Sunday, May 18, 2008

Businesses and Contracts and a Follow up to "Looking Outside the Sandbox"

Rush on Business's Writing the Better Contract from Anita Campbell- Part II lead me to How To Earn Undying Loyalty From Business Clients (Part II) - Guest Blogger - Anita Campbell. I agree with Rush emphasizing the points about what makes a good contract:

  1. First and foremost, the better contract protects the client.
  2. The better contract is written in plain English. (A novel concept indeed!)
  3. The better contract is written for a 12th grade education or lower.
  4. The better contract incorporates standardization.
I came to law school in time for the Plain English movement. Oddly, I find clients who think if it is covered with legalese the contract must be defective. There is another point where the Bar is ahead of the clients and we need to educate our clients.

How To Earn Undying Loyalty From Business Clients (Part II) - Guest Blogger - Anita Campbell also has some points related to my Looking Outside the Sandbox:

Now, all of this standardization may sound counter to earning a living. But I suggest just the opposite -- if you make it as easy and painless as possible for clients to deal with you, they will be eternally loyal. They will so enjoy interacting with you, that they will find a recurring need for your services. And they will value your services more, because they know you value THEIR time -- and their budget.

Contrast that with the lawyer who insists that every contract or document must be written from scratch; who makes legal mountains out of molehills – and makes everything so complex that the small business owner cannot even delegate to staff, but has to get personally involved each time.

What happens to that lawyer? Clients get frustrated. They avoid coming to the lawyer even when they know they should. Why? They know the process will not be efficient. They fear their business goals will be delayed. They start making lawyer jokes. That’s when they start going bare, without legal counsel. Or worse, they start pulling out old agreements or downloading contracts from places like and playing attorney without the benefit of proper advice.

I view lawyers who do not standardize their documents as being ignorant of computers. I began standardizing legal documents in 1994. This allows me to charge flat fees in many cases, if not most, and I do not know how I could operate nowadays without having computerized my practice.

Clients have a similar problem by not allowing their lawyers the opportunity to standardize the clients' documents. If clients give me a supply of work that can be standardized, I give the client a different fee rate than for one-off jobs. The only time I am using an hourly rate for document preparation is when I am faced with a job unique in content and a client from which I cannot expect repeat work. With any sort of volume, it is more practical for the lawyer to standardize the documents and which makes the work economical for both lawyer and client.