Most of the time everything is fine, and it does turn out to be money saved - except when it doesn't!
There are some contracts which we are very rarely asked to review, and quite understandably so. One obvious example is the GMS contract which forms the lifeblood of many practices - it is centrally negotiated each year anyway, and is offered on a "take it or leave it basis", so we are rarely asked to review it before it is signed.
However every practice enters into other valuable contracts - for example contracts for telephony or for software (such as speech recognition software) which can be an expensive disaster if they don’t work properly. The providers often make a virtue of putting in place a very brief contract - but of course a very brief contract works in the provider's favour, because the shorter it is, the less likely it is to give the practice any remedies against them if they don't perform. Generally these short contracts contain robust payment provisions which "bite" on the practice, but contain only very flimsy provisions trying the provider to do what they say they will do. If things go wrong, this then leaves the practice out of pocket, wasting time in trying to cope with a system that doesn't work, and with limited rights to get any compensation from the provider, particularly if they have paid up front.
As consumers we are all, individually, used to the idea that if we don’t get what we want or expected, there is usually some consumer protection legislation that will help us get a remedy. Those who sell to consumers are aware of this, and are generally quick to comply (and Trading Standards will have it in for them if they don't!) But when it is a business-to-business transaction, the opposite is the case. The law (broadly speaking) takes the approach that businesses are run by informed adults who are entitled to do their own deals, and enter into their own contracts, for good or ill. So if you get a bad service, and the contract never promised you a good one, then you are stuck with it and the law won't step in. There are some providers out there who know this only too well, and will take full advantage of the limited rights available to their customers if they can get them to sign a weak contract. We have encountered this on several occasions in the past year in relation to telephony, and this is an area where practices should be particularly wary, given that the contracts are often expensive and long-term.
Along similar lines, very recently we were contacted by a client who was having great difficulty with some software it had purchased for £12,000. We were asked to advise on their options. Not only did the contract give them little protection, but it was subject to the law of Italy - which meant that if the client wanted to do anything about enforcing it they would have had to have taken advice from overseas lawyers operating in their second language. £12,000 contract is a lot of money, but it had to be written off to experience.
As I started by saying, we recognise that lawyers can be expensive and that you can't take legal advice on everything, but good advice at the right time can also save you a lot of money. The problem is that you won't know until the problem arises! We are very happy to do top level reviews of contract documents and discuss with you our thoughts on what you are being asked to sign. We wouldn’t charge anything for your first call (which may be all you need to establish if you need legal input or not) and we would always give you a quote before doing any further work.