MYTH BUSTED! How long do agreements need to be.
Today I’m busting legal myths about how long agreements need to be. Some legal agreements that my clients send me to review are just pages, and pages, and pages, one I saw was like 300 pages long. So the myth we are busting today is that if you have an agreement in your business, it does not have to be long and complicated.
In fact, the longer it is and the more complicated it is, the more likely that something is going to go wrong. Because, who can understand that stuff, it gives me a headache. So, when you have a business arrangement with someone, it’s very sensible to get it in writing whatever the business arrangement is. Whether you’re collaborating with somebody, whether it’s your customers you’re selling to, or if you’re a coach and you’re providing services, it’s always sensible to have an agreement.
But, please don’t have one that’s going to give your clients a headache. The point of the agreement is just to make sure that you’re safe and they’re safe. Put it in normal English, make sure if you’re going to a lawyer, that your lawyer writes it in such a way that you understand it. If you don’t understand what is in your own agreement, how are you going to expect your clients to?
There was an old fashion technique, decades ago, of creating legal agreements in legal mumbo-jumbo, so that only the lawyers could understand them. That was a way of locking people out of being able to do their own agreements. Luckily those days are long gone, any good lawyer should be providing you with an agreement that you can easily understand.
If there’s anything in there that you don’t understand, please ask them about it. Ask them to rewrite it so that it’s easier to understand. If you need a translator then it’s probably not quite right yet. The other point with agreements is they need to cover all basic things like money, who’s going to pay when, what happens if your relationship breaks down especially with a collaboration, who’s going to own the intellectual property.
You need to check up on your lawyer because being an IP specialist I have a particular interest in intellectual property. But, I am amazed at how many agreements I see, partnerships, collaboration, etc. That don’t deal with what happens to intellectual property in the event that the relationship breaks down. So, deal with intellectual property, and if you’re providing a service or selling goods, what happens if your clients are not satisfied?
Most good coaches, or other kinds of service providers, will simply provide a refund if the client is not satisfied. Because, it’s not worth the aggravation or the reputational damage of arguing about it. I’m not saying you have to, but if a client is not satisfied with the services provided most good coaches will just provide a no-questions-asked refund. Because they’re confident in their ability and they know that they’re gonna get a better client, who jells with them.
If you get a complaint, it’s often a good opportunity to review your terms and your discovery process for bringing people into your fold. If people are not satisfied with what you’re providing that’s a hot bed for dispute. My recommendation is: select your clients more carefully.
But, what about if you provide goods? Particularly, mail order goods, people can buy them and you post them out. You need to cover things like who carries the risk. Usually I’ll say just get your own insurance and you carry the risk so that your clients are comfortable. But, can you use your agreements to build relationships? You certainly can.
For example: one of my clients makes dog food, I asked her about her returns policy because my dog is the pickiest dog in the universe. So, I said to her; what happens if I order food from you for my dog and he’s not so keen on the food, then I wasted my 20 bucks on this bag of food? She said; well I’m happy to offer a refund and I said to her; well your terms actually don’t say that.
The thought comes to your mind, what happens if people just order so that they can get something free from you? Most people aren’t like that, but I said to her; why don’t we make it a term of your conditions that if they’re not satisfied, they agree that they will drop that food off at their local RSPCA. Because this is telling your clients something about you, in that you really are concerned about animals. Ask them; it would be nice if they would send you a photo, so that you could see the RSPCA people being happy with your food, don’t make that a condition though.
Since she created that, she hasn’t had anybody complain or ask for a refund because it’s about the clients thinking about her mindset. There might have been a couple of people whose dogs are fussy and didn’t like the food, they’ve probably just gone and dropped it off at the RSPCA and not even bothered about a refund.
So, the myth that we busted today is that your terms and conditions do not need to be complicated, they do not need to be long. In fact, they should be easy for you and your clients to understand. If you need an interpreter to interpret them, then you’ve probably gone wrong somewhere along the way. It has been awesome busting legal myths with you to protect your business so that you can live the lifestyle that you deserve. My name is Cathryn Warburton, I am the Legal Lioness and if you would like to see more legal myths being busted pop onto my website ‘Legallioness.com’.