I'm gonna go out on a limb, and say that Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer didn't get his new $26M contract from legalzoom.com. It has nothing to do with the fact that it's a high-dollar contract, either. The reason I know that the contract was not created from some computer database is that the terms of the contract are tailored to the specific circumstances that are important to the contracting parties.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Legal Zoom. If you need a will, and you have no children or substantial assets, I'm sure that whatever they have may suffice. If you need a simple power of attorney, a bill of sale for that old refrigerator you're selling out of your basement, or maybe even an operating agreement for your single-member LLC, then I could see using Legal Zoom. But I wouldn't trust them with a document that has the possibility of affecting another person's livelihood, or the potential to be litigated.
Last November, Urban Meyer shocked the college football world when Ohio State introduced him as their new head football coach in the wake of the Tattoo-gate scandal, which cost the Buckeyes several players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and once-beloved coach Jim Tressel. Meyer won two national championships at the University of Florida, and then resigned, citing health conditions, before essentially coming out of early retirement to take the job in Columbus. Although Meyer's $4.4M annual compensation makes him far and away the highest paid coach in the Big Ten Conference, the brilliance of his contract isn't reflected in that number.
When Ohio State released the details of Meyer's contract last week, we learned about a special provision that—if the NCAA levies more sanctions against the school arising out of the Tressel-ball era—allows Meyer to get out of the deal, AND still pays him $1.5M per year for the remainder of the six-year term. That contractual provision is essentially an insurance policy for Urban Meyer, so he doesn't get stuck living in Columbus, Ohio, and coaching a dead-end team because of what happened during Jim Tressel's watch. This type of a contract clause can't come from some antiquated legal form. It can only be the product of a skilled contract drafter, someone who has taken the time to understand the parties' true interests and objectives, which many times are a lot more complicated than dollars and cents.
You might think that you have to make Urban Meyer money to be able to get a contract that good, but you'd be wrong. Before you enter into any agreement for employment, or to buy or sell anything of significant value, it's worth the cost of a one-hour consultation with an attorney to discuss what's on the table, and address any potential issues or concerns that are on your mind. At the end of that consultation, the attorney will either tell you that you'll be fine with the basic contract, or what the pitfalls lie ahead in relying on a standard document. In most cases, it's like the old adage, pay a little now, or pay a lot later: If you and a buddy enter into a business deal based on some chicken scratch on a cocktail napkin, if and when things go south, you could find yourself in the middle of a contentious (expensive) lawsuit.
NB: The above statements are not intended to be construed as an endorsement of any online or other provider of legal documents or forms.
Photo credit: Brooke LaValley, Columbus Dispatch