Question. Do you recommend the use of form contracts?
The answer is a qualified yes. Form contracts that have been intelligently prepared are a very useful tool and more than pay for themselves when you consider the future litigation dollars you may be able to avoid spending. By “intelligently prepared” I mean that the contract should (a) provide the appropriate and enforceable legal protections; (b) be customized to address the concerns of your particular business; and (c) be periodically updated to keep current with business customs and constantly emerging law. The use of old agreements, or general forms supplemented by “borrowed” provisions from competitors contracts is strongly discouraged and can often leave you with less protections or result in significantly increased legal fees in the event of litigation.
A good place to start is with the form agreements prepared by the American Institute of Architects (“AIA”) which are widely recognized as the industry standard. AIA Contract Documents comprise over 80 forms and contracts that define relationships and terms involved in design and construction projects. The forms and contracts are prepared with input from owners, contractors, attorneys, architects, engineers, and others and are periodically updated. These forms and contracts should however, be modified to suit your particular needs.
Preventative medicine is the key in the case of form agreements. Consultation with your attorney to review your current agreements or prepare new ones is well worth the time and effort. While you’re at it, why not have her prepare a few form letters addressing common events or situations that may arise to supplement and integrate with your new agreements?