Free Templates Versus Contract Specialists


There are lots of free legal templates online and it can be tempting and attractive to use them (or even copy someone else’s you may have received…) perceiving saving a legal spend on something more tailor made. However, have you considered if that is right for your business?

The pros of ‘no cost’ templates are they are easy and quick to download; they provide instant protection (something is better than nothing, right?); you can, to some extent, tailor them yourself (so long as you understand the effect and nature of the terms); and… they’re free.

However, gaps or weaknesses in your free template agreement could cause serious issues over time. If something goes wrong or a dispute arises, the terms in place will be scrutinised and challenged and you will need to understand how they operate, which you may not, up to that point, have even properly considered. Copying someone else’s terms is not recommended and may open you up to a potential copyright infringement or may not cover aspects that are import to your business and how it operates (even in the same sector).

However, the pros, and long-term value and security, of taking legal advice to have the right document: clear, tight, enforceable, tailored for your business and prepared by specialist contract lawyers, far outweigh any free template ‘benefits’:

  • A contract law specialist will seek to understand you; your business; and your short and long-term goals, so as to create bespoke documents to suit your requirements and any anticipated changes. They can be updated and adapted as your business evolves.
  • Generic templates tend to cover only general terms and so won’t be specific to your products or services, delivery criteria, cashflow terms or any restrictions required to prevent competition directly with your business.
  • With legal assistance,  you will not accidentally include erroneous or restrictive terms you perhaps did not fully understand or intend to adopt.
  • Tailored legal documents, with advice, are not as expensive as you may fear. Specialist firms offer start-up rates, monthly retainers and fixed fees. Remember that the value comes not from the document you are getting, but the advice and so the security that goes with it. You also have a trusted adviser to guide and support you as things arise. Correctly set up, such documents will save you money in the future. You will be more likely to gain the respect of your clients and customers will be if they can see you have set the tone and terms for cashflow, adherence, and governance of the relationship; projecting you with professionality.
  • You can protect your confidential data and client details, not only for data protection compliance purposes, but against staff exploitation or cyber issues.
  • Terms of trading, shareholders’ agreements, directors’ service level agreements and data protection policies are lengthy documents that are also often needed by any interested investors for due diligence purposes, so they should cover you for all eventualities and be as tight as possible so as to impress in that process. Your lawyer’s experience and expertise will suggest aspects you may not have thought of as well as support and guidance as you expand. If you choose your lawyer wisely you will also have a trusted advisor to help you make the right decisions.

Cost is always a consideration for any business, but consider carefully the cost implications of getting your contract wrong. At Mattersmith we believe that all new ideas deserve accessible and affordable legal support, so we seek to achieve the best results for our clients every day and ensure that they pay only for what they need. If you want to carry out the work yourself our Contractsmith offer is a virtual contract assistant that can guide you through the issues of drafting and reviewing commercial contracts or our lawyers can do the work for you on a fixed fee basis. Visit our website for more information:

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