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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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#661: No Excuse for Lost Computer Files

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 26, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011
With eDiscovery rules in force, what are my options and obligations for storing records?

Consultants should be aware of the implications of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for discovery of electronic data. What is now required to be retained includes most electronically stored information (IMs, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, emails, voice mails, etc). You might be asked in a lawsuit to provide these records, and you should learn the rules for proper retention.

Courts can provide some allowance for reasonable "housekeeping" of emails and other work papers. However, once it becomes apparent that there is a legal issue, you must preserve all documents that might pertain to the lawsuit. The case a few years ago of nearly five million White house emails "inadvertently missing" is the kind of circumstance at which these procedures are aimed. The White House had an automatic records management system designed to store these records, but it was removed and deliberately not replaced, the kind of circumstance on which a court would not look favorably. Having some minimal procedures for record keeping (and following them) is important.

All consultants should read a good summary of e-discovery rules and, especially, how they apply to social media.

Tip: This tip is not a legal opinion or guidance, only a recommendation that all consultants should be aware of their legal obligations to store records. If you need a backup capability, purchase an external hard drive or select an online service like Mozy, Carbonite, Amazon Cloud or many other services. These can provide unlimited online automated backups for as little as $5/month (or 2-5 Gb storage for free).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  computer  legal  privacy  recordkeeping  security 

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#552: Be Aware of A New Type of Corporation: The B Corp

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I have heard about the new B Corporation (benefit corporation) but am unsure how this relates to consultants or their clients.

Many companies, consumers and consultants prefer to work with socially and environmentally responsible companies. However, there is little other than a company's own assertion that they are a "good" company on which to make a decision to purchase, partner or invest. A B Corporation is a values-driven company that is certified by its mission, legal structure and actions to be organized and operated by its commitment to the triple bottom line of people. planet and profit. It embeds social and environmental responsibility into its structure, processes and culture.

Benefit corporations were established to supplement the traditional C Corp, S Corp and Limited Liability Corporation. Maryland was the first state to establish legal status for B Corps in 2010 and other states are in process, with the intent to provide incentives and tax breaks for socially productive companies. Given that investors and consumers increasingly demand hard evidence of socially responsible operations, there are now certification and audit standards and processes to assure that a company commits to stakeholders as well as shareholders. As of January 2011 there were about 400 B Corporations.

How is this important to consultants? Other than being aware of this form of organization and sharing this with your clients, as appropriate, consider two possibilities. First, this is a potentially new area of consulting in helping companies move toward certification and passing their audits. Second, B Corps may be interesting targets to whom you can consult if you provide sustainability, customer service or other stakeholder-centric services.

Tip: The B Corp legally recognizes that customers increasingly mandate environmental and socially responsible investing and purchasing. Consultants should be well ahead of their clients and communities in this area.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  certification  legal  trends 

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#492: The Possibility of Liability Comes With Your Recommendations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Am I liable if I make a recommendation that doesn't work out for my clients?

Yes and no. You are always going to be held "professionally" accountable (or measured) by your client based on your performance. Whether there is a presumption of legal liability depends on the kind of consulting work you do and how you position it with assumptions, disclaimers, etc. This is both a business and legal question. For the legal portion consult your attorney and check out The Consultant's Legal Guide published by Jossey Bass/Pfeiffer.

Tip: As a matter of good business, make sure you have both boilerplate disclaimers and qualified recommendations. Larger consulting firms have more to lose than independents simply as a matter of financial resources/exposure. Errors and Omissions insurance can be a useful risk mitigation strategy, at least to moderate the downside financial exposure incurred with a litigious client.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  legal  recommendations  risk analysis 

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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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