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Is something a minor contract issue or major headache?

8/31/2011

Over the course of negotiating IT contracts, business columnist Hanna Hasl-Kelchner says the other side oftentimes may look to make changes to a contract, saying they disagree with some minor points.

However, instead of conceding immediately, she recommends small business owners read carefully to make sure the issues aren't larger than that.

For example, she cautions that the words "will" and "may" are not interchangeable in a contract, since the use of will is firm and doesn't have any kind of uncertainty.

One hypothetical situation Hasl-Kelchner describes involves a secrecy agreement, in which a company wanted any confidential information returned following the end of a project. If the word "may" is used in that context, there is some uncertainty whether or not it will happen.

When faced with that kind of dispute, she says business owners can look to the other side to concede if it's such a minor point. If they balk, it may be helpful to understand why the wording of that particular issue has caused such concern, since that may reveal greater insight into the actual issue.