Maybe the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life was when I served as an expert witness in a lawsuit filed by a sports broadcaster. He was suing a huge corporate employer over a non-compete clause in his contract.
On one side of the table were the plaintiff’s attorney and I. Opposite us were three exceptionally well-dressed, intimidating looking corporate attorneys. At the head of the table sat the arbitrator.
I was sweating bullets.
The story came to mind as I prepared this post.
A sportscaster told me, “I’m being offered a position where they want me to sign a two-year deal. Do you have any advice when it comes to signing a contract with a station?”
There are two things to be especially aware of.
1. Restrictive covenants
Restrictive covenants are more commonly called non-compete clauses. They are common in radio and TV contracts. Be sure you understand that a non-compete states you cannot work for another employer in that market for a particular amount of time. Anywhere from 6-18 months is common. Be careful you understand it is in the contract so you’re not caught off guard should it come into play after you and the employer part ways.
2. Escape clauses
Escape clauses allow you to legally exit a contract. Know before you sign if you can leave early and whether there is a monetary penalty. The buyout is often a sliding scale based upon time remaining on the contract. Again, be aware of what that dollar amount is going to be.
Should you even be negotiating your own contract?
It is worth considering hiring an attorney to negotiate your contract. You don’t need an agent who is going to take 7 to 10% every month. Pay an attorney a one-time fee instead. It may be $900 or $1000, but it’s worth it. They’ll likely negotiate a contract that covers their fee and still leaves you with more money than had you negotiated on your own behalf.
Using a contract attorney also precludes you from potentially stressing your relationship with your new employer during negotiations. Let a professional do it and take all of that off your plate.