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Contract Law – How to Create a Legally Binding Contract

Contract Law – How to Create a Legally Binding Contract

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 2, 2013 Updated: September 23, 2016

Whether you are entering into a relationship with a customer, a vendor or an independent contractor, contracts are a fact of business. You need them because they serve as legally valid agreements protecting your interests.

But aren’t contracts laden with legalese? Don’t they have to be blessed by an attorney to ensure their validity? Not always.

In fact, I’ve seen contracts come across my table that are less than one page in length, in plain English, and still legally binding. How?

Generally, to be legally valid, most contracts must contain two elements:

  • All parties must agree about an offer made by one party and accepted by the other.
  • Something of value must be exchanged for something else of value. This can include goods, cash, services, or a pledge to exchange these items.

In addition, certain contracts are required by state law to be in writing (real estate transactions, for example), while others are not. Check with your state or with an attorney if you are unclear, but it’s always good business practice to put every binding agreement in writing.

Here’s how your small business can comply with these requirements and ensure your contracts are legally valid:  

1) The Ins and Outs of Reaching an Agreement

The point when two parties come to an agreement can be a little fuzzy. For example, many businesses will put a standard contract template before an independent contractor and expect it to be signed without any discussion. At that point – and the law is clear on this – a legal contract exists only when one party makes an offer and the other accepts all terms of that offer. So in this example, the contractor is still free to rebut any of the points in the contract and make a counter offer, until an agreement has been reached.

How Long Should an Offer Stay Open?

Offers are rarely accepted immediately and further discussions or amendments may