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Anonymous Poster wondered: <<I am now in the process of trying to get a
contract signed with a large company... After many
e-mail discussions regarding minor changes to "my" contract, today I
was presented with "their" boilerplate consulting contract. This
contract has several clauses that conflict directly with the text of my
contract, These clauses are clearly not in my best interest (like
giving up the right to trial by jury in a dispute).>>
When in doubt, strike 'em out! <g> All contracts are negotiable, at
least to a point, and many boilerplate conditions are negotiable--the
authors just hope that you don't know that. If they insist on terms
that you find unacceptable and you can afford to risk losing the job,
tell them to find another contractor. You can get badly burned by
clauses that rob you of your rights.
<<My contact says her company always signs the consultants contract and
has the consultant sign theirs. Is the process of signing "two"
contracts common? (I've never done it.)>>
I have indeed signed two contracts--or more specifically, had my base
contract included as an annex to the main contract. But I never allow
contradictions between the contract terms to stand. The only people who
benefit from legal contradictions are the lawyers, who earn a much
higher hourly rate than we do and who positively love debated a fine
legal point for hours while the meter is running.
<<If I sign them, which contract takes precedence--perhaps the one
signed first, or last??>>
Depends on whose lawyer is most persuasive when it comes time for the
trial. <g> In theory, the contract with the latest date takes
precedence since it is assumed to replace certain clauses in the
earlier contract, but you'd be unwise to assume that this is
correct--particularly since most of us here on techwr-l aren't lawyers,
and since the interpretation probably differs among jurisdictions.
<<I wish I could afford a lawyer to review their contract, but right
now I cannot.>>
Can you afford an expensive lawsuit later if it comes to that? If not,
hire a lawyer. At a minimum, be a good technical writer and constrain
your inquiry by explicitly asking for advice on the few key issues that
concern you rather than the contract as a whole. A good lawyer will
probably want to whip through the whole text to ensure they understand
it, but you can at least try to focus their attention on the parts that
are most important to you.
You may be able to find someone in your community who does pro bono
work or possibly even a recent graduate who will work for less money in
the hope that you'll subsequently become a regular client. For that
matter, you may be able to get cheap legal advice from a law student at
the local university. You get what you pay for in this case--the
student won't know the law anywhere near as well as a graduate--but if
you truly can't afford a professional, it's better than going wholly
unarmed into battle.
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