How to draft a Legal Contract without a Lawyer

How to draft a Legal Contract without a Lawyer

People enter into a contract in their day-to-day lives, while entering into a contract there are several questions in people’s minds as to how to make a contract? Can we make a contract without a lawyer? Can a contract be handwritten? Is it illegal to write a legal contract yourself?

This blog is an attempt to answer these questions.

What is a contract?

A contract is a promise or an agreement between two or more parties, which lists down the rights and duties of both parties clearly and unambiguously. The agreement may be verbal or written.

However, a legal contract is a bit different. The legal contract binds the parties legally and governs the obligations of the parties involved in the agreement. A legal contract becomes enforceable when it has the required elements and meets the mandatory requirements.

The Elements of a Legal Contract

In order to be a valid legal contract, enforceable by law, a contract must contain certain key elements. First of all, there must be an offer (by one of the parties) and its acceptance (by the other party). Then, there has to be something of value exchanged, such as money or a promise, which in legal terms is called ‘consideration’.

This contract must be entered between two parties that are competent and have willful consent. And finally, the contract must be for some object which should be lawful.

Is it illegal to write a contract without a lawyer?

If you want to have a contract done while saving money on legal costs for that, the only option in front of you is to draft the legal contract yourself. And, No, it’s not illegal to write a contract without a lawyer. As long as a contract is complete and has all the essential elements, it is treated as a valid contract and is enforceable by the law.

Can I write up a legal contract for someone?

Yes, indeed. Just the way, a lawyer writes an agreement for his or her client, you can also write a contract for someone. The only thing is that it should have all the required elements and meet all mandatory legal requirements.

A word of caution:

Though you may write a contract on your own or even ask a friend to do so. But, a word of caution here. Writing a water-tight contract requires complete knowledge of the law and various loopholes. There may be certain scenarios, which we as laymen may not be able to visualize, but which may arise later and put us in difficulty. So, it’s advisable to take help from experts while writing a contract.

Disadvantages of writing a legal contract for yourself

  1. It may not be a valid contract:

That’s the biggest risk of writing a legal contract on your own. As mentioned above, a contract has some essential elements, such as an offer, acceptance, and consideration, without which the contract may become null and void. In case, any of these elements is missing, the contract may not be valid.

If you write a contract yourself, there is a possibility that you may miss out on these essential elements. In such an instance, the contract may not be enforceable, and you may end up on the losing side.

2. Chances of mistake in parties involved in the legal contract:

Sometimes, while drafting a legal contract, you may miss out clearly mentioning the parties who are entering the contract. There are several variations and technicalities that should be kept in mind when the signing party is an individual, society, or a company.  When you draft a contract, you may miss out on the technicalities. A lawyer understands this very well and can draft a proper legal contract.

3. Words don’t mean what you think they mean:

The language written in a legal contract can be quite confusing and subject to interpretations. Many words often have multiple meanings. Many legal words have a meaning that is quite different from your general understanding. And that meaning may be very specific to legal language. Lawyers, who move in that circle, can understand its meaning and guide you properly.

4. The court needs to be clear about the agreement:

The whole idea of doing a contract is to clearly define the rights and responsibilities of both parties. If there are clauses, that are unclear or ambiguous, and if you go to the court of law, the court will apply the established convention of contract interpretation.

The established convention of courts is that “In case, there is any ambiguity in a legal contract, it will go against the party who has drafted the contract.” As per the convention, it is the responsibility of the person drafting the contract to ensure that there must be no ambiguity. So, if you draft a contract and there is some ambiguity, the court won’t consider that you are not a lawyer, but they will consider that it is you, who has drafted the contract.

5. What works at one place may not work at another:

One of the biggest mistakes, a non-lawyer can make while drafting a legal contract is that they fail to understand the difference in the interpretation of the contract in different locations. This is the biggest challenge while using template contracts. That’s why it’s always advisable to run past the template through a local lawyer, who understands the local lingo and its meaning.

6. There may be confusion in agreement:

If you talk to a lawyer, they may sound very pessimistic about all the things that can go wrong. While you may get depressed with his advice, but it’s good that they can foresee all possible scenarios that may affect the validation of a contract. While drafting a legal contract runs a risk of having a wrong idea about what you are agreeing to. People may think that they are agreeing to ‘A” but in reality. You may be agreeing to ‘B’. You may not realize that the contract unduly favors one party or allows only one party to cancel the contract, whenever they want. A lawyer understands these nuisances and guides you accordingly.

7. One contract does not fit all:

Each contract involves different conditions and transactions, and hence it needs to be drafted accordingly. As a non-lawyer, you may not be aware of various areas where you need to protect your business interests. But a lawyer, with experience in drafting different kinds of legal contracts and handling several situations, is in a better position to visualize that and draft the legal contracts.

8. You may not know how to handle a clause that is held by the court to be illegal or not enforceable:

As a non-lawyer, if you draft a legal contract, there are chances that you may include a clause, which is illegal or not enforceable by the law. A lawyer has complete know-how of the law and various clauses, which are legal.

How to get a valid legal contract to avoid mistakes?

The best way to make a valid legal contract and avoid any mistake is to consult a legal expert or a lawyer before you negotiate and finalize the terms of a contract. A lawyer can help you draft and review the legal contract so that you don’t make a mistake.

Conclusion:

To put it simply, while a self-written legal contract is not illegal, but to ensure that the contract is valid and enforceable under the law, without any issues later, it’s better to consult a lawyer. While it may involve some cost, but I will save you later on many legal hassles. So, it’s better to take advice from experts, while drafting a legal contract. In order to be legally correct, in the first attempt itself, you may take help from professionals like Contract Bazar, an expert in this domain. Working with Contract Bazar helps you ensure that you clearly understand the meaning of each and every word and do not have to get involved in any kind of legal battle later on.