Contract Law Overview

A contract is a legally binding obligation between parties. Just becuase it's not a formally drafted document with "contract" at the heading doesn't mean the legal impact is any less significant.  Whether you realize it or not, you're entering into contracts all the time. 


When you go online and click on the "Terms of Use"  box when signing up for FaceBook or Netfliex, etc., you're entering into a contract.  When you pass emails back and forth with a potential client about a job you might do for them, you're forming contract terms. 


Often, the terms of the contract are not even understood by you.  Maybe in the personal consumer context, those risks are not large enough to worry about reading the terms.  In part, this is becuase the courts tend to be more sympathetic to inividuals who didn't read or understand the contracts they entered into.  Thus, you probably haven't heard from neighbors or friends how they were taken to court over fine print in a contract they didn't realize they had agreed to.  (although, many of the bad ARM mortgages people signed during the pre-banking crises and recession is an example of how that isn't always the case).  For the most part, the courts realize people don't read the terms of their contracts, and so they tend not to enforce outrageous terms and conditions that nobody would ever sign if they knew what they were signing. However, in the business world, that all changes.  Contracts are not as standardized, and courts aren't as sympathetic to the claim that you didn't read or understand your contracts.  You're held to a higher standard as a business owner in these matters.


Beyond merely understanding contracts that other people make you sign, now that you're in business, you should probably have your own contract.  Contracts are, first and foremost, tools for clearly communicating rights and duties.  The process of creating the contract is itself a useful exercise, because it requries you to anticipate all sorts of  "what if" scenarios.  It helps you create clarity and new understanding, and thus prevent a future misunderstanding that may be challenging to work through at best, and may bankrupt your business, at worst.


For these reasons, it behooves you to take a new interest in understanding contracts, now that you're a business owner.


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