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why you shouldn't DIY your contract modifications

Cutting Costs or Cutting Corners? The Truth About DIYing Your Own Contract

In challenging financial times, businesses often seek ways to cut costs and streamline operations. One area of your business that you may be thinking about cutting corners on are… contracts. Maybe you want to modify an existing contract you already have to fit a scenario the contract wasn't written for. (e.g. you have an adventure elopement photography contract and you are trying to make it work for a traditional wedding photography client). Although this could seem like a good idea, there are MAJOR potential legal pitfalls! Not to mention it's a time-consuming process and you’re opening yourself up to even more financial risks associated with drafting legal language the wrong way.

Top 5 reasons why you shouldn't DIY your contract modifications

1. Modifying Your Own Contract Causes Confusion and Invalidates Contracts

Of course, you can modify small portions of your contract to fit your own business policies and practices. However, merging and extensively changing contracts without a lawyer's supervision can massively raise legal liability and create confusion. This increases your risk of major legal trouble down the road. Thus, when you try to combine contracts or add in your own big clauses, you risk repeating legal language in various clauses, missing very important legal elements, leaving situations unaddressed, and overall impacting legal clarity and validity.
A judge is always, always, always going side with a client when a contract is confusing, contradictory, or just plain wrong. It's called “unclear or ambiguous” terms. One of the basic principles in contract law is that any clause considered to be ambiguous should be interpreted against the interests of the party that created, introduced, or requested that a clause be included. This means by writing your own contract, you're handing your client a leg up in court. When the ‘ambiguous’ or ‘confusing’ flag is raised, your contract no longer protects you from the things you intended it to protect. All because a lawyer didn’t write the contract.

2. Causes Higher Legal Fees

Speaking of lawyers, any big changes to a contract (such as adding in an entirely new clause you wrote yourself or combining two contracts together) should be reviewed by a lawyer to make sure your contract is still valid. Attorney billable rates usually start around $250 an hour and can go up to as high as $500 or more. With contract reviews often taking two to three hours… you can do the math here… we’re talking $750-1500 just to have an attorney look things over. OR, if you do have to go to court to argue your own contract, you have to hire a lawyer anyways to represent you. And litigation isn’t cheap—I’m talking here in the thousands. So DIY modifications may seem cost-effective initially, but then legal reviews incur significantly more expenses to your business after all.

3. Contracts Should Match Your Specific Service Situation

Another big issue TLP sees with people trying to combine or write their own contracts using an existing contract they got from a friend is that it's not actually written for the specific service situation. What do I mean by that? Say you’re trying to make a Wedding Photography Contract into a Destination Wedding Contract or a General Portrait Session Contract. While some of the provisions are definitely similar (and maybe even heading titles the same!), the exact legal language within them is different. And then, if you start writing things yourself, you’re risking the contract being ultra confusing to a client because its basically half written by a lawyer and half written by you. Inconsistency and varying ways of saying things can also lead to invalidating clauses or the entire contract. Yikes!

4. Your Time is Too Valuable for DIY Modifications

Creating contracts is a time-consuming process, taking lawyers days, weeks, or even months (on top of the three years of law school and years in practice to become an expert contract lawyer). We here at TLP have a legal team that will work on contracts for at least 3-6 months, have industry experts give feedback, and go through multiple revision rounds and legal research to ensure it's drafted properly. Non-attorneys may struggle to identify essential clauses, ensure legal language is up-to-date, and oversee big legal no-nos.

Here’s the thing, your TIME IS MONEY as a small business owner. And, the investment of the time it would take you to write a contract yourself or combine a contract with another one isn’t worth the outcome. We hire doctors to diagnose and treat specific symptoms because they are experts. We hire CPAs to do our taxes because they have degrees and are experts with tax laws and regulations. And you should hire contract lawyers because they are professionals and experts at drafting contracts to ensure 100% legal legitness. So, let TLP do the hard work for you so you can focus back on the things that will actually increase your return on time investment (upleveling your customer service, acquiring new leads, adding in passive income, etc.). You are worth so much more than trying to DIY a contract yourself especially when TLP has the done-for-you solution with our templates.

5. Your Clients Don’t Feel Safe Because You Sent Them An Unprofessional Contract

Trust is the bedrock of great business relationships. Signing on a new client can be nerve-wracking for you ("Will they like my work? Will they pay?") and for them ("Will they deliver? Will they provide the service they promised? Are they actually going to communicate with me?"). That's where top-notch, two-sided contracts come in—they've got both parties covered, easing worries and building trust from the get-go.
Your clients are shelling out hard-earned cash to work with you, so starting off professionally is key. A lawyer drafted, well-written, plain language contract not only reassures your clients they made the right call but also sets you up for success. And the cherry on top? The more professional the contract the more clients take you seriously. TLP has customers that have booked $10k+ clients by using our contracts! A non-lawyer written contract doesn’t convey the same type of “I’m a legit business owner and take all areas of my business seriously” vibe.

While the temptation to merge contracts or make DIY modifications may seem like a good idea to cut costs, the risk of potential waste of time, money and legal liability definitely isn’t worth it. Investing in professionally crafted contracts, not only safeguards your business legally but also proves to be a cost-effective and time-saving choice in the long run. Don't wait grab your contracts today!

 

 

 

THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.
SEE OUR FULL DISCLAIMER HERE.

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