Several years ago, I attended a local AIA seminar presented by a fellow architect and the Chapter Council. The topic was “alternative agreements”.
What I learned during that interactive meeting was that for some projects, selecting one of the many legal documents available from our national professional organizations an appropriate way to protect both the architect and the owner when entering an agreement for architectural services.
There are other times though, when a simpler, “friendlier” document may be a better alternative.
The seminar presenters offered some examples, which got me thinking more about our own documents. As residential architects specializing in additions and alterations, we had often suffered through the pain of negotiation and contract revision initiated by a client’s attorney. We had even lost a few projects due to unreasonable, unnecessary and/or unacceptable changes. Other times, prospective clients just froze in fear of signing a scary looking legal agreement. We needed to find a better way…
So, with inspiration from from that very informative seminar, we prepared our own set of legal documents.
We developed our proposals to be clean, clear and straight-forward. We used large print and easy-to-understand language. Our Standard Terms and Conditions document is designed to look more “legal” and supports the “friendlier” proposal. The Proposal Package is always sent (via email and USPS first class mail) with a select portfolio, a cover letter and a complete list of references.
Our proposal also doubles as our agreement, so if our prospect wants to become a client, they just sign on the bottom line and send it back to us.
Since we started using our documents, the time between proposal and project commencement has been greatly reduced… and we no longer get to meet new and interesting attorneys.
UPDATE 09/12/13: If you’re interested, I have developed a video screen share online course, The Hybrid Proposal for Architectural Services, to guide you through developing your own custom document.
Now for some legal stuff…
I am in no way recommending that you use these documents. I do not claim that they will protect you, your firm or your client. I advise you to have an attorney and your insurance company review all your legal documents, including your proposals and contract agreements. By downloading the documents linked above, you are agreeing that Mark R. LePage and McCarthy LePage Architects, PC have no responsibility for claims that may arise from the use of these documents and waive any and all liability, directly or indirectly.
I welcome general comments regarding this post below. If you are interested in discussing any specifics regarding the linked documents, please post your comments at the Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group.
Have YOU developed your own proposal and/or agreements? I would love to learn from what you have done. If you are interested in sharing, please send copies to firstname.lastname@example.org.