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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.


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#716: Keep Your Consulting Agreements Up to Date

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 12, 2011
Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011
I have a basic consulting agreement but I wonder if I am missing something that is more specific to various industries I consult to. Where can I find sample contract language for a range of consulting situations and industries?

Even though sample agreements are available from many sources, we recommend you run past your attorney whatever agreement you come up with. Over time and across industries there are nuances of your situation that you might not be aware of, and legal advice is essential to protect your interests. Also, the law, business practices and technology do evolve, so that agreement that made sense a few years ago may not provide all the protection or clarity you need now.

One great place to quickly get the lay of the land of consulting agreements in various industries is Tech Agreements. This site has, for a fee of usually $35 each, copies of consulting agreements for various industries. Each one has a free view of part of the contract so you can get a sense of what it contains before you buy. Remember, this is just a start - you still need a business eye (you) and a legal perspective (your lawyer).

Tip: Read every agreement carefully. Over my career I have read a dozen contracts that had typographic or grammatical errors or, even worse, clauses that either made no sense or were potentially harmful to my interests. Often, the other party asserts that no one has ever objected before. Regardless, you are best off using your own terms in your own agreement. Always read carefully and stick to your principles by starting with your own agreement as a draft

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  contract  legal 

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#450: Good Things Come From a Well Written Consulting Contract

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 3, 2010
Updated: Friday, December 3, 2010
What are the key components that I should include in my contracts with clients?

We obviously cannot provide you with specific legal advice and always recommend utilizing an attorney in compiling or reviewing your formal contracts. Some obvious ingredients of an effective contract are:
  • A thorough description of the work to be performed, including a clear specification of the scope and boundaries of the project.
  • A clear description of the main objectives and associated deliverables of the project or engagement
  • A timetable including all important dates including those associated with the project’s started and expected end, as well as the expected date of accomplishment for the specified objectives and deliverables
  • A list specifying your requirements including key information and the specific level of support you will need from the client in order for you to successfully complete the assignment
  • In order to help set clear expectations upfront with your client, it might also a good idea to address those specific areas outside of your control (e.g., external critical path dependencies, implied outcomes such as specific increase in market share, client’s failure to deliver specified requirements in a timely manner, etc.)
  • Specific terms and conditions (e.g., compensation and payment terms, additional services, consultant liability protection, confidentiality, non-compete clauses, cancellation, disputes/remedies, any special provisions, etc.)
Tip: A consulting contract exists to:
  • Ensure mutual understanding of the assignment
  • Summarize what is agreed to and expected from each party
  • Specify satisfactory results (consultant compensation and client deliverables)
  • Avoid disputes
Unnecessarily complex contracts, unless mandatory (i.e., government contracts), can potentially overwhelm a prospective client and could result in lost business. Focus on keeping the contract as brief, clear, simple, and direct as possible.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  contract  legal 

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#117: Reread Your Consulting Contract - and Your Code of Ethics - Frequently

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2009
In many consulting engagements, the scope of work evolves as we reveal unknown facts and the nature of the client's need evolves. To what extent are we bound to the original contract if the client approves these scope changes along the way?

This is a great question, and one for which you may not like the answer. The contract for services is the current agreement between you and the client. The term "current" means not only the original terms under which you began your relationship, but also as modified to address evolving conditions and capabilities. If you do not modify the contract, regardless of how the nature of the work may have evolved, or client acknowledges these changes, you are still responsible for delivering what the original contract states. I wouldn't recommend relying on hallway conversations and assumed client understanding of the "new reality" when your realities may differ significantly.

When you conduct your regular progress reviews, ensure that you are in conformance to the terms of the current engagement agreement. If you consider that the conditions have changed and justify a changed scope of work, schedule of deliverables or work activities, then offer an alternative engagement protocol, along with logic and supporting data. If your client agrees with your interpretation of these changes, then it should be easy to modify the contract.

Tip: Regularly reread not only the engagement documents (both original and as modified) but also your Code of Ethics. As your perceptions about the work change, and the constraints and opportunities relating to your ability to provide the agreed upon services change, you need to return to first principles. What was the original intent of the work and what are your ethical obligations to provide those services? Look to an excellent article about the ethical aspects of this by Michael Shays called Obedience to the Unenforceable (this C2M article is available for free to IMC Members in the IMC USA Knowledge Library.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  contract  engagement management  ethics 

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