(Peter Rodgers is a Belleville-based paralegal who runs his own firm, Rodgers Paralegal)
Recently, when I had a client meet with me to use my services, I presented them with a
retainer agreement. To my surprise (at first), they flipped through the agreement and went
to sign it without reading through the document.
We had discussed some terms previously and built a level of trust but I still stopped them. I went through it with them ensuring they understood and clarified sections of it for them. It struck a chord with me, as I realized we all do this to some degree or many of us do.
We live in an age where so much is at our fingertips and we have become impatient, maybe to a fault. We want that new gadget or need that new card or whatever it may be, so we sign up. But once you sign that contract, it can be a problem to get out of it.
So, here are some tips to think about that will help next time you’re in that situation:
1. Read it through to the end.
In many cases, this will just take you an extra five minutes and really it’s time well spent. Those five minutes can save you a ton of headaches (and possibly money) down the road.
2. Ask questions and get clarification.
When you’re reading through the contract don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. What does this mean? What happens if…? Again, getting answers to your questions, and making sure you understand will save you possible trouble down the road. You may try presenting them with scenarios that concern you. Like if you’re getting a new phone, find out what happens if you want to get out of the contract before the end of its term.
3. Amend if you can.
It may not always be possible but if there’s one particular clause that’s keeping you from signing, see if you can get an amendment or assurance to suit your purposes. If they want your business badly enough, you may be surprised by what can be changed. In my own case, my internet and phone provider wanted a three year commitment when I was not comfortable with more than a year. I was able to get assurances in writing from them that made me more comfortable going forward with the agreement.
4. Be prepared to walk away.
Above all be ready to just walk away from the contract without signing. This may not always be possible but for many contracts it is an option. There is more than one company that can provide you with that new phone for example. It should be the last resort after you negotiate and follow the preceding steps, but if you think you can do without the service, item, etc. and the terms make you nervous, don’t sign.
So, to summarize all I am saying is to slow down, take a good look and know what you are
getting into before signing that deal.
If you know what you’re committing to in the first place, you can save yourself a lot of time, energy and yes money. Your peace of mind should be essential to any contract.
Peter Rodgers, Rodgers Paralegal Services