Does a Services Agreement Need a Term?

Should a services agreement provide for a term? It depends.

Imagine that Acme engages me, as an independent contractor, to service every Sunday the fleet of Segways at Acme’s headquarters. Acme asks me to sign a contract, which provides for a term of one year. Including a term makes sense, in that having Acme instead make an open-ended commitment would leave room for dispute when Acme decides that it doesn’t need my services anymore: But they said it would be for five years!

Imagine instead that Acme asks me to service its Segways just once—the first weekend in September. In that case, it doesn’t make sense to provide for a term: the contract simply states when I’m to perform. It follows that after I perform, the agreement would continue to exist, but who cares! In the same way, if I sign a contract to buy 100 Segways, that contract doesn’t have a term: it continues to exist after I’ve made the purchase.

But it would be sensible for Acme to make it clear that it can put a stop to my services. (I in fact know nothing about Segways.) What would be the best way to express that? The contract could provide that in certain contexts Acme may terminate the contract, but I’m wondering whether it would be clearer to be more specific and say that in those contexts Acme may terminate my performance of the services. Any thoughts?

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.