Austin Contract Lawyers
Legal Tips and Information
What Makes a Great Contract Attorney?
If you’re on the lookout for a contract attorney, you may be somewhat lost concerning what qualities make for a great contract attorney – especially if you do not have prior experience working with an attorney in the past. When considering an attorney, try to find one who exhibits the following qualities.
Willing to Explain Confusing Provisions
As a layperson, you are likely to find that many contract provisions you encounter are not easily understood. You should not execute any contract unless you fully understand the provisions that you are agreeing to. Before you move forward, make sure that you speak with your attorney about any confusing contract provisions. The ideal Austin contract attorney will be willing and able to help you understand all the material provisions of your contract.
Advises on Favorable and Unfavorable Terms
Your attorney should not simply be a tool for drafting your contract. The best contract attorneys in Austin – as in other cities – provide supplementary advisory services as necessary. Specifically, your attorney should ensure that you are apprised of the strategic advantages and disadvantages of various contract terms. Above all, your attorney should seek to ensure that you are an informed client so that you are in a better position to assert your interests.
Drafts Customized Agreements
Unfortunately, it is quite common for contract attorneys to reduce their workload by making heavy use of “form” agreements. Skeleton contracts are perfectly fine to use as a structure, but you should avoid working with an attorney who is too dependent on familiar contract provisions. Your attorney must be able to draft a customized contract with provisions specifically tailored to your needs.
To confirm that the attorneys you find on UpCounsel meets these quality standards, be sure to check their ratings and reviews. UpCounsel also keeps track of repeat customers, which is a fairly accurate representation of customer satisfaction. If an attorney does not have many ratings or reviews on the platform, you can still assess their compatibility – get in contact with them to setup an initial consultation. Based on the interaction, you may be able to get a sense for the particular skillset and client-engagement-style of the attorney.
Breach of Contract and Minimizing Risk of Litigation
One aspect of contracts that laypeople do not often understand is that breach is a perfectly reasonable (and common) strategy. There are costs associated with breach, of course – whether that cost is recovered by virtue of a lawsuit, an informal settlement, or through a damages clause in the contract – but the costs associated with breach of contract may be sensible when compared to the costs associated with completing the contract.
As breach of contract is not entirely uncommon, it is important to take steps to minimize the risk of litigation in the event of breach. Litigation can be expensive, time-wasting, and stressful, and is generally best-avoided unless absolutely necessary.
Consider a Liquidated Damages Provision
In a normal breach of contract, damages may be difficult to discern following breach. To reduce the uncertainty of breach (and provide for a legal remedy without having to go through litigation), some contracts include a liquidated damages clause. The liquidated damages clause sets a specific damages amount to be paid out to the non-breaching parties in the event of breach. Inclusion of a liquidated damages clause is a great way to negotiate the true costs of the contract before execution.
Consider Mandatory Arbitration
Mandatory arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that provides an efficient, less expensive, and more private parallel to traditional litigation. To engage in mandatory arbitration, your contract need only include a provision requiring it.
How does it work?
In mandatory arbitration, a neutral arbitrator is chosen to hear each party’s arguments – the neutral arbitrator is often a judge, attorney, or some other professional who is well-equipped to render judgment and follow various legal procedures. Afterwards, the arbitrator renders judgment. The judgment is confirmed by a court of law and thus becomes final.
Arbitration is quicker, cheaper, and arguably fairer than traditional litigation. It is also private. Each party can be made to sign confidentiality agreements requiring that the content of the arbitration not be made public. By comparison, civil lawsuits are fundamentally public matters and the information revealed during such litigation is available to the public at-large.
Written Contracts vs. Oral Contracts
Unfortunately, too many individuals – and occasionally even small businesses – make use of oral contracts in their dealings with others. Oral contracts are generally discouraged if they are intended to govern serious and significant matters. Under Texas law, oral contracts are enforceable and valid, but there are situations wherein written contracts are required by law or simply beneficial in other ways.
Written Contracts Improve Certainty
Even if a written contract is not necessary, it is generally good practice to draft and execute written contracts rather than entering into oral contracts. Written contracts make explicitly clear the terms of the agreement, and more plainly demonstrate that each contracting party is aware of the material terms. Further, written contracts provide evidence for a dispute. In the event that there is a breach of contract and a dispute arises, the content of the written agreement is admissible as evidence of the shared understanding of the contracting parties.
The Statute of Frauds
The Statute of Frauds in Texas, as in other states, requires that certain contracts be put into writing in order to be valid. To put it simply: though oral contracts are generally enforceable in Texas, in some situations, written contracts are exclusively enforceable.
The Statute of Frauds requires that contracts be in written form when concerning the following: a) estate planning (such as a Will or a Trust); b) guarantees; c) the sale of real estate; d) the sale of goods priced at over $500; e) the sale of securities; and f) any contracts lasting more than 1 year from the time of execution.
For example, suppose that you hire a construction team to remodel your home. The remodeling is quite extensive. You agree in an oral conversation with the construction team manager to have your house remodeled over the course of a year. This situation would lead to a voidable contract, which means that any party can terminate or otherwise breach the contract without consequence.
Had the oral contract to hire the construction team been for less than a year, then the contract would be deemed valid and enforceable under Texas law – though it would still be worthwhile having the contracted put in writing, of course.
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