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November 21, 2013

'Shake' App Lets Users Create Simple Legal Agreements on iPhone or iPad

When I started out as a freelance writer, I was lucky to deal with honest and scrupulous clients. I received payments exactly when they were promised. After my third year of writing, my idyllic dreamworld evaporated. I produced work for a client and submitted it. Then, the contact person stopped communicating with me.

Fortunately, this story could have a happy ending, thanks to some terse e-mail exchanges and the threat of a trip to small claims court. But alas, my innocence has been destroyed. I can no longer live in the world of unicorns, fluffy bunnies and handshake agreements. I've decided it's time for a standard contract including an upfront deposit and clear terms about when payments are due.

"Shake" is a free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch operating with iOS 6 or later that allows you to create quick contracts right on your mobile screen. The app generates agreements for freelancing, confidentiality, buying and selling, renting and lending either money or valuable property. You can also create a custom agreement from scratch.

After selecting your category, you answer some clear-cut questions and select the state in which you operate. Then, the app generates a clearly worded agreement sans most of the legalese you find in other contracts.

After you approve the agreement, you sign it right on your iPhone or iPad screen. Then, you e-mail it to the other party for that person's signature. Your client doesn't have to have the Shake app to sign the document, although that would make signing simpler. He or she can download the agreement as a PDF, sign it and then fax it or scan and e-mail it back to you.

My first complaint about using Shake was that the app asked me whether I required upfront payment for my services. I typed my standard deposit rate into the answer field, but the deposit requirement wasn't listed in the payment section of the agreement.

My second complaint is that, for the freelance writer agreement, I would have preferred stronger language about when the client assumes full rights ownership of the writing. In other words, the client cannot use the writing online or in print until the invoice has been paid. I e-mailed a support request to find out whether I could manually tweak the agreement to fix my complaints, but I haven't yet received an answer.

Still, even with these minor frustrations, I found the app easy to use, and I love the concept. I would embrace it and use it for my business if the problems that I mentioned could be corrected, perhaps by adding an "additional terms" field that you can customize and insert into the agreement.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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