Posted by Minna Boyle on 22 January 2019
You can get nearly everything on the internet these days.
It’s convenient, quick and cheap (sometimes free!). The best words to hear when you’re running a small business or startup.
So why not just download your contracts online?
Why bother spending time and money on a lawyer when you can just download a template, fill in your business name and be good to go?
Honestly, it’s a good question. Sometimes it’s hard to see the value of legal services for your business straight away.
Don’t get me wrong – there is certainly a time and place for templates. For simple contracts that you’re very familiar with, using a template might actually be the smartest thing to do.
In those cases, it makes sense to go for a cheap, quick fix and download a contract template from the internet.
You just need make sure you’re making an informed decision and making the right calls when assessing the risks for your business.
Before You Download A Contract Template
There are 4 factors you should consider before downloading a template.
- Legal compliance
- Certainty for your business
- Your time is valuable
Let’s go through each of these to help you make a decision on whether to download a contract template, or whether to hire a lawyer.
It sounds simple, but what’s the point of a contract if it doesn’t comply with the law?
Australian law is quite specific when it comes to contracts, consumers, employment and many other areas of business. Often, each State and Territory has its own unique set of rules too.
There are a lot of obligations placed on businesses, and you can get into trouble if you don’t comply.
When you download a contract online, you can’t always be sure that it’s up to date with the laws that apply to your business, in your jurisdiction.
When you speak to an experienced business lawyer, it’s guaranteed that your contract complies with the relevant Australian laws.
Certainty For Your Business
Let’s take a step back for a second and think about another aspect in your personal life.
When you get sick, do you ever use Google to self-diagnose a medical condition?
Come on, we all do it!
Yes it’s quick and free. You can do it while you’re waiting for the bus. Just enter your symptoms and Google spits out an answer. All sorted, right?
Well, yes and no.
First of all, we all know the trap. There’s so many issues that have similar symptoms. How can you be completely sure it’s just fatigue and not something more serious?
Even if you are 80% sure it’s fine, there’s still the voice in the back of your head that’s saying “OK, but what if it’s cancer?”.
And you can go for days without thinking about it, but every now and then it comes back and you have a moment of panic.
We’ve all been there. And we all know how it ends. The only way to get that peace of mind and move on is to visit your GP and get it checked out properly.
If it’s nothing – great, you can carry on with business as usual.
If it’s something serious, you’re on the path to a solution.
What Does This Have To Do With My Business Contracts?
The thing about self-diagnosing is: you can get it right and you’ll be fine. Or, you could get it wrong and be very not fine.
That worst-case scenario – is it really something you’re willing to risk?
You have to ask yourself the same question about your contracts.
Sure, if you’re lucky then the template contract you downloaded will work great. Especially for simple stuff that you’re very familiar with
But that one time that someone takes advantage of a poorly drafted contract – you could lose everything.
An experienced business lawyer can make sure the contract properly covers all your business activities and all the possible scenarios that could arise.
These scenarios will be different for every business, because every business is different.
Templates, by design, are general so that they can be used in any scenario. This means a template could be missing key clauses and protections that are specifically important for your business. It may also contain clauses that are irrelevant or potentially damaging for you.
Getting proper legal advice at the beginning is just like going to the GP. You get to sort out exactly what you need so that you don’t have to speculate anymore.
Legal issues have solutions, and there are professionals out there who know how to take care of them so you don’t have to worry.
Running a business is hectic enough as it is – why not get some peace of mind where you can?
Another factor to consider is whether you need some guidance on how to use the contract.
Think about it – how do you even know if you’ve downloaded the right type of contract? What if you want to understand what would happen if someone wants to end the contract? Or doesn’t pay you?
When you get a lawyer to write your contract for you, you get to ask them any questions you have about it too.
Some lawyers will charge you extra the more time you spend on a phone call or the more emails you send. But we get that this can be quite annoying for businesses looking for cost certainty.
That’s why we at Sprintlaw only provide our services on a fixed-fee basis. It just makes sense – understanding the product should be a key part of the service and we don’t want to put our clients under pressure to ask as little as possible.
Understanding your contracts does not have to be that complicated – in fact, it’s necessary to running your business in the smartest way.
Find yourself a lawyer who delivers you a quality legal document, explains how it works and answers any of your questions about it – all as one service.
Then you can feel in control of your business legals and know it’s all done right.
Your time is valuable
The final point to make is about your time.
Yes, you might be fully across the ins and outs of the contract. You might be confident that you can do it all yourself. You might even be legally trained!
But think for a moment about whether it’s worth your time doing it, or is your time better spent on other important things for your business?
As a business owner, you should be doing things that only you can do – not things you can pay other people to do for you.
We often get asked to review contracts that clients have tried to patch together themselves. Usually with the expectation that the legal review will cost less given that they’ve done some of the work already.
The truth is, it will probably cost about the same – if not more.
This is because a lawyer will first have to review the contract to make sure it has been drafted properly, and then make any necessary amendments.
Often we’ll have to re-draft the whole thing and it would have been a complete waste of time for you to do the drafting.
So before you start playing around with templates you’ve downloaded off the internet, have a think about whether it’s the best use of your time or whether your effort is needed elsewhere in the business.
What To Take Away…
Downloading a contract template from the internet is a quick solution. But it’s often not worth it.
Speaking to a lawyer to get your legal contracts drawn up means
- You know it complies with the relevant Australian laws
- You know it works for your particular business
- You understand exactly what you’re using
- You can spend your time doing other things
You can be certain that you’ve minimised your legal risks.
It’s huge burden off your shoulders, and it feels good.
Give it a try for yourself – speak to one of our legal consultants and find out how we can help you with your business’ legal needs!