Contracts: In a written agreement, is it prudent--or overkill--to have a party initial every section or page of the agreement?

Asked over 1 year ago - Los Angeles, CA

I graduated from law school but am not an attorney. I run an adult website & draft written agreements for actors.

My written agreements are well organized. Each section heading is in BOLD CAPS & plain English in addition to "legalese," so that an ordinary person can understand it--e.g., CONSIDERATION (ACTOR'S COMPENSATION OR PAY).

Such drafting prevents the actor from voiding the contract by claiming the terms were intentionally confusing--which happens often when an actor changes careers. I also videotape the actor's reading & signing the agreement to prove the actor was sober & read the terms.

Many adult agreements require actors to initial the bottom of every page--or even every section!--but that tends to annoy the actor. So how safe is only a signature at the end of the agreement?

Attorney answers (6)

  1. Paula Brown Sinclair

    Contributor Level 20

    12

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . If initials are required for each paragraph, attention is consciously directed to the content of that paragraph, encouraging clarity and obviating a claim of confusion. Since by your description that issue or defense to enforcement is a known risk, the answer would seem obvious. Who cares if the actor is annoyed? Does s/he want the deal or not? I value clarity, so my vote is for "prudent."

    Best wishes for an outcome you can accept, and please remember to designate a best answer.

    This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.
  2. Jeff Hoang Pham

    Contributor Level 12

    10

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . As Ms. Sinclair indicates, requiring initials at the bottom of every page (or even section) may add another layer of protection against claims that a party was taken unawares by a certain contract provision. Such initials, however, are not required to make a contract enforceable.

    As you no doubt learned in law school, a contract requires mutual assent. The actor's signature on the written contract is sufficient evidence of his/her assent to its terms, and in CA, a party is generally bound to the terms of a contract they agree to (even if they didn't read or understand its terms). Requiring initials isn't required and may be "overkill", but if it gives you piece of mind, there's no harm in it.

    Hope this helps, and good luck.

    The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal... more
  3. Frank Wei-Hong Chen

    Contributor Level 20

    9

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . I agree with my colleagues that it is certainly prudent (but not legally required) to have initials at the bottom of every page. The only time you really need initials is when there is a waiver section or an arbitration provision which you want to prove that the signer had the opportunity to review and pay special attention to.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is... more
  4. Robert Bruce Kopelson

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    6

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Best Answer
    chosen by asker

    Answered . Initialling at bottom of every page helps to assure that a new page wasnt substituted in place of another. Initialing each para seems like overkill, and sort of defeats the purpose of highlighting the importance of any specific ones, like binding arb/waiver of right to trial for example. If the contract is short, Id only have inialling on the most important clauses, such as waivers or limitations. If the contract is long, then the act of inialling each para sort of becomes rote.
    Is there anything about them having had full opportunity to consult with independent counsel before signing?

  5. Dana Howard Shultz

    Contributor Level 19

    4

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . I'm going to disagree with my colleagues - not because I think they are wrong, but because I see things differently.

    I blogged about this topic more than two years ago (please see the post at the link below). Quoting from a portion of that post:

    <<<<<

    The obvious reason for initialing each page is make it difficult for a party to change the content of an agreement once it is signed. However, with widespread exchange of agreements as e-mail attachments and indefinite storage those e-mails, it usually is easy to reconstruct the final version of an agreement in just a few minutes.

    In the U.S., real property agreements and estate planning documents often are initialed – perhaps because the likelihood of a dispute years later is relatively high.

    Conversely, attorneys with securities or mergers and acquisitions practices, or other commercial practices with lengthy agreements, rely solely on signatures because clients do not want to waste time initialing dozens of pages.

    Nowadays, some agreements are signed digitally, i.e., there is no human signature at all, let alone initials, on the document.

    My conclusion: There are some types of agreements that should be initialed. However, in most business transactions, initialing each page is a waste of time.

    >>>>>

    This information does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
  6. Gary Stephen Brown

    Contributor Level 10

    2

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . You want to establish that nothing has been changed about the agreement. Initials are one way of authentication. I am comfortable with paginated agreements with a footer on each page identifying the agreement and using a PDF for the final that is signed at the end. Unless there is a special law requiring initials at a paragraph (like sometimes with binding arbitration) I don't see the need for them on a lengthy document.

    The advice provided is in good faith but not a guaranty of accuracy under all circumstances.

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.

 

Ask now

24,013 answers this week

2,758 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

24,013 answers this week

2,758 attorneys answering

Legal Dictionary

Don't speak legalese? We define thousands of terms in plain English.

Browse our legal dictionary