Business Legal Consulting to Prevent Disputes and Resolve Them
By: Julie Kreutzer, Esq.
Most small and mid-sized businesses need legal advice and services on a semi-regular basis, which means they don’t want in-house counsel and don’t always need to fully retain counsel. An alternative is business legal consulting for contract drafting, review and negotiation as well as dispute resolution and troubleshooting as needed though I am also fully retained for certain work. My strategy is holistic, in that I can either do legal work as needed or as a Fractional Attorney (much like a fractional executive, I’m available on a consistent basis). My services include:
Contract Review Even When Contracts aren’t Modifiable – We’ve all signed contracts that we’re aware we can’t modify because of the nature of the service or goods. Just as a consumer can’t persuade Visa to change their very long and fine print contract, a business owner is often sent a contract from a larger business that it’s obvious will be signed or not. Or, both parties are anxious to move forward and the smaller business doesn’t think the contract would be changed. When I review contracts, my role is to note red flags that should either be worked around, or raised with the other company and changed, and occasionally, not signed. Example: Business leases are notorious for language highly detrimental to the business renting space. They might require business to repair things like the roof; which is not only unreasonable, as it’s Landlord’s building but means that my client should at the least, go check the roof. Is it an old building with a roof that shows patches and discoloration? Do you need a leaking roof shedding water on your equipment and people and a $18,000 repair? If the language is problematic enough, it’s worth raising that there needs to be an amendment or it won’t be signed or build in a potential extra cost if your business feels it must sign.
For that matter, contracts your business is using, for routine business or employees, often need drafting or reworking. Since some employees will just sign as a cost of getting a job, walking through the points most critical to your business, such as confidentiality (including social media), may make the difference between damage control later, or an employee who fully grasps what they can discuss outside of work and particularly on social media.
Contract Review and Negotiation – Many contracts require some back and forth, regardless of how much everyone wants to get moving to the actual work. The key factors are setting the stage for a relationship that is understood and doable to avoiding miscommunication, delays, extra costs and sometimes litigation. When I review, I’m initially doing a red flag and reality check. Examples: Given what your business does, is it realistic that you can do the first stage in 4 weeks? Isn’t it safer to say six weeks if there are shipping or supply chain issues? If business expenses are your cost, let’s put in that communications are by zoom, phone or email unless parties discuss and customer wants to cover travel costs as agreed to by parties, in writing.
Dispute Resolution – I regularly hear from my business clients when an issue has come up or there’s a dispute brewing or worse, when they’ve been served. I look at the contract language to see how it applies to the issue or dispute, as well as Colorado and local law, and then problem solve as to how to communicate effectively with the other party to get things back on track or end the contract without litigation. Sometimes, it’s an issue of managing a debt or payment. Overall, waiting to talk with an attorney till a business is served or ready to serve the other party means costs and time expenditures that should be avoided. Of course, litigation may ensue but I prefer to have mediation/arbitration language in my contracts so that dispute resolution is done timely, and at less cost, in a manner both parties feel is reasonable and fair.
Let me know if you want a free half-hour consult to review your legal needs: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-417-0697.