I’ve been somewhat stunned of late by the number of calls I’ve received where someone is alleging a breach of contract.  When I ask them if there is a termination clause, I’ll often hear that there is not.

Since I don’t yet have the contract in front of me, I ask them to look for a specific paragraph while we are talking on the phone.  This is usually when I hear that they don’t have a copy of the contract, but they are pretty sure that there is no termination clause.

Unfortunately you can’t sue someone based on what you think you signed.   You need an actual copy of the contract.

My advice is that before you sign anything, make a copy for yourself.  After you sign, ask for a copy with their signature and yours on it as well and keep it in a safe spot.  Hopefully you never need it, but if you do you’ll be able to make an informed decision with an attorney.

If you are an employee, a copy should be kept in your employment file which under Illinois law you have a right to see at your request.

Big picture is that you can’t file a contract lawsuit without the actual contract itself.  If you don’t have a copy you will be forced to pay a lawyer to file a suit asking a Judge to make the other person turn over a copy to you.  That’s wasted time and money and certainly opens up the possibility of fraud claims.

And if someone won’t let you make a copy or won’t provide you with one, that kind of lets you know ahead of time what type of person or business they are and it’s probably a warning sign not to get involved with them at all in the first place.

Written by Michael Helfand