Good Contracts

On August 21, 2018, in Heather Bussing, HRExaminer, Policies, by Heather Bussing

“Contracts don’t have to be pages of incomprehensible legal mumbo-jumbo. They can be clean and simple and understandable.” – Heather Bussing

 

Most contracts have a bunch of words that no one reads before they sign it. And then no one pays any attention at all once the work gets underway. The only ones who read contracts are lawyers, probably because they are the only ones who understand them in the first place.

This is wrong.

Here’s all you need to have a perfectly legal, completely enforceable contract.

  1. A statement of who is going to do what and when. Usually one side works and the other one pays. But any exchange of value  is enough.
  2. Signatures of the people who are supposed to do stuff.

Yep. That’s it.

You technically don’t even need that, since verbal agreements are also perfectly legal and enforceable. But it’s nice to have it in writing in case there’s a misunderstanding about the deal.

So why are contracts so long and convoluted?

I’m not sure. But I think the lawyers are uncomfortable because they don’t really understand the work. So they put in a bunch of stuff to manage risk and cover their butts.  The people signing the contract are uncomfortable because they have no idea what the document says, so they rely on the lawyers. Then the next bunch of lawyers come along an add something, and it just gets worse. It’s an infinity loop of fear and uncertainty.

So here’s the secret to having a great contract: Don’t ever let the lawyers write the statement of work.

Have somebody who actually does the work and understands the work describe what’s supposed to happen. Then put that in the contract.

Really.

If something goes sideways and you end up in court fighting about what was supposed to happen, you actually have a chance of winning. That’s because the contract will say what the deal really was.

 



 
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