I have had a lot of photographers contact me over the past few weeks and ask me if I have form templates for use. I do not sell templates. The reason I do not is pretty simple – I prefer my readers to have a document that is drafted to fit their unique needs, for their specific situations, in their own state.
You see, I have been practicing law for sixteen years and I have served as in-house counsel for two corporate clients. These companies had several departments and many, many employees doing several deals per day. I was asked to draft “standard form” documents regularly. Invariably, however, I found that if a non-lawyer employee took one of my forms and attempted to modify it to fit his or her specific deal, something went wrong. They would change a word here, delete a sentence there or sometimes alter entire paragraphs. These changes often altered the legal interpretation of the document in ways that were harmful to the company’s position without the drafter realizing it. Even a simple change like deleting the word “reasonable” or adding the word “gross” to a document can have significant legal consequences. Unless you have studied law, the average person may not realize that everyday words may carry significant legal weight. I have had to litigate the drafting mistakes non-lawyers have made using forms I have created. (And shortly thereafter, memos were sent to each department with new policies prohibiting changes to legal forms without my review. Yes, I have been labeled a “control freak!”).
As a professional photographer, I don’t sell my RAW images for the client to process themselves. Instead, I make sure my images are perfect before they go to the client and my clients pay me for my talent and service.
Likewise, as a lawyer, I don’t sell templates for my clients to figure out on their own. Rather, I offer my expertise and knowledge to draft a document that fits my client’s specific situation and affords my client as much protection as possible.
Now, it is important to know that I am not against forms and templates or those that do sell them. I create my own forms every day. They help streamline my work and give me a starting point. I don’t want to recreate the wheel every time a client needs a contract. And for some situations, a template from sites like LegalZoom or any other provider may be perfectly appropriate and can be filled out rather easily. But, it is important to remember that, in most situations, these templates are, as I stated, simply a starting point. More often than not the templates will need to be modified. In those situations, it is always advisable to have your lawyer read over your document prior to using it. Most lawyers won’t charge too much for a simple review. Of course, if changes are necessary you may have to pay a little more, but in the long run you will have saved yourself a lot of money and hassle caused by using an improperly drafted document.
Be Smart. Be Professional. Be Legal.