CONTRACT LAW – INTERNET FORMS AND ATTORNEY FEE PROVISIONS
As an attorney, often times clients come to us wanting us to fix a situation after the client has tried to take on a legal matter themselves. This is completely understandable since I know that my family has to closely watch our expenditures on a regular basis to keep up with the cost of living these days. However, practicing law without the proper training can cause very expensive problems. One particular instance that we have seen arise time and time again involves the usage of contract forms from the internet. Many of these internet forms have numerous problems and/or are often misused.
One major problem with such forms involves the lack of appropriate legal provisions in the documents to fully protect the client’s interest. Almost all attorneys include an Attorney Fees Provision in any contract they draft. This often times allows the winner in a subsequent dispute between the parties to recover attorney fees and costs. A common attorney fee provision would say something like this: “if it is required for a party to this agreement to hire an attorney to enforce the provisions herein, then the prevailing party is entitled to recover their reasonable attorney’s fees and costs”. This is one of many provisions that are often left out of internet contract forms and the implications can be huge.
When we are hired by a client to fix a problem with an internet form contract it is always after a dispute has arisen between the parties. A great bargaining tool that an attorney can have in such a dispute is the threat (or promise) that if the opposing side does not comply with our demands then we will sue for not only our damages but OUR ATTORNEY FEES and costs. The other side does not want to pay their own attorney let alone your attorney fees. However, if the proper attorney’s fee provision is not in the contract or not allowed by a statute then you cannot legitimately demand attorney fees. If you can’t demand that they pay your attorney fees then they don’t care if your attorney fees quickly add up. Many times, the attorney fees in a major dispute can add up to exponentially more than the relatively small amount that it would have cost the client to have an attorney to draft the document in the beginning.
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