The weather continues to get warmer and I’ve found myself inside some large summary judgment motions and even a shareholder dispute. Each day it seems another ream of papers arrives with discovery responses or motions to be answered. It seems like this year, no one is taking the summer off.
All of the cases seem to have the same thread running through them: the importance of your written agreements. Step One, make sure you have a written agreement. One client to a real estate investment has been finding out the hard way that without a written agreement, you may be in for a lot of trouble down the road.
For those who remembered to get the agreement in writing, it is important to understand the agreement and keep a copy in a place where you can find it when there is a disagreement. I’ve spent far too many hours trying to track down the signed agreement for a client and, when it is finally found, it doesn’t say what the client thought it did. Unsurprisingly, the judge was not very sympathetic to the position that the client “thought” that is what the agreement said when it said quite a different thing.
And finally, there are those who sign the agreement, live with and act under it for 8 years, and then suddenly decide they no longer like the terms of the agreement. Not surprisingly, the other party is fine with the agreement and doesn’t agree to suddenly change the way things have operated for years without getting something in return. If you are worried about the agreement, the better time to bring those worries up is when the agreement is being negotiated, not nearly a decade later.
All of these approaches to contracts have led to a lot of paperwork and mid-summer headaches…