When you are negotiating a contract with another party, it can be a complex and lengthy process. Below are a few tips to help expedite the legal review process before you even involve your attorney:
- Before you give the other side a copy of the contract, talk over the major issues. Create a checklist of issues to discuss so you can determine where the starting point is for both sides before the negotiations even begin.
- Once you discover the issues where the parties disagree, try to negotiate and reach an agreement on as many of them as possible. The more you can work through before the attorneys get involved, the better off you are likely to be. Even a “legal” clause such as the warranty provision should be discussed. Talk through what the warranty includes, how long it will last, and the deadline for fixing the problem.
- Wherever possible, you’ll want to start working with a standard template; However you can’t rely on a standard template and simply fill in the blanks. Remember, this is a unique transaction that should include the deal points you have agreed upon. You will have to make revisions to any template to conform to the deal.
- If the other party is making significant changes to the contract, don’t be afraid to ask questions about why they are being made. Asking these questions will provide you with information about the other side’s concerns, which is critical in reaching an agreement.
- Discuss the business aspects of all clauses, even the “legal” or standard clauses. For example, if the supplier insists on inserting a limitation of liability, ask what the supplier expects it should be responsible for if their product is defective and it’s in the field.
- Get creative in finding solutions to avoid problems, or minimize their impact. For example, in the purchase of capital equipment, you might discuss some form of limitation of liability in exchange for the supplier providing no charge monthly preventative maintenance and on site spare part consignment. Talk in real world terms with real world approaches to heading off the problem of faster resolutions.
Most importantly, don’t simply “hand off” the contract to your attorney. Schedule a meeting with your lawyer to discuss what has been negotiated between the parties and the reasons for the other party’s exceptions. You should stay engaged in the process and encourage your counterpart to do the same.
If you follow the above tips, it will reduce the time involved in the legal review process and help ensure you achieve a positive result. When you are ready to involve an attorney, contact Leslie S. Marell.