When is the right time to bring in the lawyers when forming a new contract? At the Tull Law Firm, we often hear business owners say “never” or “after the deal is signed.”
Business owners generally wait until the end—probably the worst time to bring your attorney into the deal. First, the business owner did not get the benefit of pre-negotiation advice from their attorney. An hour or two talking about the proposed deal and getting a few ideas on how to structure it can save a lot of grief at the end. Second, as a business owner, you will now have to brief the attorney on all the details of the deal, a process that will likely take several hours. Of course if the other side did the same thing you have two lawyers coming in at the last moment and you can bet both sides heard things differently. When the lawyers start to talk, they discover there never was really a "meeting of the minds" so it all goes back to square one or the deal just falls apart. Of course, now it is the lawyers to blame—if only they had not gotten involved this never would have happened. The only thing worse than this scenario is when the person on the other side of the table did consult with their attorney and just happened to bring them along to the negotiations.
Contracts can as simple as a handwritten note on a napkin, as informal as an oral agreement or so complex that it takes boxes just to hold the documents. While preliminary negotiations between experienced business associates are usually fine, it is best to get the lawyers on both sides to the table as the deal starts to take shape. This avoids the need to brief the lawyers after the fact and will ensure everybody is on the same page. Usually one of the lawyers is tasked with drawing up the contract and the other with reviewing and proposing revisions. By dividing the workload, the contract negotiation process is shortened and both sides benefit from the input from their respective clients. Good lawyers don’t take steps to change the deal or make it more difficult; instead, they can help both sides avoid major pitfalls and ensure that the issues that need to be addressed are addressed.
The Tull Law Firm’s Managing Attorney Timothy Tull was in business for more than twenty years before entering the practice of law. He says:
"I've done it both ways and can say from experience, it was better to have my lawyer by my side during negotiations than it was to try to put it back together after they got hold of the deal. A good lawyer by my side brought me a lot of comfort when the deal is done and signed".
Call us at the Tull Law Firm, PLLC and try it our way, just once. You might just be surprised that it goes faster and you have a cleaner deal in the end. You can reach us at 615.953.9070 or any of the other ways listed on our Contact Us page. We’ll also review contracts after signing to prepare you for future issues that may arise.