"Forum selection" means home turf. Always try to choose your own battleground.
Planning for the Worst
It may seem negative to put thought into how and where you're going to resolve a dispute if one comes up, but like everything else regarding your contract, good planning and careful drafting is what will make your contract enforceable, so why not make enforcement happen close to home?
Because this kind of contractual term is considered part of the "boilerplate," so-called standard, general terms that are at the tail end of a contract, most parties don't spend a lot of time or effort thinking about them. Your edge in knowing how important this is, can make it more likely that the other party will go along with your choice, maybe thinking a dispute is never going to happen. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
Choice of Governing Law
The contracting parties can decide what state's laws will govern the interpretation of your contract. If you live in California, to remove any doubt, you'd want your contract to say "This Agreement will be governed by California law." It's especially important to specify this if any of the other parties to the contract aren't in California, or if any part of the contract is going to be performed somewhere besides California.
California is a good choice for contract enforcement besides it being your home state. It's got a well-deserved reputation for being pro-plaintiff (of course, not all judges in all courts, but generally), and some areas of law are well-developed in California, including entertainment law, intellectual property law, and securities law. There may be another state that's preferable for your forum selection clause, maybe even one that's neutral territory for the contracting parties, equal distance from everyone. If you can't negotiate your home state as the forum, the next best choice is neutral territory.
Forum Selection Clause
A contract clause that says which court or courts have "jurisdiction" (the authority of the judge in that court to make decisions about the litigants) and "venue" (the location of the courthouse itself) is called a "forum selection clause." Like all jurisdiction and venue issues, these seemingly basic issues can get very complex and can be used to derail lawsuits. Judges respect forum selection clauses, which are presumed valid and enforceable. A presumption is just that, it can be overridden by other factors, but generally it's considered to be what the contracting parties agreed to and want, and what the judge will enforce.
Forum Selection Clause - One (Bad) Example
An example of a forum selection clause is one worded something like "Any disputes between the parties arising from this contract will be decided by the Superior Courts in Los Angeles, California." This can be broken down into 3 components: the 1st is WHAT will be decided. If you expect to be the party needing enforcement, then you want the scope of dispute resolution to be as broad as possible. "Any disputes arising from artist's management" would cover "tort" claims like breach of fiduciary duty and negligence as well as breach of contract claims, so it's broader in scope than a clause that covers only "Any disputes between the parties arising from this contract." The 2nd aspect of the forum selection clause is WHO will decide these claims, and here it's "by the Superior Courts," which means state court, not federal. This is narrower than "by the courts" which leaves open the possibility of filing a case in federal court. The 3rd element of forum selection is WHERE, and here it's in "Los Angeles, California," which is narrower than just "California" and a lot narrower than not specifying any city, county, or state.
Forum Selection Clause - Make it Exclusive and Mandatory
The exact language of the clause is crucial, and if your clause doesn't say that disputes will be decided "solely," or "only," or "exclusively" by the court you've chosen or "and in no other," or some language to express the parties' intent to choose only this forum, then a court will likely interpret the clause as permissive, rather than mandatory. A court will treat a permissive clause (which can also say "the parties submit to the jurisdiction" or "consent to" or "agree to") as one that the court is not obligated to enforce, and will allow a litigant to sue anywhere it's otherwise appropriate, such as where performance of the contract occurred. A court would say that even if the word "shall" or "will" is used in this clause, that's not enough to make it a "mandatory" forum selection clause. A court would say that all "shall" and "will" mean is that the contracting parties have only agreed that LA courts would be one acceptable place to litigate, but that doesn't mean that LA has to be the one and only venue, and LA is therefore NOT the exclusive jurisdiction.
Choice of Law and Forum Selection Clause Drafted for Maximum Enforceability
"Any dispute arising from the parties' relationship will be governed by California law, and will be decided solely and exclusively by the State or Federal courts located in Los Angeles, California. The judge will award the prevailing party in any such dispute its attorneys' fees and costs actually incurred."
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