Often, when people need documents like a service agreement, or they’re seeing a client and need a client agreement, or they have a website and need a website policy, their first instinct is to look for templates for business legals.
But these are documents that reflect directly on the business that you’re doing, so why is it that people think it’s okay to work off a template?
After asking a number of my clients this question, I’ve come up with some answers. People use templates for business legals because:
- They thought it would be simple. Lots of people do this stuff, right? Everyone has a website, so why can’t you just copy what someone else has on their website?
- They thought it would be too complicated to go to a lawyer.
- They just didn’t have time. They thought that if they could take something off the internet and put their details in, then they’d have a quick fix for their problem.
Is it okay to use templates for business legals?
Even though I think the above reasons are all legitimate, as a lawyer, obviously my default answer would be no—it’s not okay to use templates for your business legals.
However, when you are a lean startup, you are faced with this option, which, I understand, can be a tempting choice. If you are going to use a template, then it’s important you understand exactly what’s gone into it.
Also, remember that it is possible that if you are using a template to engage someone like myself—a lawyer—to review what you have done.
So… why see a lawyer instead of using templates?
If you need a legal agreement, speak to someone first. Don’t assume that it’s something that is going to be too hard, too expensive, and take too long. Legal agreements, including client contracts, website policies, non-disclosure agreements, whatever they may be—you will benefit from a conversation with someone who is qualified to work in that area and to give that advice. Here’s why.
- To make sure the documents that represent your business are actually doing what they are meant to be doing for your business.
Comprehension and understanding of the documents was a huge issue for my clients, and it eventually meant they came to see a lawyer anyway, even after going with a template first.
My clients realised very quickly that once they looked at the policies, they didn’t even understand what was written in them. It worried them that they were putting something out into the world to represent their business that they had taken from somebody else and that had been written for somebody else.
- Because templates are general
A lot of templates for client agreements, for website policies, for disclaimers are just that: They’re general templates. The framework that they are written in and the language that’s used is not specific to your business. The trick is to be able to customise the templates, but the clients I spoke to about this said they just couldn’t work out how to tailor the template to their business.
Why is this all important?
Doing your legal agreements properly is important because it is about your business.
When you are considering the content of your agreements, inadvertently you are engaging in a quality-assurance process for how your business is running. Are you doing things legally? Is it going to be a smooth and seamless process for your clients? It’s a process that you really should incorporate into your business building to support the growth of your business.
These documents are speaking about how you work. That is why when you use a template or what somebody else has written, it’s not about your business and how you work—it’s about somebody else’s business and how some general framework might apply to your business.
A template is good. It’s a good start. It’s something you can use to envision what a legal document might look like for you, but what goes into the template is really the critical factor. That is something that you need to pay a lot of attention to, and seek help to make sure you’re getting it right.
Are you using a template for your legal documents right now? Get in touch and we can have a chat about it.
Lots of love
Lawyer, Contract Specialist, Speaker & Advocate for Women in Business.
Drawing on more than 15 years’ experience as a lawyer and a woman in business, Shalini Nandan-Singh helps Australian service-based entrepreneurs protect their businesses and their bottom lines with empowered legal advice and contracts.
Encouraging listeners to #loveyourlegals, Shalini firmly believes that business legals should be an authentic extension of your business. Her goal is to educate audiences that, rather than confusing legalese, business legals should be an authentic extension of your business, creating positive business boundaries that support you in working with your clients with compassion and understanding.
Disclaimer: This blog is written to support business owners to consider legal requirements and issues that may arise in business. The information provided is for general and educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice for your individual circumstances. Please consult your lawyer for advice specific to you and your business.