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A master service agreement, abbreviated in the contract world to “MSA”, is a contract that establishes the terms and conditions between two parties who wish to have an ongoing business relationship. This contract serves as the “main contract” between the parties and lays out all essential terms to which subsequent contracts will be bound.

What does MSA stand for?

MSA stands for master service agreement. This contract serves as the primary contract between two parties. For example, if a vendor and a manufacturer have an ongoing business relationship, the MSA will serve as the overarching agreement between the parties. Instead of executing a long and complicated contract every time the vendor places an order, both parties are already bound the by terms in the MSA so all the vendor needs to do is place their order and they know the product will be made and delivered according to those terms.

An MSA streamlines the negotiation process and both parties' benefit by avoiding the headache of an overly burdensome legal document every time they need to do business with a returning customer.

What is a Master Services Agreement?

A master services agreement is the controlling contract used between parties who regularly enter business deals with each other. This contract serves as a template or framework for all future contracts. This agreement is a great way for companies with an ongoing business relationship to make sure their business interests are always protected while working together.

A master services agreement will include important information like payment terms, shipping instructions, intellectual property rights, confidentiality, and warranties. These are the basic terms that the parties would like all subsequent agreements to be bound by. An MSA allows future contracts can focus on the specifics of the deal and avoid repeating the already agreed upon provisions.

What is an MSA Review?

An MSA review is the process of carefully reading over the contract and ensuring that it is free from mistakes, represents the interests of both parties, and the terms reflect the party’s agreements. This contract will serve as the basis for all future contracts between the parties, so it is essential that it is drafted correctly.

To conduct a comprehensive MSA review, follow these steps:

  1. 1. Read the entire document It is important to read the entire contract and go over each provision. The terms in the MSA will govern all future transactions so any mistakes could be detrimental to the business relationship.
  2. 2. Take notes Make notes of any terms that may need clarification or that do not reflect the agreement between the parties. These issues can be renegotiated if necessary.
  3. 3. Ensure the agreement follows all applicable laws Depending on the jurisdiction, different laws may apply to your master service agreement. The contract must adhere to these laws to be legally enforceable.
  4. 4. Look for a termination clause It is important that the contract has a provision that dictates how the parties may cancel the contract. This provision should detail notice periods for termination, fees or penalties for termination, and what actions constitute a breach of contract.
  5. 5. Seek legal advice Entering a master service agreement contract often comes with significant legal and financial implications. It is recommended that you seek the legal advice of a knowledgeable attorney before agreeing to sign an MSA. A lawyer who has experience with these agreements can review the contract on your behalf to ensure that it is fair, follows all laws, and will be legally binding in court if a dispute arises.
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What's Typically Included in an MSA?

  • Parties The MSA should start with the names and details of the parties entering into the agreement.
  • Definitions This section defines key terms that will appear throughout the MSA. By defining terms in the agreement, the parties can avoid ambiguity and possible disputes over contract interpretation.
  • Scope of services The type of services to be provided by one party to the other under the contract. This section should specify the nature and extent of the services, including specific deliverables.
  • Payment terms A detailed breakdown of the financial arrangements like pricing structure, payment methods, invoicing frequency, and any applicable taxes or fees. The payment terms outlined in the MSA will govern all subsequent contracts between the parties so it is important that this section is specific and accurate.
  • Contract duration How long the contract will be in place.
  • Termination clause The conditions under which the contract can be terminated. This section should also include auto-renewal clauses and notice periods for termination.
  • Confidentiality and non-disclosure This section establishes the obligations of both parties to protect confidential information shared during the business relationship.
  • Liabilities and indemnities How liabilities and responsibilities between the parties are allocated, for example, which party will be legally responsible for accidents or damages that occur during the business relationship.
  • Dispute resolution The methods for resolving any disputes that may arise between the parties like arbitration, mediation, or litigation.

An MSA is an important contract that needs to be negotiated and agreed upon by the parties involved. This contract will govern future business deals between the parties, and it is essential that the contract is fair and complete.

Hiring an attorney to draft or review an MSA is strongly encouraged. A knowledgeable attorney will ensure the contract is legally binding and adheres to all applicable laws and regulations governing contracts.

Do MSAs Have Purchase Orders?

A master service agreement and a purchase order are two separate legal documents. While an MSA does not typically include a purchase order, the signing of an MSA will lead to purchase orders between the parties in the future.

The master service agreement serves as the overarching contract that establishes the general terms and conditions of the party’s business relationship. It will cover the pricing terms, payment terms, liability, and other important information that will apply to future business dealings.

Once a master service agreement between parties is established and the parties are ready to conduct business with one another, the party requesting services will issue a purchase order. The purchase order is a formal request for the services outlined in MSA and will include more details about the project or order. The purchase order helps track and control deliverables, costs, and timelines of each project covered by the MSA.

Should I Hire a Lawyer to Review an MSA?

Yes. It is highly recommended that parties entering into a master service agreement consult with a lawyer. An MSA controls all subsequent contracts, like purchase orders, between the parties. This agreement must be detailed, accurate, and legally binding to ensure a successful business relationship.

When you a hire a lawyer to review an MSA, the lawyer will read the contract line by line to check for mistakes and ensure it follows all applicable laws.

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