Grasping an apple in his right hand he looked around the room and said, “An apple a day keeps the attorney away.” Not to discount good oral health and hygiene, but the true take-away from this particular piece of advice spoken by Jeff Nees, WDG’s CFO, during the latest ESYP discussion is a reminder for architects to maintain a healthy degree of professional diligence and caution when it comes to contract documents. Along with Marc Nathanson and HowardWeiss, the three discussed not only about how important contracts are to architects, but how import it is to understand the specific terms as they cover scope of work, intent, expectations and responsibilities of all parties involved.

The AIA provides several series of boilerplate contracts available for professionals, however it is very common (and advisable) for the language to be tailored and revised for use in particular situations. Other than providing a reasonable standard of care and abiding to the obligations set forth by the AIA code of ethics, architects should be careful not guarantee or over-volunteer their services beyond the agreement given the inherent financial and legal risks involved. Another important way for architects to minimize and manage risk is to pay attention to indemnification, or “hold harmless” sections where one party transfers responsibility to another in the event of loss or damages. In this case, an architect can assume more responsibility then they should be legally liable for if they don’t pay close enough attention to the dense and confusing language of such provisions.

The main lesson of this discussion was far simpler to understand: By carefully constructing a contract (or other such binding agreement) and completing the work in a manner agreed upon, the architects have placed themselves in the best position to maintain vital relationships with clients and contractors and avoid the burden of damages and expensive litigation, thereby ensuring future work and maintaining a healthy architecture firm.