Law firm prepares for agile contracting

By Andrew Charlesworth
31 May 2012 View Comments

Law firm Bird & Bird is working on a legal contract model specifically written for agile development projects, a methodology law firms have traditionally advised clients against using because of contractual and warranty issues.

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The firm will shortly circulate its Contracting for Agile whitepaper to a focus group of developers and end-users drawn from its client base. Successive stages of feedback will be used to produce a draft contract, which the firm says will be ready for use in large-scale agile and hybrid development projects before the end of the year.

"Lawyers have been writing contracts that fit the sequential waterfall methodology... but if the developer uses an agile methodology, the contract bears no relation to what is actually happening in the project," Roger Bickerstaff, Bird & Bird partner and joint head of its international IT sector group (pictured), told Computing.

"We want to create contracts that reflect the actual situation far more realistically," he added.

Legal contracts between suppliers and customers are written traditionally for the supply of predefined goods to a set deadline, which does not fit with the agile methodology.

"Creating contract structures which can cope with dynamic, interactive arrangements where you have a lot of customer involvement is something of a challenge," said Bickerstaff.

So this forced Bird & Bird to go back to the fundamentals of software contracts.

"If we're to contract properly for agile projects it isn't just a question of slightly adjusting the existing template, we needed to do something more fundamental and ask what is the purpose of the contract?" said Ian Edwards, partner in Bird & Bird's commercial group in London who leads the agile development effort.

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