A core area of law, it's likely that you've encountered contract law as part of your degree or training contract. Here's what life is like if you take contract law further, and specialise in it as an area of practice.
What kinds of clients will I be dealing with?
People working in contract law have clients from a wide range of sectors, everything from banks and construction companies to colleges and pharmaceutical corporations: anyone who needs or uses contracts.
A contract is a legally binding agreement between at least two parties—which can be written or agreed verbally—and if one party fails to meet its obligations under the agreement, it results in a breach of contract that may give rise to a claim for compensation. If individuals or businesses are involved in a contract dispute and require expert legal advice, they need the help of contract-law specialists.
What kind of work will I do at different levels?
A trainee in contract law could work for both public and private-sector clients during their seat in this area of law. AllAboutLaw interviewed a trainee recently, for example, who helped with a large procurement tender during her seat, while the team drew up the procurement documents and drafted the supply agreement that was being put out to tender. She also assisted with work for universities and hospitals, helping to prepare advice on the State Aid they received and its exemptions.
On the private-sector side, the trainee drafted various collaboration agreements, ranging from the provision of a nursery to the testing of technology at the International Space Station.
As is typical in a commercial seat, trainees can also expect to see a fair few supply agreements and terms of business.
Qualified contract lawyers will usually work on cases from the beginning to the end. This will involve: the filing of a case, investigation, filing pleas and motions before the presiding court, negotiating settlements and even conducting the eventual trial.
How should I tailor my commercial awareness?
People working in contract law could keep up-to-date on the latest contract-law cases by setting up a Google alert or RSS feed so they are notified about the latest cases in the news.
BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action podcast series could also keep you updated on important cases and legal issues, which will include contract cases and law changes.
Contract law is also affected by developments in technology—those working in this area would do well to keep up-to-date with these developments. So-called smart contracts, for example, are computer programs that directly control the transfer of digital currencies or assets between parties under certain conditions, currently tasks undertaken by lawyers working in contract law.
What does a typical day in this department look like?
Whether you’re a legal clerk, an advocate or a judge, you will find yourself having to look through large quantities of paperwork. Often contractual agreements can concern multiple parties. This means your role can often require a great deal of correspondence between various parties and therefore proceedings can sometimes last many months or even years.
A lot of the work will be based around contracts; speaking to clients about what they require and then making amendments, with plenty of reading and document management.
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