Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809. Before becoming the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln had many other occupations, including that of lawyer. One of the functions of a lawyer is to write contracts. Recently I was asked to sign a contract for my recruiting services that had the following clause: “For a period of eighteen months immediately following termination of this Agreement, Contractor shall not, and Contractor agrees to cause its principals, members and employees not to accept work or enter into a contract or accept an obligation in the post production industry.” I think that Mr. Lincoln would have advised me not to accept a contract that would necessitate I dictate what choices others make–such as telling my employees that if they left my employment they could not take a job in the post production industry.
It’s a good idea to thoroughly read through any contract you are asked to sign. Once you understand the meaning of the contract it is up to you to decide whether it is one you want to agree to. As the American Bar Association writes on their website cited below, “You never have to accept a contract. Every part of a contract is open for negotiation, at least in theory.” If someone gives you a form contract you don’t have to stick to the form. “You can cross out parts you don’t like. You can write in terms that the contract doesn’t include...(Make sure that all changes to the form appear on all copies that will have your signature; initial altered but unsigned pages and have the other party do the same.)”
I crossed out the clause mentioned above that asked me to not accept work in the post production industry for 18 months after the end of the agreement. And I initialed where I made the changes. If there is something in the contract that you do not agree with or that you cannot perform, cross that part out and initial it.
The American Bar Association reminds, “That doesn’t mean the other side has to agree to your changes.” A contract must be made between willing and competent parties. Both sides must agree to the terms. We didn’t agree to the terms.
The American Bar Association notes, “There will be times when a contract is just too inscrutable to understand.” If you cannot understand the terms even after careful reading, consult a lawyer. It will be worth the investment of time. If you are ever in a situation where someone is pressuring you to sign a contract, tell the party you need more time to think about the arrangements and take the time to ask a lawyer to explain all the terms to you.
Whether or not you hire an attorney, take the time to read the entire contract including any riders or addendums or attachments or exhibits. The time to negotiate terms of a contract is before you sign. Make sure you understand and agree to all the terms of the contract before you make the deal. When you sign a contract that means you agree to all the terms of the contract. And remember, you can always walk away from a bad deal.
The ABA Consumer Law Guide
© Copyright 2013 Pamela Kleibrink Thompson
Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is not a lawyer but knows some excellent entertainment attorneys. She agrees with Harvey Mackay that one should always have attorneys in one’s network. Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a career navigator who helps creative people succeed. She is a frequent speaker at colleges and conferences and recruits for animation, visual effects, design firms and other creative companies. If you want to reach her for recruiting, personal career coaching, or presentations, email her at PamRecruit@q.com.