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When entering into what may at first seem to be a straightforward contractual relationship or purchase agreement, the question often arises whether to “do-it-yourself” or to engage a lawyer.

This question arises due to the perceived lack of value in engaging a lawyer to draft the Agreement, particularly in light of the legal fees.

Drafting a contract to set out the terms of a transaction and to define the “rules of the game” involves much more than just choosing an appropriate precedent and modifying the names, dates and numbers.

Clearly a well-drafted precedent is superior to starting from scratch or patching something together from documents found on the Internet.  However, using precedents adapted by non-professionals will rarely be the optimal way of managing legal or tax risk and regulatory compliance while ensuring your interests are protected.  The best contracts are tight, efficient legal documents that recognize and address the deal-specific issues associated with a particular transaction.

As discussed above, a precedent is a starting place, or tool.  The tools themselves, however, have far less impact on the outcome of the job than the skill and knowledge of the people employing them.  A backhoe is a powerful tool but if one doesn’t know how to use it or when it would be appropriate to use, they may not only fail in getting the job done properly and efficiently, but may end up making an even bigger mess.

Even with access to the appropriate precedent, one must be able to identify the issues to be dealt with, from legal, tax and business perspectives, and then adapt the agreement to adequately address those issues.

Identifying tax and accounting issues should be left to the tax and accounting professionals, as they are expertly trained in identifying those issues and crafting appropriate solutions.  Similarly, lawyers are expertly trained in both the law and business and are in the best position to identify the legal issues and to craft appropriate solutions for them.  The identification of these issues and the crafting of appropriate solutions to address them is where lawyers add real value to the process.

So why would someone enter into a business relationship and draft the contract themselves?  The simple answer is cost.  Sourcing a precedent on the internet or even paying a nominal amount to download one is a lot less expensive than engaging a lawyer to draft the agreement.  While this is true, there are a few things one must keep in mind; “you get what you pay for” and “caveat emptor“, or “buyer beware”.  As Warren Buffett said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Precedents purchased on the internet are often drafted from a generalized perspective in order to maximize the number of sales and without regard to the particular circumstances of your transaction.  Moreover, they may be drafted in a different jurisdiction where the laws differ from those of your jurisdiction.  Not only are US laws vastly different from Canadian laws, but laws from province-to-province can also differ.

By contrast, when you instruct a lawyer, you are engaging a professional with years of training, experience and expertise.  Lawyers are trained to identify the legal issues and craft solutions that are specifically tailored to the circumstances.  Lawyers are well versed in applicable legislation and case law and apply that knowledge to craft tight, efficient and practical legal documents that recognize and address the deal-specific issues associated with a particular transaction.

The costs of instructing a lawyer to draw up a commercial contract will vary, depending primarily upon the complexity and scope of the transaction and the efficiency of the lawyer, as well as the lawyer’s standard rate.  But in the end, you will receive value for your money because you will receive documentation that serves your purposes and not just paper that appears to do the trick.  With a good lawyer, you can be reassured that your contract properly addresses the nuances of the transaction, that main legal risks relating to the transaction have been identified and, where practicable, dealt with or mitigated, and that regulatory compliance issues have been addressed.

In certain cases, such as where the value of the transaction is small, it is possible for the parties to draft their own documents and have a lawyer review and revise as appropriate.  Depending on the experience of the client and the complexity of the transaction, this can be a cost-effective use of a lawyer and it is possible to have the best of both worlds.  However, it is also possible that your lawyer will review the draft and determine, in your best interests, that it does not adequately address your concerns.  In this event, the document may need to be redrafted or the lawyer may have to go back to the drawing board.

There is an abundance of legal information available for free, or at comparatively low cost, on the Internet.  At Magellan Law Group, we recognize that knowledge of the law alone is not our competitive advantage.  Our up-to-date legal knowledge and extensive precedent library is coupled with a team of skilled professionals with decades of combined experience in crafting custom tailored documents for a wide range of business transactions.  We can meet the needs of your business in a cost and time-efficient manner.

Click Here to contact one of our lawyers to discuss how we can help your business move forward.

Warren Buffett said “[I]t takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”  Obviously Warren Buffett was talking about business and professional reputations, but I thought of this quote tonight after watching my current home town of Vancouver deal with the loss of its Stanley Cup aspirations.

In the late 1880s, the population of Greater Vancouver was approximately 400.  Over the next 130 years, the population has grown to approximately 2.4 million people.  Clearly, it has taken years to “put Vancouver on the map”.

Just as it took years for the population to grow, it took years for Vancouver to build its reputation as a world-class city.  We have much to be proud of.  Our magnificent Stanley Park, the North Shore mountains, Granville Island, Robson Street, Granville St., Gastown, Canada Place… the list goes on and on.  In my view, I live in the most beautiful city in the country, if not the world.

Vancouver’s popularity and world-awareness has also grown by leaps and bounds over the years.  Back in the ’80s, the world came to Vancouver for Expo ’86.  More recently we celebrated the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Not only did we take the world stage for just under three weeks, but we set a world record for most gold medals by a host country, with 14!

The opportunity was clearly there for our great city to further its reputation for greatness by winning the Stanley Cup and staying in the limelight.  The expectations were high as Vancouver had its best year ever and we all hoped to be the third Canadian city to win the Stanley Cup the year after hosting the Olympics.  While I’m a Leaf fan through and through, even I found it hard to resist “jumping on the bandwagon”.

But it wasn’t meant to be.  Vancouver lost a heartbreaker on home ice.  It was truly disappointing.  Worse than the loss however is the damage done to Vancouver’s reputation in the minutes and hours that followed by several thousand misguided “fans”.  I’m embarrassed for those people and I’m embarrassed for our city because, as we showed the world last year during the Olympics, we are better than that.

So what does a loss by a sports team have to do with business?  As I wrote earlier, the reaction to the Canuck’s loss reminded me of Warren Buffett’s quote and the importance of maintaining your reputation.

I’m in the service industry and, as such, my three greatest tools or resources are my knowledge, experience and, most importantly, reputation.  I’ve worked hard for many years to build that reputation and recognise that I must be cognizant of Warren Buffett’s advice every day.  You can work your fingers to the bones for years and years building a reputation of excellence but, in one short moment, you can also throw it all away.

You can’t however run a business or your life looking over your shoulder and worrying about what can go wrong.  You just have to deal with adversity professionally when things do go wrong because our response to a difficult situation is what defines our character.

In business, as in sport, we all experience both triumph and defeat.  It’s easy to keep our composure and professionalism when things are going well and business is booming.  The challenge, however, is to maintain that composure and professionalism when faced with adversity, such as a difficult file or the loss of business.

So my message in this blog is to heed the words of Warren Buffett in our day-to-day business dealings.  How we deal with and react to adversity, loss, defeat or setbacks will define our reputation as professionals and businesspersons, not how gracious or composed we may be when business is good.  The best way to do this is to heed the advice of T. Harv Eker and “be bigger than your problems.”

 

Cindy's 5K Poker Walk for Epilepsy

Cindy's 5K Poker Walk for Epilepsy

This past week has been a really busy one!  As anyone reading this blog will know, it was my first week in solo practice.  Amidst contacting my clients, building the appropriate infrastructure, marketing, building a website, contacting business partners and updating all my contact information, I actually had a lot of client work to do as well.

But all that stopped on Sunday morning so that my family and I could participate in the annual Cindy’s 5K Poker Walk to raise awareness and funds for the BC Epilepsy Society.

Those who know me know that my youngest daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy about two years ago and that after turning to the BC Epilepsy Society for support in our time of need, I decided to give back to our community by joining their board.

The 5 km walk started at 8:30 am at the Kerrisdale Arena in Vancouver and took us through the magnificent streets of Shaughnessy and then back to the arena.  The walk is part of the annual Shaughnessy Road Race and the 2011 Vancouver Sun Run series.  It is an incredibly well-organized event and I would definitely recommend it.  While we were walking, cycling, pushing strollers and riding scooters to raise money for the BC Epilepsy Society, men and women of all ages were running 8 km through the same course to compete for the best times (or their personal best times).

This year’s turnout was even better than the year before and the weather couldn’t have been better!  Attendees included individuals affected by epilepsy, their family, friends and generous people willing to help make a difference in the lives of so many people here in British Columbia (it is estimated that 1 out of 12 people will have a seizure in their lifetime and about 1 in 100 Canadians have epilepsy).

This year my wife and I walked while our two youngest “rode their scooters”.  Actually, they rode their scooters for a couple of blocks, had us push them while standing on their scooters for a few kilometres and then had us carry their scooters and helmets for the remaining distance while complaining that their feet hurt.  While we would have preferred that the kids did the entire walk under their own power, the main point is that we were able to demonstrate to them the importance of charity and giving back to their community.

Karen and I have made participating in this walk one of our annual fundraising events and if anyone is interested in joining us for future walks or to raise money for the BC Epilepsy Society, please contact me or Karen for further information or visit the BC Epilepsy Society’s website at http://www.bcepilepsy.com.

Welcome to part one of my very first blog.  While I had lots of ideas about what I was going to write about, I thought I would use my first blog to describe the events of my last few days, which for most of us was the Victoria Day long weekend.

On Friday morning I commenced what was a relatively short but action-packed process for starting my new solo law practice.  The first order of business was determining what needed to be done and in which order.  It seemed obvious that, other than drawing upon my experience in years of practice, I would need two other very important things – clients and computers.  Given that I love technology, I didn’t have to worry about sourcing computers, printers, webcams, iPhones or iPads, because I already had the “latest and greatest”.  That meant I had to focus on getting clients, or marketing.

For most businesses, all you need to do is decide that you’re going to market and then decide upon the approaches that you’re going to take to do so.  Generally speaking, businesses market both directly and in a general manner.  Direct marketing is achieved by developing relationships with clients and contacts, while general marketing is achieved by advertising and social media.

I decided that I would tackle the direct marketing and leave the social media to the experts.  Fortunately, I am blessed to have amazing and incredibly talented friends and family.

My brother-in-law Roger got right to work on my website.  That you’re reading this blog today is a testament to his skills and dedication to his family.  Thank you Roger, I’m sure you had better things to do on this long weekend (for instance enjoying the Canucks taking a 3-1 series lead over the Sharks).  If you ever need a lawyer, I know where you can find a good one!

A good website needs both content and images, so I got right to work on writing content.  I posted my first article on the “Multimedia” page and, now, my first blog.  While I like to think that I can write a “mean article”, everyone knows that the editor is the most important person in the process.  Again, I drew upon my family to help with this.

My wife Karen, who is also a lawyer and a big part of why my practice has been and will be successful, has been writing case summaries for Quicklaw for the past few years.  Quicklaw is an electronic legal research database that provides court decisions from all levels, news reports, statutes, journals, and other legal commentary.  She has also written various chapters for Halsbury’s Laws of Canada, which is a comprehensive legal encyclopaedia, so she knows a thing or two about the law and writing.  For more information about Karen, see her bio on our “About Us” page.

The other thing that a good website needs is photographs, both of lawyers and of meaningful landmarks.  Once again, I was able to draw upon a friend and fellow Leafs fan to handle this part.  While I had asked Jeff, an amateur photographer, to simply take a couple of head shots of Karen and me and to let us use a few of his many incredible shots of the local area, , he decided to up the ante.

First, he called upon his friend Marion, who is a professional photographer and an amazing person, to come over to our house on a long weekend to photograph us.  Marion not only took some great photos of us but she rounded up my two youngest children and took pictures of them as well. I still can’t believe she got them to co-operate!  Marion, you are amazing and we thank you!  The pictures haven’t yet been posted because they were only taken a few hours ago!

Jeff has already sent me some amazing images for the website, and will be sending more in the days to come.  Jeff, I can’t thank you enough for everything that you’ve done, you are really a great friend!

Check again in a day or so and you’ll see some of Marion and Jeff’s handiwork.

Rounding out the social media aspect of my marketing plan are my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.  Please click on the icons on this page to connect to those accounts.  In the days to come our Facebook page and YouTube channel should be up and running so, once again, keep checking in regularly!

Coming soon:  Going it on Your Own – Part 2

~ Steve

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