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A lawyer scared me by saying, yes you can right your own contract but chances are most of your clauses won't hold in court cause you don't know legal jargon.

However, I know english and my english is somewhat ok. I've written technical procedures before.

To be specific I'm writing a legal document for a contract agreement between myself and a sharholder of my company.

  • You're asking for specific legal advice about legal advice. And: how much $ do you really have to lose with writing that contract yourself? – BlueDogRanch Sep 6 at 2:25
  • Commercial lawyers are $600 per hour here in Australia – Anthony Sep 6 at 2:26
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    You think you're proficient with english, then write sharholder? – abelenky Sep 6 at 3:15
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    "right your own contract", "... cause you don't know legal jargon", "english" twice, "sharholder". And you think writing your own contracts might be feasible? – Nij Sep 6 at 4:18
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    @gnasher729 courts aren't that obtuse. – phoog Sep 6 at 14:17
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It depends

How good is your (legal) English?

For example, do you know the legal difference between "will", "shall" and "must"? Or, the difference between "employee", "subcontractor" and "worker"? Or the difference between "bankruptcy", "insolvency" and an "act of bankruptcy"?

Contingency

What are you going to put in your dispute resolution clause? Do you prefer mediation, arbitration or litigation? Will it be a one size fits all or will it be escalating?

What happens if one of you dies? Or emigrates? Or divorces? Or is convicted of a crime? A financial crime? A violent crime? A sexual crime? Or what if such is just alleged but not proven?

What happens if the company ceases to exist? Or is sued? Or is acquired by someone else? Or by one of you?

Who is responsible for insuring the subject matter of the contract (if anyone)? To what value? If the person who should doesn't can the other person effect the insurance and claim the premium as a debt due and payable?

Not all of these will be relevant to your contract.

Familiarity

How familiar are you with this sort of contract? Is this something you do all the time or is this a one off? For example, I am happy to enter a construction contract without legal advice because that's my business and has been for many years - I know my risks and how to manage them, inside and outside the contract. However, when I set up shareholder's agreements, wills and business continuation insurance with my partners, we went to a lawyer.

What is your relationship with the other person i.e. how much do you know and trust them?

Stakes

If the contract is not very important (which is something that varies with the participants, for some people a million dollar contract is not important for others a $5 one is), so that if, by screwing up, you are OK if you lose everything you've staked then write it yourself.

Alternatively, if the contract is vitally important to you and your heirs and assignees unto the 6th generation, I'd get a lawyer to write it - its pretty cheap insurance.

How long the contract lasts will be a factor in this - a contract that exposes you to risk for 3 months is different than one that does so for 25 years.

Basically, its a risk reward calculation.

TL;DR

Contracts only matter when relationships break down.

If you reach for the contract then you can expect that the other party will be playing for keeps and that contract is your only defense against the worst they can do. If you are happy with your skills in mitigating against a cashed-up opponent who wants to see you go down no matter the cost then draft it yourself.

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Even if you're good in English and very knowledgeable about legal jargon, you should not write your own contract. To write a good contract, you must know the law, not just the jargon.

The person writing the contract should be familiar with the findings of the courts in the relevant jurisdictions. Perhaps someone lost an important case because a contract didn't include a particular disclaimer. No amount of language skill will inform you to include that disclaimer in a contract you're writing.

Dale M's point about the stakes is well taken, though. It doesn't make sense to pay a lawyer if your potential losses have less value than the lawyer's time.

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