When sending a contract to a client, who should sign first? Does it matter?
Yes and no.
Legally it does not matter who signs the contract first as long as both parties agree to it.
But, it may still be best to sign it second. Here's why.
You are bound by amendments made after signing.
Most of the time, this probably isn't going to be a big deal for your fitness contracts. But, there are always "what if's," so let's talk about them.
If you signed first, and are worried that the other party may make changes or amendments to the contract, you would still need to countersign those changes for the contract to be valid.
If you sign second, then you'll have more wiggle room. It's important not to leave any blanks on your contract, so you can see amendments when you review. This is important, whether physically signing or using electronic signatures.
On the other hand, if you sign first, then you can eliminate the step of sending it back to the other person after you sign it. Of course, with electronic signing, this step is taken care of for you most of the time.
The bottom line is that there must be a meeting of the minds – you must both agree to the terms of the contract.
You'll probably find that the business issuing the contract prefers to sign after the client. Which means, tradition will have you signing second. This gives you the time to review before the contractual agreement begins.
You will likely be bound by anything included that you miss since you signed it.
Here are some key things to consider when preparing and signing a contract for your fitness business:
- Carefully read the entire contract to ensure that you understand all of your rights and responsibilities. Never sign a contract you don't fully understand. Ask an attorney for help to review the contract. Rights and responsibilities are included throughout the contract, so make sure you read the whole contract carefully.
- Make sure that you correctly identify the parties to the contract, including contact information. Use the complete name of the business to avoid confusion and identify corporate officers where relevant. Make sure the contract identifies the marital status of all individuals involved.
- Before signing, review the contract's business terms of the contract (to ensure that it accurately reflects the parties' agreement). This is also where you will check to make sure that if any terms were amended by the other party, that you make sure you countersign if you agree, or go back and speak with them again if you do not.
- When another document is referenced in your contract and is "incorporated" into the contract, make sure you read that document carefully before signing. Don't assume you know what it is just from the title or the information it contains.
- Make sure you understand what could cause you to be in default with the agreement and be clear on what constitutes a default on the part of the other party. Determine the worst that can happen to you if you default. Ask your attorney to explore ways to limit your liability. Brainstorm with your attorney the types and kinds of remedies you need in the event of default by the other party.
- Review causes for termination. This is where your attorney is likely to include clauses relating to termination based on failure to pay into your contract. Make sure that you have thought through other possible reasons for termination, like moving out of the area, medical diagnosis, or injury – framing your responsibilities in this case – or the process for terminating the agreement and which, if any, monies would be returned.
- Determine how you want to deal with the resolution of disputes. An arbitration or mediation requirement could ultimately save you lots of time and money – especially if there is a free or low-cost civil mediation program in your city or community. However, there are times when you may need to go to court to resolve the dispute. Speak with your attorney about making sure that you have flexibility about which avenue to pursue.
Talk to your attorney about whether it would be helpful to include "counterparts language" so that the contract can be signed in parallel rather than one after the other.
- Allows for copies made by any "reliable means" to be considered original. This isn't much of an issue with electronically signed contracts since they allow for almost immediate transmission. They also decrease the amount of time it takes to sign and return.
Finally, should you sign your contract BEFORE sending to a client for their signature?
Sometimes what is legally necessary and practically advisable are different, as in the case of who should sign a contract first. As in all things contract related, if you have any questions, concerns, or doubts, speak to an attorney well versed in both contract law and the fitness industry.