Memorializing an agreement in a written contract serves two primary purposes. First and foremost, a written contract should clearly set out the deal terms so that there is little or no chance of a misunderstanding as to what the parties’ rights and obligations are. Further, to be sure that they get the deal terms right, in-house counsel often turn to business people involved in the deal because they are the experts on the deal terms.
The second reason to have a written contract is to set out the “Rules of Engagement” that will apply if a dispute arises between the parties. Such Rules, on which I have written in other posts, include choice of law provisions, forum selection clauses, liquidated damages provisions, and arbitration clauses, just to name a few. Surprisingly, however, and in contrast to in-house counsels’ willingness to consult with business people about the deal terms in a contract, in-house counsel often are reluctant to consult with experts on the Rules of Engagement, i.e., experienced litigators. Whether the reason for this is a psychological aversion to placing too much emphasis on what might go wrong with a deal before it is fully in … Keep reading
After putting all of the specific deal points into a new contract, you are just about finished. All you have to do now is add in the “Miscellaneous” section with all of your boilerplate provisions like force majeure, choice of law and a few others. You have drafted so many contracts for so many years that you do not even know where some of these boilerplate provisions came from, let alone remember all of the implications of each. Even more dangerous, there may be some boilerplate provisions on which you rely that may not be as enforceable as you think. Take, for example, a standard clause appearing in many contracts stating the following: “Nothing in this Agreement is intended to create any enforceable right in favor of any non-party to this Agreement.”
For sure there is no downside to including such a clause in a contract. Indeed, Professor Corbin, one of the preeminent authorities on contract law has said, “If two contracting parties expressly provide that some third party who will be benefited by performance shall have no legally enforceable right, the courts should effectuate the expressed intent by denying the party any direct remedy.” (Corbin on … Keep reading
Often, one of the last provisions in a contract will say:
This contract shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of ______.”
Most courts will abide by the parties’ choice and apply the law designated by them – even if the law selected is not from the state where the case is being tried. It is only in limited situations, such as (i) where application of the selected law would undermine a significant public policy of the jurisdiction where suit is filed, or (ii) if the locale of the law selected has no relation to the parties or the dispute, that a court is unlikely to abide by the parties’ choice of governing law.
Why should in-house counsel care about choice of law? Well, while most states may have similar common law with respect to garden variety contract or tort claims, all states have statutory claims that only can be pursued if their own law is applicable.… Keep reading