What must a written contract include?

Jump to Section

Need help with a legal contract?

Post Project Now

Post Your Project (It's Free)

Get Bids to Compare

 Hire Your Lawyer

What is a Written Contract?

A written contract is a printed document that details what parties can or cannot do. These agreements are legally binding and differ from oral contracts since they are on paper and contain a signature from all parties of the agreement. Written contracts are a commonly-used document to protect the terms of any agreement.

Are Written Contracts Legally Binding?

The purpose of creating a written contract for an agreement is to make the agreement legally binding. When a written contract is executed, it includes specific details about the agreement, sometimes including information about what steps can or will be taken when an event described in the contract is executed.

In order for a written contract to be legally binding, it must contain four key elements:

  1. Mutual Assent. All parties must agree to the terms of the contract and must display their signature on the contract to certify their agreement.
  2. Consideration. The agreed-upon action or business dealing, typically something of value which a party is not already entitled to, must be reasonable and fair for all parties.
  3. Capacity. All parties of the written contract must be of sound mind and able to make the agreements set forth within the agreement
  4. Legality. The action set forth in a contract must be legal according to state and federal law

Here are a few examples of clauses you may find in a legally binding contract:

  • Arbitration Clause : An arbitration clause entails that in the event of a contract dispute, the parties to the contract will come to a resolution together, without the help of any other representative or lawyer. This includes in the courtroom.
  • Choice of Law Clause : A choice of law clause entails that the terms of a contract are legal as per the laws in a certain state, even if the state is not where the contract is signed or where the parties of the contract reside.
  • Confidentiality Clause : When an agreement includes confidential information or trade secrets, a confidentiality clause can bind both parties to secrecy. A violation of this clause would constitute a breach of contract.
  • Indemnification Clause : An indemnification clause holds a person or company “harmless” in the event of a dispute, loss, damage, or burden. This clause operates to transfer liability between parties to a written contract.
  • Severability Clause : A severability clause establishes that in the event that any part of a written contract is found to be illegal or unconstitutional, that the rest of the unrelated parts of the contract will remain enforceable.
  • Dispute Resolution Clause : A dispute resolution clause defines the ways that parties of a contract should go able solving different types of disputes. This clause is helpful to save money and time by creating a set up pre-authorized terms to avoid the need of a lawsuit.
  • Termination Clause : A termination clause details the conditions that constitute termination of a contract, including the provisions regarding payment and liability of parties.

Check out this article to learn more about different aspects of a contract and how they make the document legally binding.

Purpose of Written Contracts

The purpose of a written contract is to define the terms and conditions of a business agreement. These documents focus on legality and enforceability while defining the duties and responsibilities of each party of the contract. Written contracts also contain information that solidifies the expectations of each party of the written contract while being concise and clear.

Meet some lawyers on our platform

Ryan W.

1 project on CC
View Profile

Namrita N.

1 project on CC
View Profile

Ashley H.

16 projects on CC
View Profile

Michael K.

4 projects on CC
View Profile

Why You Need Written Contracts

Aside from being helpful in defining the terms of a project or endeavor, written contracts provide important protections to all parties involved. While oral contracts are enforceable in court, it can be difficult to legitimize a breach of contract without written proof.

Here are a few helpful aspects of written contracts that benefit contract parties:


Written contracts specify who is liable when a certain event occurs. For example, if a contractor is hired to install a new window, a written contract might specify that they are liable for any damages caused during the installation. However, the window manufacturer might be held liable for any workmanship defects on their product.


Product or workmanship warranties are usually expressed in written contracts. This typically includes a pre-determined amount of time that an exchange, replacement, or repair is partially or completely covered under warranty.

Rights and Responsibilities

Each party of a written contract has expressed and implied rights and responsibilities when an agreement is made. Written contracts detail these rights and responsibilities in writing to ensure that all parties understand their roles.

Costs and Wages

The amount of money spent on a product or service is determined in a written contract. This usually details how much money will be spent on labor, materials, and payroll.


When two or more parties enter into an agreement, there are expectations from each of them. For instance, a homeowner might expect a contractor to possess the knowledge, certifications and permits needed to complete the job. A contractor might expect the same homeowner to pay for work done in a timely manner and report any issues regarding workman ship or materials within a certain timeframe. These expectations are explicitly explained in a written contract.

Here is an article about different aspects of a written contract and how they are helpful.

Examples of Written Contracts

Written contracts are widely used in many industries and include different details depending on the agreement being made. Here is an overview of a few written contracts and what they might entail:

Sales Contract

A sales contract is an agreement where a sale is being made. These contracts outline the product sold, the price paid, and in some cases, the amount of time payment is made.

Service Contract

A service contract is an agreement that extends services to a client and governs the terms of the project.

Employment Contract

An employment contract details the rights, rules, and responsibilities that an employee has while working for their employer.

Commercial Lease Agreement

A commercial lease agreement is an agreement between the owner of a property and a lessor of a commercial property.

Learn more about types of written contracts by reading this article .

What’s Typically Included in a Written Contract

To be successful, a written contract should include several pieces of vital information. Without them, parties risk their contract being unenforceable. Regardless of the type of service or product being obtained through a written contract, many of the same things should be included in the written contract.

Here is an overview of necessary parts of any written contract:

  • Duties and responsibilities
  • An overview of what is being exchanged
  • Warranty information
  • Indemnification
  • Severability
  • Confidentiality
  • Dispute resolution
  • Grounds for termination
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Definitions clause

Check out this article for more details about what is typically included in a written contract and for details on a contract template.

Get Help with Contracts

Do you need help understanding, writing, or modifying a written contract? Enlisting the help of an expert to get the job done right. Post a project on ContractsCounsel today to connect with business contract lawyers who specialize in written contracts.

How ContractsCounsel Works
Hiring a lawyer on ContractsCounsel is easy, transparent and affordable.
1. Post a Free Project
Complete our 4-step process to provide info on what you need done.
2. Get Bids to Review
Receive flat-fee bids from lawyers in our marketplace to compare.
3. Start Your Project
Securely pay to start working with the lawyer you select.

Meet some of our Lawyers

ContractsCounsel verified
Attorney and Counselor at Law
22 years practicing
Free Consultation

Experienced attorney focusing on estate planning, probate administration, business formation and counseling, and consumer bankruptcy.

ContractsCounsel verified
35 years practicing
Free Consultation

I focus my practice on startups and small to mid-size businesses, because they have unique needs that mid-size and large law firms aren't well-equipped to service. In addition to practicing law, I have started and run other businesses, and have an MBA in marketing from Indiana University. I combine my business experience with my legal expertise, to provide practical advice to my clients. I am licensed in Ohio and California, and I leverage the latest in technology to provide top quality legal services to a nationwide client-base. This enables me to serve my clients in a cost-effective manner that doesn't skimp on personal service.

ContractsCounsel verified
37 years practicing
Free Consultation

I am a 1984 graduate of the Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law (Yeshiva University) and have been licensed in New Jersey for over 35 years. I have extensive experience in negotiating real estate, business contracts, and loan agreements. Depending on your needs I can work remotely or face-to-face. I offer prompt and courteous service and can tailor a contract and process to meet your needs.

ContractsCounsel verified
Founding Member/Attorney
7 years practicing
Free Consultation

Tim advises small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups on a wide range of legal matters. He has experience with company formation and restructuring, capital and equity planning, tax planning and tax controversy, contract drafting, and employment law issues. His clients range from side gig sole proprietors to companies recognized by Inc. magazine.

ContractsCounsel verified
Business Attorney
31 years practicing
Free Consultation

For over thirty (30) years, Mr. Langley has developed a diverse general business and commercial litigation practice advising clients on day-to-day business and legal matters, as well as handling lawsuits and arbitrations across Texas and in various other states across the country. Mr. Langley has handled commercial matters including employment law, commercial collections, real estate matters, energy litigation, construction, general litigation, arbitrations, defamation actions, misappropriation of trade secrets, usury, consumer credit, commercial credit, lender liability, accounting malpractice, legal malpractice, and appellate practice in state and federal courts. (Online bio at www.curtmlangley.com).

ContractsCounsel verified
22 years practicing
Free Consultation

Real Estate and Business lawyer.

ContractsCounsel verified
18 years practicing
Free Consultation

Davis founded DLO in 2010 after nearly a decade of practicing in the corporate department of a larger law firm. Armed with this experience and knowledge of legal solutions used by large entities, Davis set out to bring the same level of service to smaller organizations and individuals. The mission was three-fold: provide top-notch legal work, charge fair prices for it, and never stop evolving to meet the changing needs of clients. Ten years and more than 1000 clients later, Davis is proud of the assistance DLO provides for companies large and small, and the expanding service they now offer for individuals and families.

ContractsCounsel verified
19 years practicing
Free Consultation

Braden Perry is a corporate governance, regulatory and government investigations attorney with Kennyhertz Perry, LLC. Mr. Perry has the unique tripartite experience of a white-collar criminal defense and government compliance, investigations, and litigation attorney at a national law firm; a senior enforcement attorney at a federal regulatory agency; and the Chief Compliance Officer/Chief Regulatory Attorney of a global financial institution. Mr. Perry has extensive experience advising clients in federal inquiries and investigations, particularly in enforcement matters involving technological issues. He couples his technical knowledge and experience defending clients in front of federal agencies with a broad-based understanding of compliance from an institutional and regulatory perspective.

ContractsCounsel verified
15 years practicing
Free Consultation

William L Foster has been practicing law since 2006 as an attorney associate for a large litigation firm in Denver, Colorado. His experience includes drafting business contracts, organizational filings, and settlement agreements.

ContractsCounsel verified
40 years practicing
Free Consultation

Terry Brennan is an experienced corporate, intellectual property and emerging company transactions attorney who has been a partner at two national Wall Street law firms and a trusted corporate counsel. He focuses on providing practical, cost-efficient and creative legal advice to entrepreneurs, established enterprises and investors for business, corporate finance, intellectual property and technology transactions. As a partner at prominent law firms, Terry's work centered around financing, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, securities transactions, outsourcing and structuring of business entities to protect, license, finance and commercialize technology, manufacturing, digital media, intellectual property, entertainment and financial assets. As the General Counsel of IBAX Healthcare Systems, Terry was responsible for all legal and related business matters including health information systems licensing agreements, merger and acquisitions, product development and regulatory issues, contract administration, and litigation. Terry is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, where he was an Editor of the law review. He is active in a number of economic development, entrepreneurial accelerators, veterans and civic organizations in Florida and New York.

ContractsCounsel verified
Trademark Attorney
1 year practicing
Free Consultation

I'm a Washington-licensed lawyer specializing in trademark practice and with an extensive trademark education and academic background. I currently work with domestic and international businesses seeking trademark protection in the U.S. by conducting trademark searches, providing legal advice, submitting USPTO applications, and preparing responses to office actions. I'm passionate about trademark law and always looking forward to helping small and medium businesses promote their value by having a registered federal trademark. If you have questions or concerns about trademark/copyright/IP licensing and require legal advice, feel free to contact me so we can have a first chat.

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call