Have you ever wondered what a contract lawyer does?

A Contract Lawyer drafts and reviews contracts In a nutshell, contract lawyers, draft contracts for their clients,  review contracts for their clients and provide advice about contracts. We have set out on our website some information on the importance of having an experienced lawyer draft your contract and how we go about reviewing contracts. Have a read of those to get a better appreciation of what is involved when drafting or reviewing a contract. Contract lawyers also negotiate contracts and often (but not always) deal with contractual disputes. Sometimes contract lawyers don’t deal with disputes because they refer the dispute on to Alternative Dispute Resolution lawyers, or lawyers that specialise in Litigation (i.e. going to court to resolve a commercial dispute). Those are the basics of what a contract lawyer does.

So what? How should a contract lawyer provide their service?

Ok so you understand that we draft and review contracts and provide advice about contracts. But is that end of the story? We don’t think so. Why? Well here’s a quick question for you, do clients really care about what the law says, or what the correct interpretation of a contract is? Well in part they do, but to us, and more fundamentally, clients care about the legal answer or legal expertise as it relates to their contract situation. In other words the legal advice has to be tailored to be of assistance to the client.

What should a contract lawyer provide?

This to us is where many lawyers let themselves down, they could tailor their advice and provide clear paths forward (based on what the relevant law is, what the lawyer knows about the client, the client’s business and industry and based on what the client is looking to achieve). However so few lawyers do this. Some will have an each way bet. Here’s a true story for you. Whilst working as a lawyer for a company we engaged a large Australian law firm to provide an advice to us to answer a legal question. We were looking to them to say based on what we know of the law and your business the answer is ‘x, y and z’. What did we get? 12 pages of advice (all good stuff… if you are into that sort of thing… dissections of case law and dissenting judgments etc, all well researched, well written and free from typos) but there were 3 pages that argued for a point of view and then at the end of those 3 pages was 1 paragraph that basically said ‘irrespective of the above, a judge could find the opposite’. This basically meant that the law firm was having an each way bet by saying, even though we have given you 3 PAGES of advice one way, a judge may find the opposite. Being the patient sort of bloke I am, after I pulled out the last of my remaining hair, I calmed down and rang the partner and said something along the lines of (much more diplomatically than this, of course) ‘this advice is really an each way bet, use your legal expertise, get off the fence and make a call. That’s what we are paying you for’. Needless to say, version 2 of the advice was a lot better.

Get off the Fence

So if you are a lawyer, man up, and get off the fence. That’s what clients want from you. A firm view. Sure we all know that the law can be vague and for any matter to get to the High Court there have been competing views and judgments and dissenting judgments flying around like plates at a Greek wedding, but to us this is what lawyers are getting paid for. To use their legal skills and their experience to make a call and to get off the fence! Could you be wrong? Sure. Because as we have said, for any matter to get to the High Court there have to be a number of judges that do not agree with a point of view. But as lawyers that’s what we are getting paid for. So let’s have a look at how lawyers give advice about contracts.

Some Lawyers on give Advice or Options 

Some lawyers just give legal advice, i.e. ‘the contract says blah, blah and blah, so these are you contractual obligations, a, b and c’. ‘By the way good luck working out what you want to do.’ For a client this is as useful as a wheel on a walking stick, or as useful as a grass skirt in a bushfire, or as useful as having an ash tray on a motor bike. You getting the picture? A step up in the evolutionary ladder are lawyers that provide legal advice and then give their clients suggested ways forward such as list of options and nothing more, i.e. you could do 1, 2 or 3. This to us is more helpful because at least the lawyer is suggesting a way to deal with or resolve the issue and means that the lawyer has used some critical thinking based on their knowledge of the law, their knowledge of the client’s business/circumstances and their knowledge of what the client is trying to achieve. Kudos. Go crack a cold one. But ultimately I think you would still want you lawyer to take the next step and put himself in your shoes and give you a preferred option. If you go to the dentist with a tooth ache do you want the dentist to give you 3 options or do you want to turn to the dentist and say ‘if you were me and based on your skills and experience what would you do’? Exactly. Now pull that tooth and let’s get on with it.

The Holy Grail of Contract Advice

Still fewer lawyers will say ‘based on my knowledge of the law, my commercial experience, my knowledge of your business and what you are trying to achieve, this is what you should do and here are a few ways of achieving that outcome. Further this is what I have done, (or could do if you engage us) to help you get that outcome’. That right there ladies and gentlemen is the holy grail of legal advice and legal assistance. Why? Well because in these circumstances the lawyer is basically bringing all their training and experience to bear to not only suggest a preferred route but also make that happen for you. In short taking care of your problem, reducing your stress and giving you peace of mind. Enough said.

Looking for a contract lawyer? Call us on 1800 355 455 or fill in the form below to send us your enquiry.

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