Gone are the days where businesses make do with a simple promising handshake. In today's world, trust requires legally binding documents.
However, if you were to read every word of every agreement you've lazily accepted, you'd likely lose a few weeks of your time. 97% of people aged 18-34 don't read terms of service which is unsurprising as the dense reads can take longer to read than Sun Tzu's Art of War.
With this in mind, thought should be given to important documents as to who they are for, and what you want them to do. If the purpose is purely to protect your own (business) interests, then by all means lay out pages upon pages of jargon. Yet, at Mäd, we don't wish to confuse or distract, we want everything to be fully transparent and simple to understand.
That's why we simplify contracts, and also take the time to create an easily understandable Master Service Agreement (MSA).
Contract vs. Master Service Agreement.
While the term 'contract' tends to ring a bell, the term 'Master Service Agreement (MSA)' tends to raise some eyebrows.
According to Black's Law Dictionary,
Contracts are defined as “an agreement between parties creating obligations that are enforceable".
MSAs are defined as “one legal document that consolidates separate but related agreements between the same signing parties.”
The difference between the two may not appear obvious on the surface and from their definitions but understanding the nuances in their applications can make our jobs much easier.
At Mäd, while we find our current plain-language contract to be sufficient in protecting our business negotiations, its project-specific nature means we constantly need to revise and tailor our contract to fit the needs of different projects. Not only is this time consuming but often times, it also forestalls the project.
For this reason, we recognize that as accessible as it may be, our current contract is not the ultimate one-size-fits-all solution; especially for repeated work (or long-term projects) where there is no need to re-review or re-negotiate the already approved terms. This is why we've started to look to MSAs for such instances. To recap, MSA is “one legal document that consolidates separate but related agreements between the same signing parties". In essence, it is a contract where two or more parties both agree to most of the terms used to govern any future agreements or future transactions. This means that we can reserve and allocate our time to discussing the more important deal at hand.
Depending on the field of work and the parties involved, contractual terms and clauses vary accordingly. As with anything that has a legal implication, consulting legal professionals for tailored advice is best practice.
The purpose of the Master Service Agreement (MSA) is to specify and make clear generic terms, similar to any other contractual documents; therefore, the general components are business ethics, corporate social responsibility, dispute resolution, geographic location, intellectual property ownership, family access, network access, product warranties, payment terms, venue of law, etc.
Like contracts, MSA templates are not the easiest documents to digest. As we always strive for accessibility, it is our intention to provide easily digestible content. This is why our Mäd's MSA closely follows the style of our plain-langauge contract. Despite the two templates closely resemble each other; it helps to think of our Mäd MSA as a document consisting of approved terms from our Mäd contract—to avoid confusion.