Legal tips for coaches to limit their liability
As a coach, you interact with clients on a one-on-one basis. This is true no matter what type of coach you are. Of course, different coaches have certain different things that they need to either have in place or follow to limit their liability, but at the root, the main tasks and actions are the same for all. There are certain legal tips for coaches that will help to limit their liability.
This post will look at the most essential grounds that coach need to satisfy to limit their liability and to also protect their clients.
When a person works closely with other people, either on a one-on-one coaching basis or group sessions, masterminds and more, then the need to be protected legally is more important than ever.
The reason behind this is that when working with individuals on a one-on-one basis, there are more chances that your clients will rely on something you say, or will expect a certain outcome or guarantee.
For these and many other reasons, there are certain legal implications and necessities that you need to maintain.
The main way to protect yourself and your clients is by having an airtight coaching client agreement, a good disclaimer policy for your website, and if you have programs such as masterminds, online courses, etc. then you should also consider having a terms and conditions policy for your specific program.
So let’s take a look at a few things you need to address and be very clear about in your coaching client agreement in order to limit your liability as a coach as much as possible.
Legal Disclaimer: Even though I am a licensed and practicing attorney in the United States, I am not your attorney. Nothing on my website should be construed as legal advice. Your presence on my site does not create an attorney-client relationship or privilege. Every piece of content I present to you is for educational and informational purposes only. If you need specific legal advice, please consult with an attorney in your area.
Logistics of the coaching sessions/meetings
Every coach has a different coaching method, their meetings are done at different times, for a different period of time, for a certain fee, being charged in a certain way.
A well-drafted coaching client agreement will address a lot of both the client’s and coach’s questions and concerns. The purpose of that agreement is to address as many of the concerns and possible outcomes as possible so that down the line there are no unclear or confusing situations where either party has to figure out how to proceed.
A clearly stated agreement addresses how many meetings or sessions will take place between the coach and the client, for how long each meeting will be when those meetings will take place, and how the meetings will take place.
These issues form the foundation of any coaching relationship because the meetings between the coach and the client are how the coaching relationship is conducted. At the very least, the client and coach both must be clear on how many meetings or sessions their coaching relationship is going to cover. This is an important point to address because it’s material information.
The client might be thinking the amount of money they paid covers 10 sessions, while the coach might be thinking it covers only 5 sessions. Clearly, a misunderstanding like this will give rise to conflict.
For this reason, stating in simple and clear terms as to how many meetings the coaching relationship covers is a mandatory point to address in the coaching client agreement.
How Long Each Meeting Will Last and How It Will Be Conducted?
Aside from addressing how many overall meetings or sessions the coaching relationship or agreement will include in it, addressing other details about the meetings are just as essential.
The paramount details are the approximate length of the meetings and how the actual meetings will be conducted.
The meeting length clearly can vary because it’s dependent on factors such as how many questions the client or coach have for that session, if there are too many unclears that need to be addressed, etc. However, an average number is needed in the coaching client agreement, with the understanding that some days the meetings might not necessarily last as long because there might not be a need for it.
With that said, the approximate meeting length is needed for both the client and the coach because this way the parties know that a certain amount of time needs to be reserved for that session. The coach will avoid double booking, and the client will make sure that they schedule their daily activities in a way that accounts for the coaching session.
Now, another point that the coaching client agreement will need to address is the means through which the meeting will take place. Both the client and the coach need to know exactly how they will get in touch with each other.
With modern technology there are multiple methods that the parties can be in touch: email, telephone, video-chats, and more. Addressing the method of communication for the meeting is essential so that the parties can actually conduct the coaching sessions. It’s important to be detailed when it comes to this. For example, if the meetings are going to take place over the phone, the contract needs to provide clear instructions to the client as to how it will happen.
This means providing a phone number, an exact time window for calling, whether the coach will call or the client should be the one to make the call. Address issues such as what happens if the call is not answered. Does it go to voicemail, should the calling party leave a voicemail, etc.
Likewise, if the meeting is to be done through a video-chat, then specify a platform (i.e. Zoom, Skype, Facebook, etc.), a time, and the exact means of joining.
Depending on the platform the coach is using, the client might either need a direct link, or a password or some other access method to join the meeting chat.
The details as to the meeting length and method are important to address in the coaching client agreement, because similar to the number of meetings, these matters form the foundation of the coaching relationship. These are the basic places where a misunderstanding or confusion might arise and give rise to a disagreement. Therefore, clearly stating and explaining the procedures and methods will put the coach and the client on the right footing.
The coaching client agreement must address refunds, cancellations, and rescheduling
Like any other well-written agreement, a coaching client agreement must address important topics such as refunds, cancellations, and rescheduling.
Refunds and cancellations, in particular, are exceedingly important. Like with any other service or product, refunds are a very real possibility. It’s not unreasonable that someone would decide to engage in a coaching session, however, for any number of reasons, decides to not go through with it.
The next logical step would be for this person to ask for a refund if they paid for the entire program in-advance.
A good coaching client agreement must state the refund policy in detail. Let’s look at a refund policy in detail.
Refund Policy and What it Must Contain
A good refund policy is a must for any business, but especially for online based businesses and programs. A refund request and denial is a major “hot topic” for many online entrepreneurs, coaches, and clients.
Now available an attorney-drafted Coaching Client Agreement Template. If you want to conduct your coaching sessions and limit your liability, then get this Coaching CIient Agreement Template that is easy and fast to customize.
Many times disputes arise because a client will try out a program, but will want to get a refund for any number of reasons.
Now, it needs to be said that sometimes refund requests are completely justified, and other times the clients who do request it are just “unethical” because they’ll consume the entire program, learn what they need, then request a refund. However, regardless of the situation it is, a coaching client agreement must address a refund policy in detail and make sure that there are no uncertainties left as to how a refund can be requested.
First, the coach must decide if they want to provide a refund to the client at all. There is no right or wrong when it comes to this. However, no matter what you decide, you have to clearly state it.
So, as mentioned above, as a coach or service/product provider, your first task is to decide whether you want to provide any refund to your clients.
Second, as a coach, you must decide whether you’re providing a full refund or partial refund (if partial, you need to further determine what that means for you-are you providing a certain predetermined amount or a certain percentage, etc.).
Third, you must decide whether your refund policy is going to be “no questions asked” or whether it’s going to be a conditional refund policy.
A “no questions asked” refund policy is pretty self-explanatory. Usually, there will be a time limit, let’s say 14 days or 30 days after purchase, and during that time you can request a refund for any reason if you’re not completely satisfied with the program. The coach or program creator does not ask or require any additional information.
A “conditional refund policy” is something that is becoming increasingly popular with a lot of program creators, especially high-ticket prices products and services. In this type of a refund policy, the coach generally has certain conditions in place in order for the client to be able to get a refund.
For example, they might require that the client actually went through the program, completed all the worksheets, did all the assignments, and still did not see results. Only in this case can a client ask for and potentially receive a refund.
Clearly, these types of refund policies are in place to discourage asking for refunds. However, as long as you’re clear and specific in your wording, explaining what your policy is exactly, then there are no problems.
Aside from determining the refund policy, the coaching client agreement also needs to specify how a client can request that refund. Meaning do they need to email to a specific email address, and if so which address. Does the client need to use a specific subject line for refund requests? Or maybe there is a form they need to fill out.
Regardless of what the method for requesting a refund is, the coaching client agreement needs to specify all of it.
Why Should the Cancellation Policy Be Included in the Coaching Client Agreement
Cancellation policy is another section that no coach or course creator wants to really bring attention to. Understandably, the goal is to get clients, retain them and not even think about cancellations.
However, just because it’s not a pleasant topic, doesn’t mean you get to ignore it. In fact, just the opposite is true. You must clearly state your cancellation policy to limit your liability, and to avoid potential conflicts in the future.
When your coaching client agreement addresses these important topics, clearly states what must be done, and how one can proceed forward, then you can avoid a lot of potential conflicts because a client agrees to your coaching client agreement and signs it before the coaching relationship starts.
Therefore, even if the client wants to do something later that they are not supposed to, you have a well-drafted, clearly stated agreement to which the client already agreed. So the advantage will be on your side.
To learn what other sections or issues you should include in your coaching client agreement, optin to get the free checklist that’s posted in the article.
Have a strong disclaimer policy for your website
A disclaimer policy is an essential policy to have because this is where you limit a lot of your liability.
A well-drafted disclaimer policy will address several sections, and will also include necessary disclosures. Generally, if you’re a blogger, there are specific disclosures that you must and/or should have.
As a coach, a disclaimer policy is even more important because you will need to address things like the “No Guarantee” section, an “Earnings Disclaimer” and a professional disclaimer.
The No Guarantee clause is section is a necessary one in the disclaimer policy because it notifies your audience, buyers, coaching clients that you cannot guarantee any particular result. As a coach, you’ll do your best and give it your all. However, actual results are dependent on many various factors that the coach cannot control.
The Earnings Disclaimer is similar to the No Guarantee clause and can sometimes be used interchangeably. However, the Earnings disclaimer is specifically about the money the client will earn. Similar to the section above, you must make it clear that you cannot guarantee or promise a specific amount of money that the client will earn as a result of your program.
Professional disclaimer applies to certain fields such as medical, health, fitness, law, taxes, finances, architecture, engineering. In other words, these are fields that can impact peoples’ lives and livelihoods. For example, if you’re in the medical and/or health niche, then aside from the general disclaimer policy, you’ll also need to have a medical disclaimer.
There are several steps that coaches can take to limit their liability as well as protect their clients. When a business or individual works closely with other people, either on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting (including online courses), the need to protect itself and its customers is especially important.
One of the best ways to limit the liability of the coach is to have a well-written and detailed coaching client agreement.
The purpose of this agreement is to address matters and issues that either will or might potentially come up, to clarify any questions or misunderstandings so that both the coach and the client are clear on the expectations of the coaching relationship.
This article assumes the client is the one at fault what if the coach is at fault. Do you have any article pertaining to that.