What is Master Service agreement?

A Master Service Agreement (MSA) is a contract between two parties that outlines the terms and conditions of a long-term business relationship. It is a foundational document that sets the framework for any work or services that may be provided in the future.

An MSA is typically used in industries where ongoing services are required, such as technology, consulting, or construction. The agreement sets out the expectations of both parties and lays the groundwork for how they will work together over the course of the relationship.

It is a more complex with extremely technical language and more complicated terms and conditions. Because of the careful consideration given to legal issues during the drafting process, these contracts serve as the foundation for all succeeding transactions and agreements. 

However, it is important to note that an MSA is a legally binding contract and should be carefully reviewed and negotiated by both parties. It is important to ensure that the terms and conditions are fair and reasonable and that they accurately reflect the needs of both parties.

In addition, an MSA should be periodically reviewed and updated as needed to ensure that it remains relevant and effective. As the business relationship evolves, it may be necessary to revise the terms and conditions of the MSA to reflect any changes.

Types of agreements governed by a Master Service Agreement can include:

  1. Statement of Work (SOW) – an SOW is a specific document that outlines the details of a particular project or service. It typically includes project timelines, deliverables, and pricing. The MSA will often reference the SOW, and the terms of the MSA will govern the SOW.
  2. Service Level Agreement (SLA) – an SLA is a document that outlines the performance expectations for a particular service. It typically includes metrics such as uptime, response time, and resolution time. The MSA may reference the SLA, and the terms of the MSA will govern the SLA.
  3. Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) – an NDA is a legal agreement that prohibits the disclosure of confidential information. The MSA may include an NDA, which will govern the handling of confidential information throughout the relationship.
  4. Master Consulting Agreement (MCA) – an MCA is a type of MSA that is specifically tailored to consulting services. It typically includes clauses related to intellectual property, warranties, and indemnification. The MCA will govern any consulting services provided under the agreement.
  5. Master Purchase Agreement (MPA) – an MPA is a type of MSA that is specifically tailored to purchasing goods or services. It typically includes clauses related to delivery, pricing, and warranties. The MPA will govern any purchases made 

What is the purpose of Master Service Agreement?

There are two main reasons for using MSA:

  1. The primary purpose of an MSA is to save time and resources by eliminating the need to renegotiate terms and conditions for each new project or service provided. Instead, the parties can simply refer back to the MSA for guidance. This can help to rationalize the contracting process and make it more efficient.
  2. Another purpose of an MSA is to build trust between the parties. By establishing clear expectations up front, both parties can be confident in their roles and responsibilities throughout the relationship. This can help to reduce misunderstandings and disputes and raise a more positive working relationship.



  • Product and Project Management: In the event of a problem who is responsible for delivering & installing the products or services?
  • Employee Management: Both parties should list requirements for potential employees and background checks and other employment screening activities. 
  • Income and Expense: Determining how a cost will be projected and how payments will be obtained and processed.
  • Insurance Coverage: Who will be in charge of insurance acquisition and what penalties will be imposed if the responsible party fails to acquire and maintain the agreed-upon insurance coverage? 
  • Escrow and Security: Who provides backup funding and payment for project or product protection?
  • Government Requirements and Liabilities: Where will the work be done? Who will be in charge of ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations, as well as risk mitigation?
  • Tax Responsibility: Who will track taxes and how will tax obligations be distributed and reconciled? 
  • Third-party Coverage and Concerns: How will actions involving a third party be handled and who will be responsible to resolve these problems or disputes?
  • Term & Termination: MSA should specify the term of the agreement and the conditions under which the agreement can be terminated. It may specify the notice requirements, and any obligations or liabilities that may remain after termination. It should include provisions for renewals or extensions of the agreement, as well as any notice requirements for termination.

What are the essential elements of Master service Agreement?

  • Scope of work – The MSA should clearly define the scope of work or services to be provided under the agreement. This may include a description of the services, the deliverables, and the timeline for completion.
  • Confidentiality The MSA should include provisions to protect the confidentiality of any information exchanged between the parties. This may include requirements for non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, or other provisions to ensure that sensitive information is protected. Both the Parties further agree that any business secrets or confidential information shall not be disclosed to any third parties without written consent. This will include any form of trade secrets and intellectual property which belong to the company.
  • Dispute ResolutionThe MSA may include provisions related to dispute resolution. It may specify the method to resolve the disputes, whether through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, and any other relevant procedures.
  • Jurisdiction – A jurisdiction clause specifies the jurisdiction or legal venue in which any disputes arising under the agreement will be resolved. This clause will specify a particular court or arbitration forum that will have exclusive jurisdiction over any disputes arising under the MSA. The jurisdiction may be based on the physical location of one or both parties or on a neutral location that is agreed upon by the parties.
  • Limitation of Liability– MSA should include provisions related to indemnification and liability for damages or other losses that may occur during the course of the agreement. It should specify the extent of liability, any exclusions or limitations and any insurance requirements. A limitation of liability clause in a Master Service Agreement (MSA) is a provision that limits the amount of damages that can be recovered by one party in the event of a breach of contract or other legal claim. This clause is intended to protect the parties from excessive or unforeseeable financial losses that may result from a breach or other legal claim.
The limitation of liability clause includes:
  • Liability Cap – This section specifies the maximum amount of damages that can be recovered by one party in the event of a breach or other legal claim. This may be a fixed amount or a multiple of the fees paid under the agreement.
  • Types of Damages – This section defines the types of damages that are covered by the liability cap, such as direct damages, indirect damages, consequential damages, or punitive damages.
  • Exceptions to Liability Cap – This section may include exceptions to the liability cap, such as breaches of confidentiality, intellectual property infringement, or fraud.
  • Mitigation of Damages – This section may require the parties to take reasonable steps to mitigate damages in the event of a breach or other legal claim.
  • Indemnification – This section may include an indemnification clause that requires one party to compensate the other party for damages resulting from a breach or other legal claim.

The purpose of the limitation of liability clause is to provide a reasonable and predictable framework for allocating risk between the parties and to ensure that both parties have an understanding of the potential financial consequences of a breach or other legal claim. It is important to note that the liability cap is not intended to limit liability for intentional or grossly negligent acts and that each case may be different and require specific legal advice.

  • Geographic LocationThis clause defines the geographic location where the services will be performed or delivered. This may include a specific address, city, state, country, or region. The purpose of the geographic location clause is to provide clarity and transparency around the location of service delivery, and to ensure that both parties are aware of any requirements or costs associated with delivering services in a particular location. This clause is particularly important for cross-border transactions or when services are being delivered in a jurisdiction with which one party is not familiar. 
  • Payment Clauses This clause defines the payment terms for the work or services provided under the agreement. It may include the price or rates for services, payment schedules, and any additional expenses or fees that may be incurred
  • Intellectual PropertyThis clause include provisions related to intellectual property ownership. It should specify who owns any intellectual property developed during the course of the agreement and how that ownership will be shared or transferred.
  • Severability: In the event, if any provision of MSA is deemed to be invalid or unenforceable in whole or part, that part shall be severed from the remainder of this Agreement and all other provisions shall remain in full force and effect as valid and enforceable.
  • Governing Law: This clause specifies which law will govern the interpretation and enforcement of the MSA. The governing law clause is an essential element of an MSA as it determines which law will apply in case of any legal disputes between the parties.
  • Warranties and Guarantees For a particular type of product and service, there will be particular different forms of warranties and guarantees. Warranties would be related to the products which are offered or the services offered. Guarantees would be in the form of a third-party assurance for the services provided or the products delivered during the MSA.
  • Standards of Work (SOW)Usually in the Master Service Agreement there would be specific standards of work which has to be carried out in the agreement. If the SOW fall below the specific standards then it would lead to some form of disputes. Though, there will be no disputes if the standards are maintained by the parties.


What are the advantages of Master Service Agreement?

  • Efficiency – An MSA streamlines the contracting process by establishing the basic terms and conditions that will govern future transactions between the parties. This can save time and reduce legal costs as the parties do not need to negotiate every individual transaction.
  • Clarity – By defining the rights and obligations of the parties in advance an MSA can help to minimise misunderstandings and disputes that may arise during the course of a transaction.
  • Consistency – An MSA provides a consistent framework for future transactions which can help to promote consistency in the quality of services or products delivered and can help to build a long-term relationship between the parties.
  • Flexibility – An MSA can be altered to meet the specific needs of the parties and can be amended as necessary to reflect changes in the business relationship or regulatory requirements.
  • Risk Management – An MSA can help to manage the risks associated with a business relationship by establishing clear expectations for performance defining the scope of services or products to be delivered and allocating risk between the parties.
  • Cost Savings – An MSA can help to reduce the legal costs associated with individual transactions by establishing a standardized framework that can be used for multiple transactions. Also, an MSA can help to minimize the risk of costly legal disputes by providing a clear framework for resolving disputes.


Common Master Services Agreement Disputes

The most common disputes under MSAs include:

Payment Disputes – This type of dispute may arise when one party fails to pay the agreed-upon fees or expenses or when there is a disagreement over the amount or timing of payment.

Scope of Services Disputes – This type of dispute may arise when there is a disagreement over the scope of services or products to be delivered under the MSA or when one party believes that the other party has failed to deliver the required services or products.

Intellectual Property Disputes – This type of dispute may arise when one party alleges that the other party has infringed its intellectual property rights or when there is a disagreement over ownership or use of intellectual property created or used during the course of the business relationship.

Termination Disputes – This type of dispute may arise when one party seeks to terminate the MSA before the end of its term or when there is a disagreement over the grounds or consequences of termination.

Liability Disputes – This type of dispute may arise when one party alleges that the other party has breached the MSA resulting in damages or losses or when there is a disagreement over the allocation of risk or liability under the MSA.


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