Put It In Writing

Any good business attorney Tulsa will tell you, Put. It. In. Writing. These are four words that have prevent countless lawsuits. Yet you would be amazed how many clients I come across who are hesitant. Their revelations are similar. “We don’t want to be locked in.” Or maybe, “We aren’t sure how we’re going to address that.” Or my personal favorite, “We are both reasonable people. We will just work something out.”

I don’t know how many contract lawsuits started out with two well intentioned business persons who thought they found their professional soulmate. As a business attorney Tulsa when I meet such starry-eyed individuals, I know I am going to make sure I persuade them to put everything in writing.

Usually, their exchanges remind me of a newly engaged couple who thinks that life is perfect and their new partner was an angelic messenger sent from above. As a business attorney Tulsa I usually casually mention that we will want to put as many of the agreements as we can in writing. The response is almost always the same. It starts with a facial expression of pure confusion, a quick glance to their new partner, and then some type of joint statement like, “Oh, that won’t be necessary. We just need ‘the basics.’”

Trust me when I say you need more than the basics. I hope that every new professional partnership I meet is as happy as they are the first day I meet them. But what happens when that first disagreement happens? And the second? What about the fifth?
In response to the statement about just needing the basics, I try to gently persuade my clients that the last place they want to be is in court. Most business attorney Tulsa bill over $400.00 per hour for litigation. Some of the “mega firms” send an army to almost every court appearance. I once had a case where such a mega firm (which shall remain nameless) sent a partner, a paralegal, and a secretary to every court appearance. Because they didn’t just send a business attorney Tulsa, that trifecta carried a hefty rate of $850.00 per hour for a simple court appearance. Imagine if your once beloved new business partner suddenly became a disgruntled ex and filed suit. Now granted, there are attorneys out there who do not go to such extremes. But trust me, with any business attorney Tulsa litigation is expensive.

I used to work as an insurance defense lawyer. We routinely defended seven-figure commercial semi wreck cases. Those are very, very expensive. They involve expert witnesses, countless court appearances, hours of motion drafting, and voluminous court appearances. I took a look at the final bill for one of these cases that went to trial. Now bear in mind I did the bulk of the work and I as a business attorney Tulsa was billed out at $120.00 per hour. We had a legal assistant who did substantial work and she was billed at $65.00 per hour. My boss, a senior partner, also did considerable work and he billed at $170.00 per hour. These are substantially lower rates that than the average business attorney Tulsa. The final bill for this particular case that went all the way through trial was over $100,000.00. This means we had to bill approximately 280 hours of time on one lawsuit. Doing the math, if you had a business attorney billing you at $450.00 per hour for a lawsuit that required similar time, you would be stuck with a bill of $126,000.00 in attorney’s fees. That’s not a tax write off. That’s not an expense you can pass on to your customers. That is a pure overhead expense you had to pay all because you were paired with a reasonable person who you could work it out with.

Putting all the terms in writing is the best for everyone. Now understand that your agreement will understandably go through several drafts. This is very normal. Very few individuals produce an initial draft of a contract that becomes the final agreement. But once everyone has had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the agreement, all the applicable terms should be confined to the four corners of the agreement with everyone comfortably signing.

I recently had a very dear friend contact me who is an attorney who does not handle business matters like this business attorney Tulsa. She reminded me of the person above in that she found someone to purchase a piece of property on which they intend to build a very nice office building. I suggested they put everything in writing and, while it took some convincing, the two eventually agreed. I knew my friend would. She’s an attorney and very smart. I confessed to the other party that my friend and I went through the trenches of law school together and she has become a very close personal friend. While I told my friend’s new business partner that I would do everything in my power to represent everyone’s best interests, I encouraged her to obtain independent counsel to review the documents. I do not know if she will take my advice on that suggestion.

I believe it best in contract drafting plans to have two business attorney Tulsa involved. At the end of the day, everyone is out to protect his/her individual, selfish best interests. Having an attorney for each party allows the parties to have an independent advocate who truly seeks the best for his/her client. It is totally possible for one attorney to represent two parties. However, I believe it best to always have a second set of eyes examine the legal papers. At the very least, another professional is reviewing the documents to ensure accuracy.

So the next time you go into contract negotiations with your new found best business partner, you may want to pump the brakes and put all the terms in writing with a business attorney Tulsa. Remember, we are all human. It is easy under the excitement of a new business venture to let our emotions get the best of us. Keeping those emotions in check and putting all the terms in writing can avoid a $100,000.00 bill, a lengthy lawsuit, and honestly, a lot headache. Trust me, you will thank me as your business attorney Tulsa if you put everything in your agreement in writing.