Engagement Letters: Untangling what you WANT to say from what you feel you HAVE to say



Whether you’re buying a dishwasher or proposing tax services – there are some Terms and Conditions that are really important to understand from the outset and others that are probably not critical. Here’s how to hone in on what to communicate in a proposal and save time for everyone!

At Panalitix, when we start helping clients with their engagement letters and proposals – almost without fail we hear:

“Oh, umm… yes, well… we’ve have been meaning to:
– update
– rewrite
– think about
– reconsider
– get our lawyer to look at…
our Terms and Conditions.”


And what Terms and Conditions are we talking about?

Depending on the nature of the proposal, there could be a few different sets of Ts and Cs.

  • Ts and Cs related to a firm’s operations in general;
  • Terms of Engagement specific to the type of project being proposed (tax preparation, succession planning, CFO-type advisory services, etc.); or
  • Terms related to specific items like payment and around what is NOT included in the Scope of Work.

Ultimately, Ts and Cs are there to protect you and your firm. Depending on the country, state or region – it might be compulsory to include certain terms in a proposal or engagement letter. And of course, you should always seek legal advice to make sure you’ve dotted all of the necessary “i’s” and crossed the “t’s”.

But including Ts and Cs isn’t a reason to muddle everything together into one, endless legal agreement – or worse yet – spread it out over multiple documents!

Many engagement letters and proposals we see are text-heavy documents that go on and on and on for pages. Eventually, the client gets to the part that outlines what is actually being proposed along with the pricing.  But these REALLY IMPORTANT parts of the proposal are often embedded in paragraphs of text – sometimes highlighted with bullet points or section numbers…and sometimes not. But regardless, it’s not a great user experience.


At Panalitix, our philosophy is to CLEARLY set out:

  • What your firm is going to do
  • Why you are going to do it/why it’s necessary and valuable
  • Who needs to do what by when (responsibilities of each party)
  • How much is it going to cost and how it will be billed
  • What ISN’T included in the cost (to avoid ‘scope creep’)
  • Other terms that might impact the cost (timely delivery of information from the client, a shift in client’s request to the firm, etc.)
  • Payment options

[Communicate your Scope of Work and Pricing clearly and effectively with Panalitix]


THEN, after all of this essential information is presented clearly – all of the other Terms and Conditions can be presented at the end of the document after the client signature block.

Even your very sophisticated clients who don’t need their hand held as they wade through pages of legalese will appreciate the simplicity and clarity from the outset.  And of course, your less savvy clients will breathe a huge sigh of gratitude as they, perhaps for the first time, actually UNDERSTAND WHAT you are going to do and WHY!




Kim Forsythe

Kimberly Forsythe has been working in all aspects of communications for over 25 years. Whether it's writing content, or presenting content behind a microphone or in front of a camera, her passion for effective communication has led her to work with large international corporations, small businesses, media organizations and not-for-profits.

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