(November 21, 2011): After twenty years of practicing law, I still receive many calls from folks who have had a deal gone bad, money taken, partnerships that defrauded them, et cetera; of course, the first thing I ask is what did the contract say? The response I most often hear is, “there is no written agreement” or “we had a verbal contract” or perhaps “we made some notes”. As Sam Goldwyn, the noted Hollywood mogul observed: Let's be clear -- A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it is written on.
While after extensive litigation and attorney fees, I may be able to help the client without a contract by arguing in good faith there is evidence to assert there was an enforceable contract, it usually would have been a lot easier and less expensive to have had a written contract at the beginning.
Many times you hear "my word is my bond", or "we can shake hands, that is the way it used to be done in the good old days". However, as I was told by a professor at law school, a contract is not bad, or negative, or shows a lack of trust, it just is a written memorandum of what was agreed on at the beginning. In other words, a written contract helps parties remember what they agreed to when they started to do business. It helps the memory of the parties that do business together.
So, if you are about to embark on an expensive endeavor, or a project that may reap financial benefits, be sure to call your attorney, explain what you want to do, and have a contract written. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Leonard Schneider, J.D., and other Liles Parker attorneys have extensive experience in contract review and drafting. Call Leonard at: 1 (800) 475-1906 today for a free consultation.