Start ups, lawyers, and my working contract

I recall being a little hurt when someone – a founder of a startup whom I respected a lot – said to me: if you want something done in your startup, don’t involve the lawyers.  This was interesting to me – being legally trained, as well as advising startups…  and in fact having my own startup.

20170529_103611Would they still have said the same thing if they knew I was an (ex)lawyer? When people see me as a management consultant often working with NFPs they can sometimes forget my first training was in law. And corporate law at that. 

But they had a point of course. Or at least if you take the stereotypes. 

Founder startup: needing to be agile. Take hold of opportunities yesterday. Needing to take risks (hell, the whole startup is by definition risky). The last thing a founder wants/needs is to hold back on action while i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. 

Lawyer: trained to minimise risk. To search for all possible risks and, where possible, control for them. Dotting i’s and crossing t’s is a lawyer’s reason for being. After all, prevention is better than cure. 

I’ve had both hats on to try and come up with a contract that does three things:

  • Has a meeting of minds in the legal sense
  • Isn’t complicated and daunting and therefore slows people down as they lawyer up 
  • Carries my brand and is authentic – is it possible for a contract to be a part of brand strategy? Check it out and be the judge.


Work for payment

1. I’ll complete work for you, which is [set out in an email, or attached.] We call it “the Project”.

2. You’ll pay me an agreed amount for the Project. 

3. I will invoice you for the hours I’ve worked each month, up to the agreed amount. We can agree a different schedule of payments and set it out as part of the Project. 

4. I’ll never ask you to pay the whole amount until the Project is complete.

How I work

5. I’ll use my skill and knowledge to the best of my ability. 

6. I’ll turn up on time. 

7. I’ll deliver the Project within the agreed time.

8. I’ll look and act professionally.

9. I’ll be courteous and respectful to everyone associated with you and the project.

10. I’ll be clear. I’ll be concise. I’ll use plain English in everything I write. 

11. I’ll listen.  

12. I’ll call you weekly during the life of the Project for an update meeting. Any concerns either of us have can be raised at the meeting. 

What I need from you (and you promise)

13. You will respect me and my advice, even if you dont agree with the advice. My advice will always be honest.

14. You will assist me to deliver on time by doing those things we have agreed you will do. 

Solving any issues that arise

15. If we disagree about anything to do with the Project then we’ll talk in good faith in an atempt to agree a solution. If we can’t agree  we will get an independent arbitrator, who we both agree on, and be bound by their decision. We won’t commence legal action under this contract. 

Other bits

16. Everything we talk about is confidential. 

17. You own the intellectual property, unless we agree something else. If we agree something else then it appears here.

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