Redefining contracts for the new economy
E-commerce and the internet are radically reshaping the drawing up of contracts but, writes Simon Harper, lawyers must strike a balance between quality of advice and speed of delivery to get the most from the new opportunities
As business relationships develop in the new economy, the contracts documenting those relationships have to keep pace. Partly because of this, e-commerce specialists have emerged, to a greater or lesser extent, in almost all commercial law firms. But what relevance will e-commerce have to the contract lawyer once it becomes so routine that it becomes merely ‘commerce’ and once the ‘new economy’ grows up and loses its prefix? Will there be any enduring change to the legal contractual environment, or will it just be a matter of having the old precedents updated occasionally, with some assistance from those obliging colleagues in the IP/IT department?In the early stages of e-commerce, related contracts tended to be sent to the desks of media and technology lawyers. This was not surprising – traditional offline businesses suddenly found themselves dealing with content and technology contracts, an area that they had previously not had to contemplate. The pervasiveness of e-commerce has meant that it has progressed beyond a niche activity. The issues raised by e-contracts now potentially impinge on almost every legal area.
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