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What is an MSA Agreement?
A Master Service Agreement (MSA) is a legal contract that defines the basic terms and conditions that will govern future transactions or agreements between a service provider and another entity. MSA agreements are helpful to parties to the contract, including clients, because they make it easy to do business together by providing a clear pathway and structure to create new agreements.
In this article, we will go over why an MSA agreement is important, what it should include, and how it is different from a statement of work. Then, we’ll offer some helpful advice that you can you if you still need help.
Why Use an MSA Agreement?
Master Service Agreements (MSAs) are legally binding agreements between two or more parties that lay the groundwork for future agreements or transactions. When companies have ongoing relationships with clients or other entities, MSAs make it easier to enter contracts and can also speed up contract negotiations.
Here are some of the benefits master services agreements offer:
- Makes the contract process straightforward
- Sets a foundation for expectations of all parties
- Allows companies to plan for the future
- Gives parties more time to respond to contract proposals since the basic details are already in place
- Saves time and money
- Allows for more flexibility in long-term business relationships
- Gives specific instructions on what to do in the event of a missed deadline, property damage, missed payment, and more.
Check out this article to learn more about why MSA agreements are useful.
What Should an MSA Agreement Include?
When you create a Master Service Agreement (MSA), several major areas must be addressed. Ensuring that your agreement is as complete as possible will help streamline business processes, maintain healthy relationships between all parties to the agreement, and set a solid foundation for an ongoing partnership.
Here are the top areas that must be covered in any successful MSA:
Management of Products and Projects
Master service agreements should state who is responsible for delivering and receiving products, who will take care of them, and how they will be handled. Project management information determines who will make sure any project stays on track to meet deadlines and what steps can be taken if anything goes awry.
An essential part of any project is what makes the world go round: money. An MSA should clearly state when payments are due, how they will be taken, and what happens if a late payment occurs. This portion of the contract should also state who is responsible for keeping track of payments.
Insurance is a vital part of project protection and cannot be overlooked. Remember to include details about who provides insurance, who pays for it, and what the coverages are in your MSA. Don’t forget to mention what the penalties are if insurance premiums are not paid.
Project and Product Protection
No matter how well you plan, things can go wrong. Having a process set up for backup funding and escrow is a great way to protect all parties to the contract. Make sure your agreement has specific details about who is responsible for these.
Scope of Work
Including details about the scope of work such as what work is to be done, who will do it, and how long it will take is a great way to keep everyone informed and on the same page. Placing information about this in the master service agreement clearly defines party responsibilities, which will make the relationship more productive in the long run.
From time to time, you may need the help of a third party, such as an independent contractor , to complete a project. Make sure all the rules and guidelines regarding how this type of individual will be hired, what standards they are held to, and who is responsible for keeping the project in check.
An indemnification clause is a liability clause that serves to shift the potential of liability from one party to another. Make sure it is clear who is liable for things like damages, penalties, and lawsuits.
Noncompete clauses forbid employees or partners in a contract from becoming a competitor for their employer or partner for a certain period after the contract is terminated. It is always a good idea to include this in an MSA to protect your business and operations.
A non-solicitation clause makes it illegal for one company to steal employees or partners from another. Including this in your MSA protects your workforce from being poached by a competitor.
Force Majeure Clause
If a natural or unavoidable event happens that causes damage or would otherwise cause parties to violate one or more terms of a contract, the force majeure clause removes liability from parties. This is essential to protecting businesses when unforeseen circumstances arise that cannot be prevented, like an act of nature such as a hurricane or a tornado.
Dispute Resolution Clause
Dispute resolution clauses provide important details about processes and requirements needed to resolve disputes between parties. They help make it easier to resolve conflicts, paving the way for stronger business relationships.
There are times when the scope of work on a project must be modified. This could be due to requests from a client or other unforeseen circumstances. A change order gives specific instructions and processes to be filed if the scope of work must be modified.
A termination clause tells parties what actions could result in termination, who is responsible for payment and how much, penalties for early termination, and more. Termination clauses are important to ensure that all parties receive fair treatment at the end of their working relationship.
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Master Services Agreement vs. Statement of Work
Although a master service agreement (MSA) and a statement of work might sound the same, there are several key differences that you should be aware of. Luckily, the list of differences is short and easy to understand.
Master Service Agreement
A master service agreement is a comprehensive contract that includes most of the important basic details that govern contracts and is meant to govern ongoing relationships. It includes high-level details about business relationships and serves as an overview for business partners to base their relationships on.
However, an MSA is not as detailed as a statement of work.
Statement of Work
A statement of work is a meticulously detailed contract between parties that are completing a project together. Unlike an MSA, a statement of work only governs the terms of an agreement on a single project at a time. Statement work contracts are supplemental to master service agreements since they provide all the details that an MSA does not.
Who Writes an MSA Agreement?
If you need help with writing an MSA agreement, business lawyers can help. Don’t risk going into a project unprotected with no foundation for a healthy ongoing business relationship. Post a project on ContractsCounsel today to get connected with business lawyers who specialize in master service agreements. All lawyers in the CC network are vetted and peer reviewed for you to explore before hiring.
Meet some of our MSA Agreement Lawyers
G'day, my name is Michele! I work with startups, entrepreneurs and small/medium-sized businesses across the country in a wide array of industries. I help them with all of their ongoing, daily legal needs. This includes entity formation, M&A, contract drafting and review, employment, asset sale & acquisition, and business sales or shareholder exits. I'm half-Australian, half-Italian, and I've lived the last 20+ years of my life in America. I've lived all over the USA, completing high school in the deep south, graduating cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, and then cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center. After law school I worked for the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins, LLP. After four intense and rewarding years there, I left to become General Counsel and VP of an incredible, industry-changing start-up called Urban Mining Company (UMC) that manufactures rare earth permanent magnets. I now work for Phocus Law where I help run our practice focused on entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs. I love what I do, and I'd love to be of help! My focus is on providing stress-free, enjoyable, and high-quality legal service to all of my clients. Being a good lawyer isn't enough: the client experience should also be great. But work isn't everything, and I love my free time. I've been an avid traveler since my parents put me on a plane to Italy at 9-months old. I'm also a music nut, and am still looking for that perfect client that will engage me to explain why Dark Side Of The Moon is the greatest album of all time. Having grown up in a remote, and gorgeous corner of Australia, I feel a strong connection to nature, and love being in the elements.
Attorney Greg Corbin is the founder and principal of Signal Law in Denver, Colorado. A top-rated trial and transactional lawyer with more than seven years of total legal experience, Mr. Corbin provides exceptional counsel and support to clients across the greater Denver metro and surrounding areas who have legal needs involving any of the following: business and corporate law; contracts and agreements; incorporations, partnerships and other entity formation and dissolution services; and ongoing business counsel for emerging and expanding commercial enterprises. Utilizing the latest in cost-saving technologies and advanced automation, Mr. Corbin has established his practice as a modern law firm ready for the future, and he strives to provide the highest level of representation to his clients and help them achieve their goals and the favorable outcomes they seek as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. He has gained a reputation for his innovative solutions as well as his transparent pricing structure and responsiveness when dealing with his clients. In recognition of his outstanding professionalism and service, Mr. Corbin has earned consistent top rankings and endorsements from his peers as being among the top lawyers in his region for business law and transactions. A 2008 graduate of Kansas State University, Mr. Corbin obtained his Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law in 2013. The Massachusetts Bar Association admitted him to practice that same year, and the Colorado State Bar Association admitted him in 2015. Mr. Corbin is an active member of the Denver Bar Association and the Colorado State Bar Association, among his other professional affiliations, and he supports his local community through his involvement with Project Worthmore and Biking for Baseball, where he serves on the boards of directors.
Startup Lawyer that caters to the entrepreneurial spirit. Focusing on building long term relationships and working with emerging startups throughout their entire life cycle. From concept to IPO, I'll will help guide you along the way. Years of high level experience drafting, negotiating, and reviewing all types of transactional contracts, e.g., operating agreements, charters, bylaws, NDAs, Terms of Service, Master Service Agreements, etc. You name it; it's crossed my desk. Have a depth of experience working with the USPTO to file trademarks, copyrights, and patents. If you're in the startup space and need a helping hand, I'm your guy.
The Law Office of David Watson, LLC provides comprehensive and individualized estate-planning services for all stages and phases of life. I listen to your goals and priorities and offer a range of estate-planning services, including trusts, wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney, and other plans to meet your goals. And for convenience and transparency, many estate-planning services are provided at a flat rate.
My career interests are to practice Transactional Corporate Law, including Business Start Up, and Mergers and Acquisitions, as well as Real Estate Law, Estate Planning Law, and Intellectual Property Law. I am currently licensed in Arizona and Pennsylvania, after having moved to Phoenix in September 2019. I am currently General Counsel for a bioengineering company. I handle everything from their Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Placement Memorandums, and Articles of Amendment to Intellectual Property Assignments, to Employment Law and Beach of Contract settlements. I have 4 years experience handling commercial breach of contract cases working with Burton Neil & Associates, P.C. I have experience with Intellectual Property infringement after having worked for Ryley Carlock & Applewhite. I have also recently gained experience with Estate Planning law, drafting numerous Estate Planning documents for people such as Wills, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Directives, and Trusts. I am looking to further gain legal experience in these fields of law as well as expand my legal experience assisting business start ups, mergers and acquisitions and also trademark registration and licensing.
Atilla Z. Baksay is a Colorado-based attorney practicing transactional and corporate law as well as securities regulation. Atilla represents clients in the negotiation and drafting of transactional (e.g. master service, purchase and sale, license, IP, and SaaS agreements) and corporate (e.g. restricted stock transfers, stock options plans, convertible notes/SAFE/SAFT agreements, bylaws/operating agreements, loan agreements, personal guarantees, and security agreements) contracts, in-house documents (e.g. employment policies, separation agreements, employment/independent contractor/consultant agreements, NDAs, brokerage relationship policies, and office policy memoranda), and digital policies (e.g. terms of service, privacy policies, CCPA notices, and GDPR notices). Atilla also reviews, and issues legal opinions concerning, the security status of digital currencies and assets. Following law school, Atilla practiced international trade law at the Executive Office of the President, Office of the United States Trade Representative, where his practice spanned economic sanctions enacted against goods originating in the People’s Republic of China valued at $500 billion. Afterwards, Atilla joined a Colorado law firm practicing civil litigation, where the majority of his practice comprised of construction defect suits. Today, Atilla's practice spans all corporate matters for clients in Colorado and the District of Columbia.
After graduating from The University of Chicago Law School in 2002, Clara spent eight years in private practice representing clients in complex commercial real estate, merger and acquisition, branding, and other transactional matters. Clara then worked as in-house counsel to a large financial services company, handling intellectual property, vendor contracts, technology, privacy, cybersecurity, licensing, marketing, and otherwise supporting general operations. She opened her own practice in September of 2017 and represents hedge funds, financial services companies, and technology companies in a range of transactional matters.