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What business owners should understand about contract law

When most of us sign on the dotted line or provide an electronic signature, we don't spend much time reading through the several attached pages of contractual boilerplate, as we don't have the time, energy or inclination to engage in such a potentially arduous endeavor.

While this is generally an acceptable approach from a consumer standpoint, it would be ill advised from a business standpoint. Indeed, any business owner must take the time to read through the terms of every contract before signing so as to ensure that they fully understand their rights and obligations outlined therein. 

In light of this reality, it's helpful for business owners to have at least a general understanding of some of the basics of contract law.

What exactly is a contract?

At its core, a contract is a legally binding document between at least two people or entities mandating that each side performs a specific action or refrains from performing a specific action that they otherwise have a right to carry out.

Are there elements that must be present in order for a contract to be considered legally binding?

There are essentially four elements that must be present in any contract in order for it to be considered valid:

  1. There must be a "meeting of the minds," or mutual assent
  2. There must be at least two parties capable of entering into a contract
  3. There must be an agreement in which both sides have some manner of obligation
  4. There must be a lawful purpose for entering a contract  

We will continue exploring this important legal topic in the weeks ahead, including examining all four of these elements. In the meantime, business owners in need of assistance with the drafting, review or enforcement of a contract should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

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