Contract or agreement?

I'm looking for a contract for my business.  Do I need an agreement as well?  Is that something different, or are they the same thing?

Long ago, for ill-considered search engine optimisation reasons, I chose to term some SEQ Legal products as “contracts” and others as “agreements”.  For example, compare these software-related contracts and with these confidentiality-related agreements.  The use of the different words is not indicative of any distinction in the style or structure of the documents.

However, it does confuse some customers, who are left asking: do I need a contract or agreement?

Both words accommodate a range of meanings.  In the English legal context, “contract” usually means:

  • a legal relationship primarily characterised by an exchange of value and/or legally binding promises; or
  • a document evidencing the terms of such a legal relationship.

“Agreement” by contrast, usually means:

  • the act of agreeing a contract (in the first, conceptual sense) or striking a non-binding bargain of some kind; or
  • a document evidencing the terms of a contract (also in the conceptual sense).

It follows that if you are looking for a contract document, you are also looking for an agreement document.  They are usually one and the same thing.

Arguably, I suppose, some contract documents are not agreement documents.  For example, standard T&Cs of business would usually be referred to as a contract document or terms and conditions document, but rarely would they be referred to as an agreement document.

For the difference between contracts and T&Cs, see:

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