This week we’re asking: is using legal document templates, a good idea?
Acquiring legal counsel is necessary to protect one’s business while remaining in accordance with the law. Larger corporations usually have their own team of lawyers but for small-medium enterprises (SMEs), this is usually not the case. Legal fees are known to be costly and the process of seeking legal counsel itself, potentially time consuming. It’s one of the main reasons why many are turning towards templates when writing legal documents.
At first glance, legal document templates appear be a cure-all solution for the layman. They bridge the gap between the lack of legal knowledge and the costly expense of hiring a professional. While more prevalent in western countries, Southeast Asia is starting to pick up the trend and it’s no surprise either.
Marketed as convenient, user friendly and money savers, it’s easy to see why SMEs are so attracted to them. These templates are readily available on the internet and usually offered on a low cost subscription basis or as free downloads. Some of these websites even offer “legal document template kits” which aim to be a comprehensive collection of templates that address the needs of SMEs from employment agreements to equity investment. There is the added advantage of modern technology – digital documents mean digital storage and with cloud technology, you can access them anywhere.
However, it would be wise to remain cautious when using templates. The majority of these sites have a disclaimer in their website stating that they are not law firms and do not provide legal services. The templates could have illegal clauses or outdated information and without legal knowledge, it is difficult to tell quality apart.
It is also crucial to note that “standard” legal documents don’t exist. Every agreement drafted must be tailored to fit the needs of the person/SME therefore making the document unique. Using a “standard” document may result in the terms and conditions being biased and unfair towards either party.
Ultimately, these templates are tools and like any tool, they are as harmful or helpful based on how you use them. When drafting legal documents, always remember that written contracts are freely negotiable between all parties and seeking legal counsel may be worth the price of protecting your business.