Can it be written entirely by myself (never got legal training) following the examples of my competitors? If not, is it worth writing it myself and then asking a lawyer to review?
Your first point of reference should be experience.
The most effective way to create your ToS is to consult with a lawyer who specializes in your industry. This also hold true for your that and any business legal document.
It’s true that you can find different online services and templates to assist you, but the truth is that these documents could very well be null and void.
Your business is specific and unique and your ToS should be the same way. I advise against copying your ToS or using one of the “easy to use” sites as they will almost certainly fail to include or capture everything. Read more: https://lawtrades.com/blog/protect-website-liability/
In my opinion, copying your competitors legal documents will not work for you in the long run. The odds are high that the business had their documents customized, and by copying and pasting you are claiming that your business has the same features and services which is highly unlikely.
Hope this helped address some of your concerns. When you're ready, you make your request completely free at www.lawtrades.com to get a better feel for the process.
Feel free to mention "clarity" for a discount :)
As long as you have a limitation of liability provision, an exclusion of warranties provision, a governing law/jurisdiction provision and the right to update/amend/revise the TOS at anytime, you're probably pretty safe until such time as you can afford a lawyer to draft a proper TOS.
That said, it shouldn't cost $000s to have a lawyer prepare a TOS. I work with many startups in Canada and, unless it is a particularly novel business model or idea, I typically quote $750 (+tax) to draft the TOS. If you're getting quoted fees significantly higher than that, you should shop around.
1) Will I share personal information with 3rd parties for marketing or other unrelated purposes to why they shared their info with my company?
2) Will I share non-personal information (eg; de-identified or ad tracking) with 3rd parties for marketing or other unrelated purposes to why they shared their info with my company?
3) Is there anything about my products or services that might creep out my customers. (Eg; App with location-based tracking in the background)
When I was younger an attorney made the statement: if you can't afford an attorney, you have no business being in business.
That said, you can and should do most of the work. Look at the TOS and privacy policies of a cross section of similar businesses. Take what is applicable. Add what you think is needed. Then have your attorney review it. You can count on them making some changes and billing you accordingly.
Of course, you can skip the attorney and roll the dice. But, I wouldn't recommend it.
I provide free calls to first time clients. Give me a call using this link:
I'd probably spend 30m with an experienced lawyer to make sure that the 'standard' meets your needs. Despite startup, lean, etc. you don't want to look stupid.
This is a great question and one I faced in my own business of branding. Our contract has had a few different iterations as we've scaled, but we always consulted with legal experts who specialize in our business.
With that said, I would not recommend writing a T&C entirely by yourself for a few reasons:
1. You run the chance of putting yourself or your contractual partner at risk by using language that isn't legal.
2. Even though you may be well-versed in your particular business, or you examine T&C's from your competitors, it won't be tailored specifically to your business and needs.
3. If a situation that should arise where the contract is challenged, and it is not legally sound, it could be financially and emotionally expensive.
What I would recommend:
1. If you have some trusted friends in your same field, sometimes they are willing to share some bullet points on what to include/what not to include, which can be very helpful.
2. Make a working draft/outline of what you'll most likely need to cover in your T&C's.
3. Seek out a business attorney who specializes with businesses like yours, preferably who have expertise in the start up world. You'll find their rates are often more reasonable.
4. Share the working draft document, express certain situations applicable to your business operations and have an attorney guide you on how to protect both you and your customer, given that criteria.
As a branding firm, we work with all types of clients who are concerned with copyright law, privacy, etc. There's no quick, cheap way around it. You can certainly streamline the process as I've outlined above, but you want the best for your business and you want to protect it properly.
I'd be happy to discuss or recommend some partners we've used along the way, depending on your particular situation. I'd be happy to share some insight to you for free.
There are a lot of samples of TOS and Privacy documents on http://www.docracy.com/
Many of these are from popular sites. My suggestion would be to find one that covers most of what you are looking for, then run it by an attorney to make sure it's legal and covers you the way you expect. This saves you the money of having a lawyer to draft the entire document for you.
If your needs are not too complex, and relatively standard - what I would recommend is trying out Trust Guard's generators to walk you through creating both documents.
Terms of Service Generator
They are relatively in-depth and cover most situations, unless you're like Facebook. Then you would need an attorney.