Tasks previously requiring unique expertise and careful applications are truncated, homogenized, and commercialized. Computer programs, sometimes augmented with artificial intelligence (AI), calculate income taxes, diagnose disease, and produce pages of legal jargon as if happiness and success are a matter of selecting the suitable decision matrix.
That blessing may also be a curse. Unfortunately, many people just print off the first contract, agreement or policy they think sounds good. That is a really risky decision.
The bottom line is you are making an uninformed decision. Legal documents provided online can be so overly broad or so poorly written that they don’t comply with Florida law and could be unenforceable. The document could unintentionally waive certain rights or create an unknown obligation. Moreover. key provisions protecting you could be left out.
The bottom line is that you simply don’t know.
One Size Does Not Fit All
We live in a world that devalues and replaces actual, experience-based knowledge for superficial analysis and easy application. Many business owners seek to save on legal expenses and search online for prepackaged solutions to their needs.
At least a dozen companies offer preformatted, fill-in-the-blank legal forms and documents. For example, one site provides A (Articles of Incorporation) to W (Website Terms and Conditions) coverage with instructions to “Answer a few simple questions” and “print and download immediately.” They claim the process “takes just 5 minutes.”
A cookie-cutter approach to legal documents to protect a business from legal risk may save money in the short term but exposes the company to unique risks long term.
Business owners forget that any product or service offered indiscriminately to everyone must be generic to appeal to the greatest number of potential customers. Yet few businesses are alike, being more than simple carbon copies of other companies. The rewards and risks associated with every business are unique.
Even those who market the same product differ by the customers they attract, the skills and engagement of their employees, and the issues that confront them. Many laws affecting businesses vary by location. California, for example, has almost 400,000 regulations, while Idaho has less than 40,000.
An act considered legal in a low regulation state might subject a company to significant penalties in a high regulation state. Failure to recognize the variations can be costly. Unfortunately, the business owner typically discovers the holes in their legal protections too late, i.e., remembering to close the stall door when the horse is gone.
About Using Boilerplate Clauses
The slang term for standard provisions or language in a legal document is “boilerplate.” The clauses typically appear at the end of a contract under the heading “General Provisions” or “Miscellaneous.” Clients occasionally complain of its use because they consider boilerplate less valid than an original document by their attorney.
Alternatively, those who rely on online preformatted forms boast that their cheaper online versions of legal agreements have the same language as a custom agreement prepared uniquely by an attorney. However, they misunderstand the purpose of boilerplate clauses and their application.
Boilerplate language in a legal document can be valuable and is often critical in resolving a dispute. The definitions and applications of individual words and phrases found in boilerplate have been litigated and decided in lawsuits over many decades, eliminating misinterpretations or misunderstanding their meaning.
The correct use of boilerplate clauses depends on the skill of the attorney preparing or reviewing the contract. Knowing when to include or amend a specific clause is crucial to an agreement that serves its intent.