Finding a Lawyer for a Contract Review
Every now and again, small businesses are faced with big opportunities. In order to turn that opportunity into a legally-binding deal that keeps your business and its finances safe, you’ll need to draw up a contract and have it reviewed by a lawyer.
Especially when it comes to important contracts, there’s no way around hiring a professional contract attorney. Once you sign a contract, you become legally bound to whatever the agreement entails, so you should make sure that whatever is written serves your interests. That’s why hiring a contract attorney is oftentimes a necessary part of the process.
The thing is, if you’re thinking that hiring a lawyer can get pricey, just think of the potential damage and financial cost of a contract that doesn’t represent and protect your business properly. Legal language and terminology are a world of their own, so to speak. Even the aptest eye of an amateur may end up missing legal loopholes that can cost you dearly.
So – when should you get a lawyer to look over your contract? How do you find a lawyer for a one-off assignment, and how much does it cost on average? We’ll go over the answers to these questions and give you some tips on how to write up a contract so that you can reduce your legal fees by starting out with a ready document.
When Should You Hire a Lawyer to Look Over Your Contract?
A lawyer who specializes in contracts – i.e. a contract attorney – is someone who draws up, edits, and/or revises legally-binding documents and contracts. While it’s not a necessity for small businesses to have lawyers on their team, there are instances when you’d need to hire a lawyer for one-off assignments.
One such instance is before signing any new contracts that can potentially impact your finances, responsibilities, or time in a considerable manner. In other words, if you’re about to sign a contract that can be highly consequential to your business, it’s important that you first have it reviewed by a professional who is closely familiar with legal terminology and will ensure that there are no loopholes that leave your business and its assets vulnerable.
Another case when you’d need the eye of a legal professional is if you’re looking to make changes to an existing legal document of such importance. Such changes can be the result of your interests or position shifting since the original contract was drawn up. For instance, you may be ready to renew a soon-to-expire agreement with a customer or business partner, but you first want to update some clauses, such as the pricing, responsibilities, business details, and so on. In this case, too, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer look over the redrafted contract before signing it and having it countersigned.
Lastly, you would certainly need to consult a lawyer if you suspect that the other party has made a breach of contract. The contract attorney can advise how to move forward and what legal action to take in order to get out of that contract.
If despite your best efforts you end up having to go to court, you’ll need to hire another type of attorney, a litigation lawyer, to represent you.
Why Should You Hire a Contract Attorney?
In cases when a lot’s at stake, a contract attorney will keep your business interests protected and at the forefront of the agreement.
Lawyers know how to use the precise legal terminology to ensure that the contract is legally binding, that there are no loopholes, and that the contract is admissible in court (should the need arise). That’s why even if you don’t want a lawyer drawing up the contract, you should at least have them review it. Additionally, an attorney will:
- Help you understand the risks and benefits of a contract. For instance, by accidental or purposeful omission, the other party skips out on a clause that specifies their responsibility to your business. The trained eye of a professional will be able to spot problematic or missing statements that will free the other party of responsibility should they fail to meet their duties, and tell you how to fix it (or do it for you).
- Help you understand what the contract means for the future of your business. From the longevity of the contract to protecting your intellectual property, a lawyer will make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Again, the legal wording may leave you in the dark about what your stipulated responsibilities to the other party are, and unpleasantly surprise you later on.
- Help you get the most of the deal. A good lawyer will make sure you get a good deal. They would know how to optimize the contract so that both parties would benefit by drawing the most from the business relation.
How Much Does It Cost for a Lawyer to Review a Contract?
The cost for a lawyer to review a contract depends on several factors other than the manner in which they charge (per-hour or a flat per-contract/package fee). Some of these factors include:
- If specialized, industry-specific knowledge is required, like codes or regulations;
- How experienced the lawyer is;
- The length and complexity of the contract;
- The scope of work for the lawyer (is it just reviewing, or you also need help drawing up the contract);
- The scope of the contract (how much money is at stake, the duration which the contract is binding, how much risk is involved, etc.);
So – depending on an amalgamation of the above factors, a lawyer can charge anywhere from $300 to about $3,000. You can expect a fee closer to the lower end of the price range for simpler, standard contracts that only need reviewing. The higher-end of the price range usually refers to cases where a lawyer would also help you draft up and negotiate the contract.
If you find that you’re in need of help from a contract attorney frequently, it may be worth singing on with a firm or an individual lawyer for a package deal, which is more cost-effective than multiple once-off deals.
How to Find a Lawyer for a Once-off Assignment
Once you’ve decided you need a contract lawyer, where can you find one? There are several places you can begin – and hopefully, end – your search.
Another option is searching through commercial lawyer referral websites, such as FindLaw, Upcounsel, or LegalZoom. All three websites provide attorney directories from which you can find a contract lawyer based in your area. LegalZoom actually offers legal document review as one of their main services, and it’s quite reasonably priced. On the downside, you need to be a paying member to take advantage of this service. Upcounsel has excellent lawyers, but it’s also quite pricey.
The third option is to ask family, friends, and associates you trust to recommend a lawyer to you. If others have had a good experience with an attorney, chances are you will also.
Make sure you discuss subjects that are important to you, such as billing, industry specifics, and your exact needs before you settle on a lawyer.
How to Write Up a Contract
One way to reduce the fee you’d need to pay a lawyer is to write up your own contract, and just have them review it.
The best place to start is to find a sample contract document that’s reasonably attuned to your purposes. Upcounsel offers free legal documents, including some frequently used types of business contracts. You can also find business contract templates and other popular contract templates for free on PandaDoc.
Before settling on a template to work off of, go over your notes from the discussion or negotiation you had with your business partner. Make sure that you’re both on the same page about the deal and the type of contract you need.
Once you’ve picked the template best suited for your needs, substitute the details – such as your name and the name of the other party, the duration of the contract, the payment details, the businesses’ details, the exact responsibilities of both parties, and so on. (Keep in mind that in addition to the names of the parties involved, the introductory paragraph should also include terms that need specific definitions).
Make sure to outline the responsibilities of each party with as much precision as possible. For instance, if your partner is a teapot manufacturer, specify that they should deliver new teapots to your depot, every first Monday of the month, by 10 o’clock in the morning.
Do review the protective language used in the sample and see if it’s reasonably suitable for your case. Protective language can help limit the liability of both parties, protect confidential information, and enforce a non-compete (when applicable).
Then, have your contract attorney look it over before signing anything and giving the contract to the other party to countersign.
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