Legal English Shot – Is there a quid pro quo in your contract? A question well worth consideration.

The notion of “consideration” under Common law

In connection with contracts, consideration is the technical term for “the act, forbearance, or promise by which one party to a contract buys the promise of the other” (Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage). It is also called a “quid pro quo” (something for something). The equivalent in German is Gegenleistung, in French contre-prestation. Normally, such consideration must have some economic value and is thus referred to as valuable consideration. In the common law, contracts that do not include a provision for consideration are not considered valid, the fundamental principle is “no contract without consideration”.

Examples of use:

  • Payment was made as consideration for delivery of the goods.
  • The contractor agreed to the offered consideration.
  • The client agrees to pay the total consideration upon delivery of the project.
  • The estate is bound to convey the property upon full payment of the consideration.

(N.B.: good consideration is not the same as valuable consideration: good consideration is something given out of affection or moral obligation, not because of a contractual obligation; a contract is valid only if the consideration is valuable.)

In other, non-contractual contexts, the word consideration can be used in legal writing also in the non-technical sense of “careful thought”, a “factor taken into account when making a decision” or “sensitivity towards others”:

  • We will give the matter our fullest consideration.
  • The court set forth the considerations that contributed to its decision.
  • Employers should show consideration towards their employees and treat them with respect.

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