Master Service Agreement Checklist Are You Covered

Master Service Agreement Checklist: Are You Covered

Master Service Agreements (MSA) are legal foundation stones for businesses to establish long-term contractual and beneficial relationships with vendors, clients, and more. Keep reading to get started on one.

When parties have an ongoing business relationship, creating new contracts each time seems a waste of time and resources. For instance, if a company keeps on doing business with the same vendor for different projects over time. In such situations, organizations can set up a Master Service agreement to set the stage for all future arrangements. 

Organizations no longer need to repeatedly discuss the fundamentals of the relationship when an MSA is in place. They provide a point of reference to work out solutions and establish specific terms to mediate vendor-buyer, employer-employee, or service providers and client relationships. MSAs are a great starting point to speed up negotiations for any industry. So, here’s all you need to know about Master Service Agreement to get going.

What is a Master Service Agreement?

A Master Service Agreement (MSA) is a legal agreement between two or more parties that states the terms and conditions for all future undertakings and responsibilities. It serves as a framework or foundation for subsequent work orders, statements of work, or specific project contracts that fall under the MSA. As they establish a reference point for parties, organizations don’t need to recreate an agreement from scratch for every new action between them.

Even though MSA serves as a framework, there is still room for adjustments based on the particulars of each project. By establishing the tenets of a business relationship beforehand, MSA allows all parties to be on the same page about responsibilities and expectations.

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What are the Key Elements to include in your Master Service Agreement?

A well-written Master Service Agreement concisely outlines all the collective and individual responsibilities of the parties and all possible disputes bound to arise during the relationship. It helps organizations to establish who is in charge and what the course of action is when an event occurs.

While an MSA establishes the general parameters for subsequent business transactions, specific project information, deliverables, and deadlines are usually covered by separate work orders, statements of work, or project-specific contracts that refer to the MSA. But essentially, the Master Service Agreement checklist should include:

  • Parties: The MSA identifies all the parties involved in the business arrangement. These agreements usually cover the needs of service providers (vendor or contractor), clients (buyer or customer), or even employers.

  • Scope of Services: It describes the types of services or products to be provided by the parties. The section may include general descriptions of the services, limitations, exclusions, and any specific requirements. It helps both parties understand what needs to be done and prevent future misunderstandings.

  • Terms and Conditions: The MSA outlines the terms and conditions that both parties must adhere to throughout the engagement. It includes provisions related to payment terms, invoicing, intellectual property rights, confidentiality, warranties, termination clauses, dispute resolution, and governing law.

  • Pricing and Payment: It defines the pricing structure for the services and establishes the payment terms, such as payment schedules, methods of payment, and any applicable taxes or additional fees. The payment section also specifies any late payment fines or grounds for the client to withhold payment.

  • Performance Metrics: This section may outline the key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics used to evaluate the parties’ performance. It can include service level agreements (SLAs) that specify desired performance levels, response times, or quality standards.

  • Liability and Indemnification: The MSA typically includes provisions that address liabilities between the parties. It outlines the extent of each party is liable for damages, losses, or breaches. It might also contain indemnification provisions that shield one party from obligations brought on by the other party's conduct. For instance, the MSA specifies what compensation, if any, is owed if a deliverable results in a loss for the client or a project results in a loss for the vendor.

  • Intellectual Property: It defines ownership and usage rights related to intellectual property (IP) created or used during the provision of services. This section may outline who retains ownership of IP, any licenses or permissions granted, and the rights to use IP for the intended purposes. Generally, property rights belong to the clients, but in some cases, vendors can share ownership as part of their compensation.

  • Term and Termination: The MSA specifies the duration of the agreement and the conditions under which either party can terminate it, such as for cause or convenience. It may also include provisions for renewal or extension of the business arrangement.

  • Governing Law and Jurisdiction: This section identifies the governing law and jurisdiction that will apply in case of disputes or legal issues arising from the MSA.

  • Geographical location: The physical location of where the service or goods will be provided is specified in the MSA. The agreement does not necessarily need to mention geography in cases of remote work.'

  • Confidentiality: A confidentiality clause, also known as a non-disclosure agreement, establishes obligations and constraints concerning the protection and non-disclosure of sensitive information shared between the parties. It protects both vendors and clients from information leakage.

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Why do businesses need Master Service Agreements?

By providing a standardized framework for contracting, MSAs enable businesses to handle subsequent engagements or projects more efficiently. Moreover, referencing and incorporating the MSA terms saves time and effort on repetitive negotiations and contract creation. Some of the other benefits of Master Service Agreements include:

1. Flexibility and Scalability

MSAs allow for flexibility in defining the business arrangement. Rather than negotiating a new contract for each project or engagement, businesses can incorporate Scope of Works to MSAs to address specific details, timelines, and pricing of each project. It enables businesses to easily launch new projects without the need for lengthy contract negotiations or the creation of new agreements from the ground up. This simplified contracting process saves both parties time and effort. 

MSAs are particularly useful for long-term relationships or partnerships that involve multiple projects or engagements over time. As the relationship evolves and new projects arise, the MSA can accommodate the scalability by incorporating additional work orders. This scalability allows for a smooth expansion of the business relationship and facilitates ongoing collaboration.

2. Consistent Terms and Conditions 

An MSA serves as a foundational document that sets out the general terms and conditions governing the overall business relationship between the parties. It provides a standardized framework that remains consistent across multiple projects or engagements. It creates predictability and reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings or disputes. This consistency helps foster long-term relationships and enables smoother collaboration between the parties.

The MSA typically includes provisions that apply universally to the entire relationship, such as definitions, the scope of services, payment terms, intellectual property rights, confidentiality obligations, dispute resolution mechanisms, termination conditions, and governing law. These provisions ensure that the basic terms and conditions remain consistent throughout the relationship.

3. Risk Management

A well-drafted MSA helps protect the interests of both parties and provides a solid foundation for managing and mitigating risks throughout the business relationship. It enables organizations to identify potential bottlenecks related to the nature of services, project deliverables, intellectual property, data security, compliance, and other relevant areas. Also, an MSA includes provisions that allocate risks between the parties involved.

The agreement specifies which party assumes responsibility for potential liabilities. They also outline the indemnification obligations, which determine the party responsible for covering costs and damages resulting from claims made by third parties. By defining a structured process for resolving disputes, the MSA helps manage the risk of prolonged legal battles and associated costs. 

4. Cost Control and Budgeting

Rather than negotiating and drafting a new contract for each project, the parties can rely on the pre-established terms and conditions outlined in the MSA. It saves time and effort in repetitive contract negotiations. Thus, allowing resources to be allocated more effectively and reducing administrative costs.

Also, by specifying pricing structures, payment terms, and invoicing procedures within an MSA, businesses can have better control over costs and budgeting. The MSA sets the foundation for financial arrangements and reduces the need for renegotiating financial terms for each project or engagement. By avoiding disputes and potential financial penalties resulting from inconsistent pricing, businesses can save money and maintain positive relationships with their clients or vendors.

5. Long-Term Relationship Development

A Master Service Agreement (MSA) is beneficial for establishing and managing long-term business relationships. They provide a stable framework that sets out the general terms and conditions for the entire duration of the relationship. The stability creates a sense of continuity and predictability, allowing both parties to plan and operate with confidence over the long term. 

MSAs allow for the negotiation and inclusion of terms that promote mutual benefit and risk sharing. All parties have a vested interest in the relationship’s success and share responsibility for managing risks and achieving desired outcomes. Moreover, the agreement ensures effective collaboration and eliminates misunderstandings by specifying each party's expectations, roles, and responsibilities. 

6. Legal Compliance

MSAs can help ensure legal compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and industry standards. It includes local, state, national, and international laws relevant to the services. By explicitly stating the requirement for contract compliance, the MSA establishes a legal framework that guides the behavior of both parties.

In some cases, an MSA may include provisions related to insurance requirements. These provisions protect both parties by ensuring adequate coverage against potential risks and losses. Outlining regulations, standards, and obligations clearly ensures that parties understand their legal responsibilities and encourages compliance to avoid potential liability. Thus, organizations can identify any compliance gaps and allow for timely corrective actions to be taken.


While the reasons for using MSAs may vary depending on the industry, business model, and specific circumstances of the parties involved, MSAs lay the legal groundwork for all future business arrangements. It helps mitigate risks and provides a consistent framework for the relationship. It typically includes provisions related to liability, indemnification, intellectual property, confidentiality, and dispute resolution, ensuring that both parties interests are protected throughout their engagement. They can be customized and tailored to meet the unique needs and requirements of the organization while protecting the interests of both parties involved. Moreover, with MSAs, businesses can experience speedy and painless negotiations.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is not intended to be legal advice; rather, all information, content, and resources accessible through this site are for purely educational purposes. This page's content might not be up to date with legal or other information.
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