Small print, big potential – the importance of a set of Terms & Conditions
People love saying things like: “don’t sweat the small stuff”, “go with the flow” and “why don’t you just chillax”. Something which is worth noting however is that these people are never lawyers. Lawyers very much sweat the small stuff, are often reluctant to flow anywhere and never say chillax (admittedly I don’t think anyone actually says chillax anymore).
So why is that? Are lawyers just incredibly uptight people who never manage to combine chilling and relaxing? Certainly in some cases, but really what they’re concerned with is ensuring that disputes are avoided wherever possible. One of the best ways to do this in a commercial context is to clearly set out how a business relationship will be managed between two parties, using a set of Terms and Conditions (T&Cs).
Unfortunately however, it’s often the case that T&Cs are squeezed onto a page in tiny print and overlooked by instructing parties. So much so in fact that we often find that companies seeking an instruction don’t even have them drafted and instead just crack on with the work and hope for the best. This is obviously not a good way to run your business and inevitably it leads to a situation in which the parties disagree on how a particular issue should be dealt with (such as late payment/delivery, ownership of IP or changes to the brief) and a dispute occurs. Regrettably disputes can quickly escalate and they are frequently costly for businesses, both in terms of management time and legal fees. In light of this we always advise our clients to ensure that they have a strong set of T&Cs in place – and actually use them when being instructed on a piece of work.
The T&Cs don’t need to be 100 pages long (which is great way to kill a deal) nor do they need be particularly onerous on the client (leading to frequent requests for amendments). Instead, they should be tailored to the way that you work and easily understood by both sides. Once you have a good set of T&Cs in place you can carry out your business safe in the knowledge that if any issues occur, they can be dealt with quickly and efficiently with reference to a particular clause and without the need for a costly dispute. T&Cs therefore have massive potential to protect your business without the need for constant legal advice and, once drafted, you’ll be free to chillax with the best of them.
To speak to one of our expert solicitors about drafting or reviewing your T&Cs, please email [email protected] or call 020 7288 6003.