Charles J. Tawk | Partner
21st May, 2020
If you are about to sign a contract, whether related to a job, a property, or a bank loan, there are several things to consider for avoiding potential problems. Contracts have numerous gray areas and even a few pages can easily cause you trouble. Therefore, carefully read my seven recommendations and stay continually alert and maybe you can escape what Bill Gates said: “in business, by the time you realize you are in trouble, it is too late to save yourself”.
1- Read and understand the smallest details
Before signing a contract, you must read it carefully especially since legal language is different than the business language you use in your day to day activities. To resolve this issue, you have two solutions: learn legal English or consult a lawyer. Remember that signing the contract blindly can subject you to uncontrolled hazards, particularly the part that outlines your obligations.
2- Delay your signature
Delaying your signature is not a bad thing to do. Even if you have a slight question regarding a term or a clause in the contract, do NOT sign it. A small confusion can turn to a serious problem in the execution phase. Again, discussing your contract terms with another party who understands, or practices law will help you make your final decision. For example, a clause in the contract may restrict you from performing the same type of job for someone else. If there is such a clause, and you do not want it, bring up the issue for discussion before signing the agreement. Additionally, delaying your signature until you fully understand the contract will help you in negotiations and potentially lead you to get some extra benefits. Also, the delay period can help you perform a detailed history check which can disclose important details that can be used in your favor.
3- Seek professional advice
I have already recommended the use of legal support if the contract contains some blurred areas. Actually, it is always advisable to get assistance from professionals such as lawyers, arbitrators and mediators if you feel that the contract encompasses hidden things or terminologies which only a specialized professional can comprehend. Lawyers understand legal documents and can explain all the terms and conditions to you. They will also help you find any hidden clauses which can work against you. Do not worry if they are a bit expensive. Their fees are a small price to pay to avoid costly repercussions in later stages.
4- Uncover law violations
Additionally, make sure that the contract complies with local laws and does not usurp the rights of any party or beneficiary especially if you are the party that stipulated it.
5- Know your rights and duties
A legal contract will unquestionably contain rights and duties. It is a balanced document that preserve your rights as well as the other party’s rights. Similar to the rights part, in a contract, both parties have duties towards each other. Therefore, it is imperative to understand both rights and duties, particularly what is expected from you.
6- Get it in writing
Whatever you want to include in the contract, do not rely on an oral promise even when it comes from a trusted person. Verbal promises such as a salary raise, special discount, or additional perks can be broken. Therefore, make sure that promises are included in the written contract. If the promises are not inscribed, you cannot enforce them legally. Thus, signing a contract based on trust and a verbal promise is legally defined as “madness”.
7- Signing the contract is legally enforceable
Many people think that the contract is just a formality and they miss the fact that contracts are legally enforceable promises. When you agree to a contract, you are committed to the terms in this contract and you will be held responsible and liable for what it contains, especially the penalties that can be imposed against you. For example, in a tenancy contract of an apartment in Dubai where the landlord does not honor the contract and refuses to empty the apartment on time, the tenant is generally not interested in receiving his money back. Instead, he wants to enforce the contract and move into the new apartment. In this example, the law in Dubai states that a tenancy contract cannot be unilaterally terminated by one party without the consent of the other party. If either party wishes to prematurely terminate the contract, a notice period of three months must be given.
Do I have to remind you to keep an original copy for yourself? You may need it later for reference, or to launch a complaint. Be glad if you meet someone who insists on reading, negotiating, and then signing a contract to regulate a contractual relationship. It is a mark of professionalism and it means that this person is taking the matter seriously. On the contrary, a person who refuses to go through the written contract’s rules should be questioned and doubted.
I hope you will never have to do business without a proper document that protects your rights. But what I really want you to do is memorize this sentence: “ignorantia legis neminem excusat” which means "ignorance of the law excuses no one”. Perhaps this will inspire you to apply the advice I gave you earlier. Get rid of that dust on the contract and read it carefully before daring to sign.
About the Author
Mr. Charles Tawk is a Partner with Meirc Training & Consulting. Charles holds a Master of Science in Human Resource Management and Training from the University of Leicester- UK and a Bachelor degree of laws from the Lebanese University. Charles is a senior certified professional by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM-SCP)-USA, a certified training practitioner (CTP™) from the Institute of Performance and Learning- Canada, certified in occupational health and safety from Nebosh-UK, and a registered organization development consultant with the International Society for Organization Development and Change (ISODC)-USA.More