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A consulting contract is an agreement between a professional advisor and a client. A consulting agreement is an essential tool for consultants and can make all the difference when it comes to claiming variations and getting paid.

A consulting contract can be as straightforward as a fee proposal with terms and conditions, or it can be a long and complex agreement that incorporates several documents. Either way, it is important for professional consultants to make sure they have a written consulting contract that protects their business and, just as importantly, their bottom line.

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Author: Farrah Motley, Legal Principal of Prosper Law and a commercial contract lawyer.

A consulting contract sets out the rights and responsibilities of the parties

Scope of services

A scope of services defines what a consultant is going to do for the client, in exchange for payment. It is important for a consulting contract to clearly describe the consultant’s services in a way that is clear and unambiguous.

consulting contract

For example:

  • if the consultant has allowed for a specific number of meetings in the fee, the number of meetings allowed for should be clearly described
  • any value management services (including any limitations) need to be outlined so that the client is getting value for money, but the consultant is not doing extra work for free
  • the extension of any reporting or status updates should be described; for example,
  • whether weekly or monthly reports are required and the format of those reports

Claiming variations

Claiming variations is not always straightforward for professional consulting firms. There is a tug-of-war between:

  • being competitive and providing fair pricing at the risk of quoting too low and squeezing profit margins; and
  • quoting too high and losing a prospective project to a competitor

Because of this, it can be tempting to agree to a variation clause in a consulting contract that is too restrictive and difficult to comply with. If a variation clause is difficult for a consultant to comply with:

  • it may not be possible to submit a variation claim within a short time frame Clients may refuse a variation claim on the basis the scope is already included in the fee
  • or does not amount to a ‘variation’ under the terms of the consulting contract
  • the project may be completed, but the consulting firm make not make any profit
  • the consulting firm may end up doing more work for the same price

The best way to ensure that a variation is able to be claimed and is payable in a fair way is to negotiate a consulting contract that is fair.

consulting contract

A consulting contract can define the scope of services

A poorly defined scope of services is undoubtedly a common cause of scope creep. To avoid scope creep, it is important to ensure that a consulting contract includes a specific, unambiguous and detailed scope of services.

A consulting agreement that has a well-written scope is beneficial for both the consultant and client. This is because both parties will know what they are signing up for at the outset and will have an agreed, presumably objective scope of services to refer to.

A consulting contract can be relied on by a consultant to get paid

No matter what industry a consulting firm works in, getting paid can be a challenge. If a consulting firm doesn’t have a written contract in place with a client, it can be very difficult to prove an entitlement to payment or even that there was a contract in the first place.

A consulting contract can be relied upon by a consulting firm as evidence to prove that:

  • there was an agreement for the client to pay the consultant
  • the consultant has satisfied any relevant preconditions to claiming payment
  • the client has not paid the consultant according to the agreed payment terms

A consulting contract describes who owns intellectual property

Professional consulting firms are generally selling intellectual property to their clients. That intellectual property might take the form of copyright that subsists in:

  • architectural drawings or engineering drawings
  • written reports or proposals
  • designs
  • presentations
  • photographs, sketches, paintings or artworks
  • music and sound recordings

Or it might take the form of design rights in clothing and apparel designs.

consulting contract

Whatever the intellectual property, it is important to appropriately describe who owns the intellectual property.

It is also important to describe what conditions must be satisfied before ownership in the intellectual property rights transfers to the client or is licensed to the client.

A consulting contract is a means through which a consultant can sell, assign or licence intellectual property.

How can Prosper Law help?

Prosper Law’s legal services are provided by Farrah Motley, an Australian lawyer that provides legal advice to professional consulting firms, including reviewing, negotiating and drafting consulting agreements.

Contact the team at Prosper Law today to discuss how we can provide you with a review of a consulting contract, including contract reviews and negotiations for a fixed fee or at affordable hourly rates.

Farrah Motley | Legal Principal

PROSPER LAW – Australia’s Online Law Firm

M: 0422 721 121

E: farrah@prosperlaw.com.au

W: www.prosperlaw.com.au

A: Suite No. 99, Level 54, 111 Eagle Street, Brisbane, Queensland Australia 4000

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Farrah Motley

What sets me apart in my field is simply this: I consider copywriting a legitimate art form in its own right. It can be truly beautiful—and that matters. Channelling your business through a master wordsmith can drive astonishing results. ​ Language has been my raison d’être since I could hold a pen. But my background is decidedly different from marketing—and since I fell into the industry whilst applying for an altogether different job, I've forged an entirely novel approach to my trade. ​ In an ever more hyperconsumerist marketplace, I’ve cultivated a quiet, measured approach to my craft. And with my niche expertise in orthography—the aesthetic of the very language itself—my words entwine with UJ, enhance UX, and give that conversion rate a hefty kick up the arse.

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