is is the Transcript of the #WeddingMarket Chat on August 9, 2017 with Caroline J. Fox from Engaged Legal Collective. The answers were made on Twitter so responses will appear different.
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Caroline J. Fox Bio:
Caroline has worked in the creative world for a long time. With an undergraduate degree in public relations, she’s put in time on both sides of the creative spectrum.
As an attorney, she’s helped companies both large and small incorporate, tighten up contracts, protect trademarks and copyrights, and resolve disputes. A contract dispute can be very costly for business and making sure it is resolved as soon as possible is vital. She’s worked inside major corporations and both medium and small firms, as well as for The Federal Judicial Center in DC. You can find her teaching at conferences and in the classroom to creatives and attorneys alike. She’s also the mastermind behind The Engaged Legal Collective, an educational resource for creative professionals.
Q1: Why is important to have a contract?
Caroline Fox: Wedding pros live in contract land– everything is governed by contracts! I bet you aren’t surprised to hear that the business world also revolves heavily around contracts, and with the help of the best contract management system they can find, the streamlining of their entire contract lifecycle has never been easier. From the creation, negotiation, and execution, each stage has a part to play in how the contract is perceived, and the wedding industry is no different. It’s necessary to set expectations set reasons for cancellations, specify payment details/ non-refundable fees, and ID the governing jurisdiction of disputes.
Q2: What are the three things that a contract should include?
Legal answer: Offer, Acceptance, and Performance. Real Life answer: ID Parties, set DETAILED terms for what is/isn’t included, and get signatures.
Q3: How should a contract be presented to the couple?
Caroline Fox: Contracts are scary. I get that. Dont scare them off on the first mtg; give it to them right before you become FB official.
Q4: How can an exit clause be included in the contract?
Caroline Fox: Complicated question. Make sure you’ve covered WHEN & WHY a termination can occur, WHAT money is refunded & HOW, who gets “stuff” created to date, and a complete release of further duties/ claims. I also like non-disparagement clauses . It’s very, VERY tricky. But that’s why you have lawyers!
@Debbieauma What do you mean by non-disparagement clauses?
Caroline Fox: A nondisparagement clause essentially says that neither party will say bad things about the other or incite others to do so.
@Debbieauma How do you go about a clause for defamation in social media? Reputations are easily ruined for vendors?
Caroline Fox: This is tricky. You can’t always enforce these provisions, nor can you really circumvent free speech. It’s a tough situation.
Q5: What do you recommend for photo/video permissions?
Caroline Fox: I have a brief one-page release. I suggest using an on-the-go signing app to make it easy! Just make sure you’re getting permission from the people IN the photos. If they are identifiable, you must have a release.
What apps do you recommend?
Q6: How should contracts plan for the worst?
Caroline Fox: I say “plan for the zombie apocalypse” But it’s a good analogy! Lawyers draft contracts for when people lose their minds and no one makes sense anymore. We think thru every scenario. Ex: What if the venue burns down?
Q7: How should wedding businesses prepare if there is a misunderstanding? Bad reviews and social media slander.
Caroline Fox: Best defense is a good offense. Be proactive in handling mistakes. Don’t ignore/wait for the client to contact you first. If there is a misunderstanding, refer back to your contract. If it’s a good one, it will address the situation. There will always be crazy folks– if people threaten litigation, contact an attorney immediately.
Q8: What if a couple doesn’t read their contract?
Caroline Fox: Prep a FAQ you send post-contract with all the questions folks ask/terms you want attn drawn to. Makeup Qs if you need to.
Q9: What were your thoughts on the photographer being falsely accused for withholding photos?
Caroline Fox: From what I understand, the terms were specified in the contract. It was a term that should have been reinforced, but the client signed. No matter what, the client shouldn’t have gone to extremes. Defamation is never the answer! Put that on my headstone.
Q10: This case started with a misunderstanding over $125. How could have this been avoided?
Caroline Fox: Unfortunately, there will always be “difficult clients.” Sometimes, you gotta eat the cost to avoid a big blowout. A loss is the cost of doing business.
Q11: Did you think the beauty blogger ideas were more about media attention than it was over the $125 fee?
Caroline Fox: I think it’s about the hive mentality. People get the idea something is unfair, & then there is an echo chamber because no one wants to disagree; then people jazz up the “wronged” party. Add that to the “best day of your life” pressure, and it’s a perfect storm. The blog network probably exponentially amplified this trend.
Q12: How can a wedding business protect themselves from a loss of wages from slander?
Caroline Fox: I can’t answer this in 140 characters, maybe at all. This is a million dollar question, isn’t it?
Q13: Will the photographer likely see the 1 million dollars granted to her by the court?
Caroline Fox: It depends. There is an appeal possible, so it’s unclear. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable judgment amount. We will see!
Q14: What would you like everyone to take away from this #WeddingMarket Chat?
Caroline Fox: Get a good lawyer as soon as possible. Get one who understands the industry. & take your biz seriously! Just because you’re a wedding biz doesn’t mean you have smaller risks/ liabilities. Cover your bases! Weddings are getting more and more expensive, and disputes will continue to rise. Legal is a worthwhile expense.
#WeddingMarket Audience Questions:
@CentralParkWed Hey @CarolineJFoxLaw @juliealbaugh any plans to cover bad weather provision in the discussion today?
@WedByJean Good question. This falls under Force Majeure, doesn’t it?
Caroline Fox: Force Majeure it is! But it’s good to remind clients that if there’s a thunderstorm, you aren’t gonna be under a metal tent. Force Majeure really only covers “Acts of God.” So general rain, snow, sleet, or hail won’t be covered.
@SittingPretty61 I am used to doing everything by contract and permissions as well. My question is do you need liability insurance?
Caroline Fox: Every biz should have liability insurance. You can call a broker in your area.