great, let’s get it straight. Lawyers do use forms with contracts. We often take documents for one client, edit them and use them for a different client. We often use commercial form services, stuff similar to the professional version of Legal Zoom. When we’re using forms as lawyers, we’re typically looking at them with a very keen eye about the situations that apply to our clients. We are discerning what’s going on behind the scenes and why we want to use a particular form over a different form and what we want to change in that form. Rarely will a lawyer take a form, fill in some names and call it done. Usually, everything is changed, adjusted, and tweaked to meet the needs of the contract and the deal. The problem we see is some people use form agreements off the Internet, don’t make these changes, and think that they’re saving a lot of money. Then when a problem arises, that form contract may or may not have the right protections in it.
It may not deal with specific situations. The form may not deal with the situation you find yourself that are favorable to you. This is the value that a lawyer really can add when they’re setting up your contracts and agreements. They can look at your situation as a holistic enterprise, figure out what’s good for you and what’s bad and make sure that the provisions are included. You can then better understand the provisions that are unfavorable to you. In a negotiated situation, you may not get everything you want in a contract but you can at least understand it. The moral of the story is – be careful about form contracts. They’re a great place to start and they’re wonderful to have but they’re rarely going to get you exactly where you want to go. They’re usually going to have problems embedded with them so you want to be very careful.
What’s been your experience? Have you ever been burned by a form contract, ever been left in a lurch, or had a bad agreement that somebody else signed off the Internet? Let us know about your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
This posting is intended to be a tool to familiarize readers with some of the issues discussed herein. This is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion and additional details should be discussed with your attorneys, accountants, consultants, bankers and other business planners who can provide advice for your circumstances. This article should not be treated as legal advice to any person or entity. Each case is unique. Past results do not guarantee future outcomes. Freeimages.com/photographer Odan Jaeger.
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