What Are the Key Elements of a Strong Business Contract?

An effective business contract can help you protect your business and achieve your economic goals. Consulting with a knowledgeable South Carolina contracts attorney can help you understand the risks you expose yourself in the course of building a business. Numerous elements can improve business contracts and make them more reliable for both parties. 

Identifying All Contracting Parties

A contract should identify the parties to a contract and their legal relationships with one another. Business contracts should include explicit and detailed language regarding the liabilities of the parties and their corresponding legal duties. No parties should be excluded from the business contract. 

The Business Contract Should Be In Writing

Specific types of contracts must be in writing to satisfy the statute of frauds. However, all business contracts need to be explicitly set forth in writing. Some contracts which must be in writing to be legally valid include contracts for the sale of goods of $500 or more, contracts for an interest in land, and contracts that cannot be performed within one year. Speaking with a knowledgeable business lawyer is the best way to obtain a clear, effective contract that will protect your economic interests and your legal rights. 

The Purpose of the Contract is Explicit 

The purpose of the contract should be explicit. All parties to the contract need to understand their duties and what they need to do to fulfill their contract obligations. Ambiguities regarding the purpose of the contract can cause problems at a later stage when a party does not want to perform according to the contract terms. The specific terms of the contract need to be expressed in clear language, and having their terms set forth explicitly can help you avoid contract disputes at a later point in time. 

Non-Disclosure and Terms of Confidentiality 

Non-disclosure and confidentiality are important terms in some business contracts. If a company does not want to expose trade secrets to competitors, then it may be necessary to have contracting parties sign a non-disclosure agreement. A skilled business attorney can help you draft clauses and separate agreements that can protect you and your business organization from liability and other forms of risk. Non-disclosure agreements are common in contracts concerning patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property. It may be necessary to include specific terms with the non-disclosure agreement to help the other parties understand why a non-disclosure agreement is necessary. 

Identifying Remedies Within the Four Corners of the Contract

An effective business contract should include a section devoted to remedies. Legal remedies are the tools used to make one of the parties whole if a party breaches the contract or does not perform according to the terms specified in the contract itself. 

A party may want to include a liquidated damages clause that specifies the exact amount of damages that will be owed if one of the parties breaches the contract. It is vital that you speak with a skilled business attorney so you can understand the different remedies that may be included in a contract. Contact us today to learn more.

From law offices in Florence and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A. serves Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Garden City, the Grand Strand, and other communities throughout Florence County, Marion County, Horry County, Darlington County, and Georgetown County.

Drafting Enforceable Contracts: Tips to Avoid Breach

In the business world, contracts are necessary to protect yourself and your business. In addition to being the backbone for nearly every transaction, contracts ensure the parties fulfill their obligations. Parties to a contract can suffer financial harm from contract breaches when the contract hasn’t been drafted properly and isn’t legally enforceable. Here are our top five contract drafting tips to help business owners avoid contract breaches in South Carolina.

1. Clearly Define the Parties and Terms of the Contract

Ambiguity is one of the most common causes of contract breach. Although the parties to a contract may assume that they agree on the terms’ meaning, disputes can arise when the terms are overly ambiguous. The contract should clearly identify all parties to the contract, including any subsidiaries or affiliates, to avoid confusion and potential breach of contract claims. 

It’s also essential to clearly outline the scope of the contract. The contract should clearly state the rights and obligations of each party, including any exclusions or limitations. The terms should be specific about the duties and responsibilities of each party and not leave any room for misinterpretation.

2. Include Precise Payment Terms

Many breach-of-contract claims involve misunderstandings about payment terms. When drafting a contract, it’s important to include detailed terms related to payment. The contract should specify the amount, acceptable payment methods, and due date for each payment. To ensure accountability, it should also specify any interest charges or penalties that will be incurred for late payment.

3. Address Remedies for Breach of Contract

Breach of contract can happen even when the contract has been well drafted and is legally enforceable. The contract should address the remedies available for a party whom a breach of contract has injured. Addressing the available legal remedies upfront can prevent you from undergoing a lengthy court battle. 

Consider including provisions that outline the penalties for a breach of contract. Examples of penalties for breach of contract include termination rights and liquidated damages. The contract should also include any available dispute resolution methods the parties must use.

4. Conduct Thorough Due Diligence

Before entering into a contract, both parties should conduct thorough due diligence. Learning about the other party’s financial stability, reputation, and previous business practices may help you avoid a breach of contract. 

An in-depth understanding of the other party’s licensing requirements and compliance with industry regulations can help you make informed decisions and minimize risk. You may decide not to enter into a contractual agreement with the other party. If you do, you will benefit from working with an attorney to include provisions that protect yourself.

5. Hire an Experienced Attorney to Draft and Negotiate Contracts

Drafting legally enforceable contracts requires an in-depth understanding of contract law. Many individuals and businesses have begun using online contract services to save money. Unfortunately, these services don’t provide the same legal evaluation and experience as working with an attorney.

For over 125 years, the attorneys at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A. have helped South Carolina businesses draft and negotiate effective, legally enforceable contracts. When you work with our attorneys, we will ensure your contracts comply with all applicable South Carolina and federal laws and regulations.

Contact an Experienced Contract Attorney in South Carolina

At Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A., our attorneys help South Carolina businesses navigate the complexities of contract law. We will answer your questions and work with you to draft an effective contract agreement that protects you and your rights. Don’t hesitate to contact Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A. to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.

Nonperformance, Breach of Contract, and Covid-19

COVID-19 has fractured business and commercial enterprises on a global scale. Economic uncertainty abounds, and businesses are scrambling to make adjustments and remain solvent. 

Under the weight of new and ever-shifting COVID-19 restrictions, many businesses are vulnerable to lapses in performance and contractual obligations. South Carolina business attorneys are likewise adjusting to advise clients about their exposure and risks regarding non-performance, breach of contract, and COVID 19. 

Is COVID-19 an Excuse for Non-performance?

While COVID-19 has wreaked social and economic havoc on a global scale, it is not necessarily a get-out-of-jail-free card for non-performance and breach of contract. While contract terms and common law may provide some defense against performance breaches, a more specific examination of individual contracts is necessary to determine if defenses exist. 

Analyzing Contracts in Response to COVID-19 Breaches

A few of the ways to analyze contract breaches concerning COVID-19 are the following:

Contractual Rights and Obligations

Any business impacted by COVID-19 should carefully examine their contracts to determine the parties’ rights and obligations. Both parties may bear fault, and each party should shore up their position and ensure compliance to the greatest extent before assigning blame against the other party. 

When analyzing contracts in the face of non-performance or breach of contract, parties should take note:

  • Does the contract contain a force majeure provision?
  • Does the contract or force majeure provision detail the types of catastrophic events that may interrupt operations and obligations? 
  • Is there a required notification process whereby other parties must be informed when such an event and an interruption of performance occurs?
  • Are common-law doctrines applicable?

Finally, it is critical to ascertain the extent to which COVID-19 be directly linked to the company’s non-performance or breach of contract?

Force Majeure

Many commercial contracts contain a provision to excuse or suspend performance in the face of an uncontrollable, extraordinary event. This provision is known as Force Majeure or, more commonly, the “Act of God” provision. 

Force Majeure is not in itself a defense against breach of contract. It is, instead, a provision to allow temporary relief from performance under uncontrollable and significant events:

  • acts of war
  • terrorism
  • natural disasters
  • epidemics

Again, while one may argue that the global coronavirus pandemic fits as a force majeure, contractual force majeure provisions generally allow temporary relief, not permanence breach, of contractual obligations. In the absence of a force majeure defense, the common law Frustration of Purpose Doctrine and the Doctrine of Impossibility may still provide some protection. 

Common-Law Defenses

The Frustration of Purpose Doctrine has long been held in South Carolina courts to be a viable defense for breach of contract only if the principal purpose of the party making the contract was substantially frustrated, and that the absence of the frustration was anticipated at the time the contract was entered into.

The Doctrine of Impossibility is perhaps a greater defense against non-performance and breach of contract than the frustration of purpose. Long-held to excuse performance when impossible acts of God or the other party interfere with contractual performance obligations, the Doctrine of Impossibility may provide a defense for COVID-19 related breached performance. 

South Carolina Business Attorneys, COVID-19, and Your Business

The full impact of COVID-19 and resulting commercial restrictions have yet to be felt. In uncertain times, you need a business attorney to help you navigate contractual obligations between you and your counterparts. South Carolina’s robust business sector has not been immune to the negative effects of COVID-19 regulations heaped on businesses and communities, state and nationwide.

Take steps today to protect your business and economic relationships. Contact our office to speak with an experienced South Carolina Business attorney about surviving the COVID-19 marketplace. 

Is a Verbal Agreement Enforceable in South Carolina?

Contracts are a key legal document used every day in business. A contract protects the interest of all parties by reducing their agreements to writing. A contract that meets all legal requirements is legally enforceable, which is vital when transacting business. However, is a verbal agreement ever enforceable in South Carolina? Our South Carolina business contracts attorney answers that question for us.

What Are the Basic Elements Required in an Enforceable Contract in South Carolina?

Contracts are customized for various needs. However, contract law requires that a contract has certain basic elements for the contract to be enforceable in court. The basic elements of a contract are:

  • Two or more parties who are clearly identified within the contract;
  • An offer to provide goods, services, or other items of value;
  • Acceptance of the offer; and
  • Consideration to be paid for the goods, services, or other items of value. 

Simply put, a contract is a promise between parties to do something. The remaining terms of the contract describe the terms and conditions of the agreement. The parties to the contract must be competent to enter a contract. Minors and others who lack mental competency cannot enter valid, legally enforceable contracts. A contract that is too vague may also be difficult or impossible to enforce. 

Can a Verbal Agreement be Enforced in South Carolina?

South Carolina laws recognize oral agreements in some cases. However, some contracts must be in writing to be enforceable, such as an agreement to sell/purchase real estate, an agreement to pay another person’s debt, and a contract that takes longer than one year to complete. 

Even though the state might recognize and enforce an oral contract, that does not mean that it is a wise idea to do business with a handshake. It can be much more difficult to enforce a verbal agreement because there may be no evidence to prove that you had an agreement with the other party. If there were no witnesses to the agreement, you have nothing in writing to prove that you entered the agreement, and nothing of value has been exchanged between you and the other party, it is difficult to prove that the other party entered any agreement with you.

For that reason, it is typically best to put an agreement in writing whenever possible. Even a simple agreement can help ensure that you have legal remedies available if the other party defaults on the terms of the agreement or otherwise breaches the contract. 

Filing a Lawsuit For Breach of Contract

Having a written agreement can help you seek damages in the event of a breach including:

  • Compensatory damages 
  • Incidental and consequential damages
  • Liquidated damages
  • Specific performance
  • Contract recession
  • Reformation of the contract
  • Attorneys’ fees and costs

You can also obtain compensation for breach of contract for a verbal agreement if you prove that the contract existed, and the other party breached the contract.

Made a Verbal Agreement? Contact a South Carolina Business Contracts Attorney Today

If you have questions about drafting or executing a contract, contact our South Carolina business contracts attorneys to discuss the matter. Our business attorneys can help you determine if you have a valid contract and explain your legal options for breach of contract.

Five Ways to Build Your Business Through Government Contracting

If you never considered bidding for government contracts, you need to revise your thinking about government contracting. Government contracting is another source of business opportunities for your company. As you grow and expand your business, you need to take advantage of every opportunity in the marketplace to gain new customers. This includes working with a contracts lawyer when the need arises.

The government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services. Therefore, you do not want to miss out on the opportunity to share in the billions of dollars awarded each year in government contracts. In addition, if you are a small business, you may have an advantage because some government contracts favor small businesses.

Five Tips for Growing Your Business With Government Contracting

1. Consider Being a Subcontractor
If you are a really small business, like a one or two-person company, you may want to consider subcontracting. Many government contracts require primary contractors to use small businesses for a portion of the work. By working with larger primary contractors, you can more about your industry and government contracting.

2. Make Sure to Fulfill All Requirements of the Contract
Dealing with a government agency can be more complicated than dealing with a regular customer. Government agencies have many more rules that you must follow. It is not as simple as providing goods and services. You must often submit invoices in a specific way and by a specific deadline to obtain payment. Make sure that you understand the requirements within the contract and fulfill each requirement. Failing to fulfill contracts hurts your chances of obtaining government contracts in the future.

3. Consider Contractor Teaming Agreements
Working with another contractor is a great way to qualify for large government contracts. You can work with a contractor that has a different skill set so that you can qualify for contracts that have numerous phases and requirements. You can also create relationships with contractors that could help you grow your business in the future.

4. Take Advantage of Special Programs
Some government contracts are only open to certain businesses. For example, service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, small business owners, and women-owned businesses may qualify for jobs that are not open to the general public. You may need to take extra steps to register your business or obtain your business certification, but the chance to bid on contracts that are not open to the general public is worth the time and effort to qualify for these opportunities.

5. Attend Government Events for Contractors
You need to make attending government events hosted by various agencies a priority when you are growing your business with government contracting. In most cases, the events are hosted by the private sector, but attract many industry experts and government procurement agents. You can check several websites for upcoming events. Try GovWin, GovEvents, or GovMark for more information about events that might interest you. Networking is an important element of growing your business with governing contracts, just as networking is important to growing a business through regular commerce.

Ask for Help with Government Contracts

You can access help and resources by working with Procurement Center Representatives with the Small Business Administration. In addition to information, you can also receive training and counseling to help you grow your business with government contracting.

For more assistance with government contracting, schedule a consult with a member of our team at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A. today.