Having discussed in the above posts some principles which startups and small businesses should bear in mind when dealing with legal documentation, this post will address some of the more common contractual landmines — practical tips on some specific terms and conditions to look out for.
Template and automated legal documents are increasing in popularity.
For years there have been many websites offering standard contracts for download. Most of these have a US/European law focus, but the past couple of years have seen some similar services launched in Asia.
Some of these websites offer a very comprehensive collection of legal documents which address the needs of startups and small businesses in particular — everything from NDAs to equity investment agreements are available for download, usually with a fee.
My cover slide for this part of the workshop reads: “Be very very very very careful when using standard contracts” — I’m not sure whether I should have added a few more ‘very’s to statement.
Business owners should be extremely cautious when using these legal documents.
As with any business venture, startups need to get good professional advice from experts. Typically these advisors will cover legal, financial, and tax advice.
Lawyers have a bad reputation
Most people would prefer if they could avoid dealing with lawyers. When there’s a negotiation or discussion and people say get the lawyers involved, suddenly everyone gets a bit more serious and defensive.
The Malaysian startup scene has noticeably increased in vibrancy in the past couple of years. Many of us have friends or relatives who are somehow involved in the startup scene — either as founders or investors.
An increasing number of people — young and not-so-young, and some lawyers too — are moving away from traditional career paths and joining the startup ecosystem.