I heard attorney Susan Minsberg speak to a group of business owners regarding how to stay out of legal trouble. I was so impressed by her common-sense suggestions, I asked her to be our first guest blogger. Susan is an experienced litigator in both business matters and family law. She has a unique perspective on preventing litigation as she has litigated and tried many cases. Susan is a passionate advocate for her clients, and I asked her to share some of her tips with you.
Susan Minsberg: Sometimes people are reluctant to get a lawyer when they enter into an agreement. Typically, they are worried about the cost or somehow blowing the deal. The truth is, this is the precise point when people are most vulnerable and need legal help. The old adage is true, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So here are 5 tips.
- Consult a lawyer before you sign a contract or any other legal document. Problems are very expensive to address and very difficult to fix after the fact.
- Remember contracts don’t have to be in writing to be enforceable. Oral contracts are more difficult to prove, but they are equally valid.
- Negotiate agreements with the assumption the terms will not be followed. For each term, think about the “what if”. People generally enter into agreements with the belief everything will work out. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
- Don’t use forms from the Internet (or anywhere else), and assume they are good and will work for you. Every situation is unique. Forms can come back to haunt you.
- If you are sued, remember the following: You probably will not be able to recover your attorney’s fees. (There are limited exceptions, such as including a fee provision in your contract.) Also, never, ever ignore a lawsuit.
When businesses spend more time up-front thinking about potential problems, they are better equipped to prevent them. Unfortunately, our society has become so litigious you need to protect yourself and your business from lawsuits. Be prospective, not reactive. You will be glad you did!