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Contract Law

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Even since Ug entered into an agreement with Grug to let him use his fire in return for a slice of mastodon breast, people have been entering into contracts. At its heart, contract law is about the making and enforcement of promises between people, and it has existed for as long as there has been commerce between people. In its earliest forms, contracts were typically barter arrangements, and could be enforced through kinship, tribal, or religious forums. Generally, those transactions were instantaneous – I give you my cow and you give me a bushel of apples – so they were to some extent self-regulating. However, as commerce grew, so did the need for a more sophisticated body of law surrounding contracts – and particularly the need to secure future performance of an agreement entered into today.

Legal Principles

The concept that people should be held to their bargains underlies all of contract law. As the English common law developed to include holding parties to their future promises, so the law developed the three basic elements of a contract:

  1. Offer,
  2. Acceptance, and
  3. Consideration

While Courts generally seek to enforce valid agreements, they do so only when satisfied that the contract is valid and ought to be upheld. This can include consideration of issues such as certainty of contract, capacity, unconscionability, and privity – where only the parties to a contract have the right to enforce it. Some contracts are made formally and are recorded in substantial legal documentation, but many are made informally. Subject to some exceptions – the biggest being contracts involving land – most contracts do not need to be in writing to be enforceable. An unwritten contract can be just as enforceable as a written one. The issue is not generally whether it is enforceable, but whether the contract can be proven – as the signed, written document is normally prima facie evidence of its contents, whereas a verbal contract will require the testimony of witnesses. Contracts also can have both express terms (the terms that are either written in the document, or expressly stated when entering into the agreement), or implied terms (terms which are not expressly written or stated, but which are so obvious that they go without saying, or are always a part of the type of agreement entered into).


Almost every transaction that you enter into every day is a contract of one type or another. When you go to the shops to buy a litre of milk or a dozen eggs, you engage in a simple form of contract for the exchange of goods for money. When you drop your car off to the mechanic for a service with the promise you will return and pay at the end of the day, you have entered into another contract. And when you sign up for a mobile phone or internet plan, you have entered into another contract. Contracts are at the very heart of almost all commerce and the expectation that people will comply with their obligations, and the right to enforce that promise if they do not, allows businesses to do everything from perform plumbing work on a house before payment, right through to ordering a million tonnes of steel from China to build a navy frigate. Whether the contract is large or small, you are constantly involved in contracts.


Whether your contract is large or small, getting the right advice BEFORE issues arise can be critical to avoiding problems and saving costs in the longer term. Once problems do arise with your contract, you want to make sure you have input from and assistance by people who specialise in the area and who know the law of contracts.

HHG Legal Group has over 100 years of experience in helping people draft and defend contracts large and small. We can help you too – whether it is looking over a contract before you sign it to give you our advice on it and warn of potential issues; helping you draft contracts ranging from employment contracts, sale and purchase contracts, terms and conditions for credit accounts, and large scale development; or fighting for your rights under the contract if things go wrong.

Our highly experienced team of Commercial Lawyers can help you navigate through the process for a successful outcome. Call us today on (08) 9322 1966 for a chat about your situation.

*This information serves as a general guide and does not constitute legal advice. It is based on our research and experience at the time of publication. Please consult our knowledgeable legal team for any specific inquiries or advice relevant to your circumstances, as the content may not have been updated subsequently. 

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