No matter how big or small the deal may be, plain and simple, it’s always worth the money to consult an attorney before signing a contract.
The reason is simple. If someone offers you a deal and provides a written contract, they may not be considering issues that are priorities for you. Your attorney, however, can anticipate future problems that may arise with the transaction and advocate for the inclusion of contractual language to prevent or mitigate such future inevitabilities.
Here’s an example: suppose an illustrator draws some illustrations for an author to be including in a forthcoming book. And suppose the contract offered to the illustrator by the author contains no provisions for the illustrator to approve final versions of her drawings before inclusion in the final book. If I was representing that illustrator, I would make sure that the contract explicitly permitted my hypothetical client, the illustrator, to review, consult about, and approve all final drawings before the book goes to press.
If you do enough deals, one will eventually goes south. Spending the money upfront to make sure you are getting the best possible deal with the fairest possible terms is all about mitigating future risk. Such efforts have the potential to save you huge amounts in legal fees, not to mention headaches and trouble, compared with clients who only seek the advice of an attorney when something has already gone wrong.
Before you sign a contract, an attorney can analyze the deal, identify problematic language, spot issues that should be addressed but are not, and explain the real-life implications of particular terms. Before you sign the agreement, you have leverage to negotiate changes. Before you sign the agreement, you aren’t giving up any rights you may not be able to get back.
After you’ve signed a contract, however, there is likely to be little recourse if you later realize the deal is unfair. And after you’ve signed a contract, the other side likely will have little incentive, if any, to renegotiate the deal. And while you could file a lawsuit, that is an enormously costly* endeavor.
Attorneys are here to protect and enforce your rights. It’s a much easier, and considerably more-cost effective, job to be proactive rather than reactive.
*Costly potentially means tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.