You often hear lawyers or other legal service providers warn against using templates for legal documents. You might think they’re just protecting themselves and their business by trying to scare customers away from the competition, but that really isn’t the case.
There are a number of inherent risks in using templates for legal documents, so before you do, be sure to consider the following:
- You never know who drafted your template.People often assume that templates are drafted by legal professionals, but that isn’t always the case. For all you know, a con artist or your local gardener could have drafted your template to earn a quick buck.
- Templates may not have up-to-date information. Laws and circumstances are constantly changing. It’s important that legal documents are up-to-date and in accordance with new issues. By using bespoke legal documents drafted by legal professionals, you can ensure that the information provided is up-to-date and takes into account current and future legal developments.
- Templates rarely cover specific or complex issues. Every business has legal issues that are unique to their industry or business model. Such issues are usually not accounted for in a template (or, sometimes worse, they’re accounted for improperly or non-exhaustively).
- Negative consequences might be disguised in “legalese”. Every clause or term in a contract has legal implications attached. To an untrained eye, it may look pretty straightforward, but certain phrases or words have huge repercussions. By following a template, you could unknowingly be opening up your business to a wide range of consequences based on the wording of the contracts.
- Templates can be overly vague. In order to accommodate as many situations as possible, templates often use overly vague language. Legally speaking, problems can arise from vague word choice. If it’s not extremely clear what each party’s obligations are, it can cause confusion between the parties and, more importantly, the courts might not enforce the contract down the line. While the word choice of a document may look comprehensive because the same phrase can be applied to many different situations, vague wording leaves too much room for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and miscommunication. Every term of a contract must be specified to avoid any confusion.
- Using a template can result in a huge financial loss in the long term.Using a template instead of a bespoke legal document exposes yourself and your business to lawsuits. A template can leave you and your business vulnerable to the details unaddressed in the template. And, while hiring a legal professional never guarantees perfection, lawyers have insurance to protect you from drafting mistakes, while most businesses likely do not. By using bespoke documents from the start, you are saving the hassle, time, and money of having to deal with even more lawyer fees down the line.
- Copying a template may amount to plagiarism. By copying a template from the internet without the owner’s permission—even if you change some parts of it around—you are plagiarizing. At that point, not only are you opening yourself up to disputes with your customers because your documents are not specific to your business, but you are opening yourself up to lawsuits from others for copyright infringement.
Be sure to keep all of the above risks in mind before deciding to use templates for legal documents in your business. And if you decide to protect your business and have your documents drafted by a legal professional, you know where to find us!