Health Homework (8, extended video) TWENTY TIPS for Negotiating Financial-Legal Contracts
Here are some things that I have learned the hard way, from small contracts to "agreements" that had value up to several million dollars
This is Part 1 in an upcoming series:
Hard-Fought Hard-Won Experience and Advice (TI,LI,SY*) from DrV: part1 on Negotiating Legal Contracts
Negotiating Legal Contracts
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Small daily stuff: Email Management, Social Media, Unlocked Phones
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EXTENDED VIDEO INTRODUCTION w/ 3 clips from movies
Many of these are the specific tactics and strategies that have come from the “ELEVEN LESSONS that I learned from the lies and deception from university presidents, conference organizers, and supposedly ‘successful’ business people” which I posted recently:
1. Negotiating Legal-Financial Contracts
For the remainder of this conversation following the few paragraphs of this introduction, I’ll be focusing on contracts that can be modified or ones in which we/you/I have some power. Sometimes we all have to sign contracts where we basically have no power, such as for example for signing a car rental agreement or signing the paperwork to stay at a hotel or lease an apartment—generally these are prewritten formulaic fill-in-the-blank contracts and you pretty much have to take it or leave it. With some contracts, we don’t have any power except to negotiate a few minor terms/variables or simply walk away from it.
Unfortunately, many employment contracts are also very one-sided and basically force the new employee to agree to terms that may not be agreeable and may actually be illegal—for example having to do unpaid work such as “sensitivity training” or “sexual harassment training” on your personal time. Commonly, big employers steal a few days/hours of time from their new recruits by calling it “onboarding” but the fact is that all work-related trainings should be paid. It is a betrayal of the new employee’s enthusiasm, essentially saying, “Welcome aboard! We welcome your talent and enthusiasm and will start by stealing your money and disrespecting your time.” This is supremely common when universities hire young inexperienced professionals as “Adjunct Professors”; commonly these new hires are green and eager for the opportunity, so the schools take advantage of them. These work-related tasks should receive compensation but instead they are commonly forced upon new employees without payment. These and other examples such as committee meetings, student meetings, unpaid overtime are forms of wage theft and tax evasion by the employer. To make it worse, universities commonly say that the unpaid training is part of “professionalism” and yet they are hypocritically being unprofessional themselves by stealing time, committing wage theft, and underpaying their payroll taxes.
LEGAL THIEVERY (via contracts) IS THE NORM:
“exploitative workforce practices have now become the contractual norm.”
Here are two examples that provide you with “proof” that high-prestige abundantly-funded benevolent-appearing board-supervised public institutions (eg, major public Universities) will steal from their own employees—if thievery can happen here (eg, publicly and with various levels of supervision), it can happen even more easily in your small private contracts.
“Twenty-one of Australia’s 40 public universities are being investigated for wage theft, with a Senate report arguing the problem is now “systemic” and that exploitative workforce practices have now become the contractual norm. As wage theft scandals engulf the higher education sector…”
"Millions of dollars are being quietly repaid to at least 1,500 academics in a "wage theft" case involving four faculties at Australia's richest tertiary institution, the University of Melbourne. The dispute involves university management classifying tutorials as "practice classes" to avoid paying staff the full rate, therefore reducing wages by up to a third. ... The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said the situation was both "diabolical" and "systemic", with the practices occurring at two other top-tier universities…leaving staff vulnerable to working for free."
Those two quoted examples above show that major benevolent-appearing public institutions commonly steal from their own faculty, exactly consistent with some of my experience as an “Adjunct Professor” as I’ve reported earlier—PDF provided below:
Here are my 20 admonitions (since “advices” isn’t really a correct plural) from my personal experiences and my hard-fought and hard-won insights into dealing with contracts and legal negotiations:
DETERMINE THE TYPE OF CONTRACT, eg, “Commodity/compliance contracts” versus “agreement (mutual power and respect) contracts”: If you have no power in the agreement and you are simply agreeing with the the rules that are set out by the other party (typically the landlord or large company), then basically you’re an easily-replaceable commodity without any ability to negotiate. At times, we all have to sign preformed contracts for enterprises that are already established, such as storage spaces, car purchases, employment (commonly) or other transactions that are “take it or leave it” as they are; I think of these as commodity/compliance contracts because I am not really participating as a human person but rather as a renter/buyer who must comply with the preformed contract. In legal negotiations between two more autonomous and respectable parties, we have the ability to negotiate and customize the interaction; employment contracts for professionals should be mutual agreements rather than take-it-or-leave-it, but are too commonly the latter.
DETERMINE YOUR LEVEL OF POWER TO NEGOTIATE, eg, At the moment we begin contractual/legal conversations, we should start to estimate the level of power we have in the negotiation. Don’t assume that just because the other side starts with their attorneys* in place and already has a contract written that they have more power—all they are showing you is that they started earlier, perhaps because they represent an entity that has been in existence for decades (eg, an established business), and/or perhaps simply because they are trying to intimidate you (ie, professional bluffing). Don’t sign anything on the first day or at the first meeting; give yourself time to read the contract twice (for example once at the office and the other time in a different location such as home).
*Terminology: In the United States, the terms “attorney” and “lawyer” are mostly used interchangeably, whereas in other countries “lawyer” preferentially indicates someone who has studied law and might give advice (but does not actively represent clients) whereas “attorney” is a practicing lawyer who is empowered/licensed to represent clients in documents, court hearings, and other legal actions. You can remember that "all attorneys are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys. The major difference is that attorneys can represent clients in court and other legal proceedings, while lawyers cannot." indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/attorney-vs-lawyer
DON’T LET THEM BOX YOU IN: Think outside the conversation/contract they have framed for you. If someone else is paying for the contract to be written by a lawyer, then you can be sure they are having the contract written to their advantage. If you have legal or other protections that exist outside of the proposed contract, then you may find that you have the upper hand and/or that you should be confident and assertive in the rewriting/negotiating of the contract.
TAKE YOUR TIME: As a general rule: never sign a contract the first time it’s given to you. Instead of looking at contracts as something that you should do or something that you need to do (which is a common perspective when were young and we don’t have much experience or authority), as an autonomous mature adult you can look at contracts in their first iteration simply as opinions and perspectives and wish lists from the other person/party.
PRACTICE BUILDING COURAGE AND EXPERIENCE: You need to practice with small issues to prepare yourself for the more complicated interactions that might come later. One way or another, you need to gain some experience with small value contracts so that later in life when you have to engage with bigger contracts, you’ll have some experience (and maybe even some scalps) under your belt.
“As a general rule: never sign a contract the first day that it is given to you.” DrV
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