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Well, flush your guilt down the toilet -- it's their responsibility to find someone to pick up the work, not yours.
That said, if you actually want to do the work, yeah, you can put a liability clause in the contract, but at the end of the day, they've got the money for the lawyers, you don't.
A few years back I worked for a consulting agency that required us consultants to have professional liability insurance (they didn't want to be liable, and I can understand that.) It was cheap enough, and I have kept it even though I no longer work for that agency. In addition to my part time employment, I do consulting, both pro bono and for hourly, and I think it's a good thing to have.
Marc makes an excellent point with regard to liability insurance. I've carried it for so long that I frankly forgot I still have it. If you anticipate doing any freelance work, its a necessity.
Simply be careful to read the fine print, check the reputation of the insurer, and make sure the cap is high enough to cover any reasonable liability you anticipate.
All that said, from your description, it sounds like you're in a particularly litigious segment of the industry. Unless the benefits truly justify the effort and risks, I'd still advise a polite pass.
While I think its overkill in this case, incorporation can provide an additional layer of protection. I mention this in case you ever consider additional opportunities. Forming an LLC, in most states, is comparatively inexpensive and not overly difficult.
I'm going to pass on helping them after everyone's advice. the industrial equipment I controlled was mostly for controlled atmosphere fruit storage warehouses; a single room could be between 1/2 to 2 million dollars in fruit multiply that times say 20 rooms at a customer facility, same system code runs on almost 200 facility's, that's a lot of liability.
while yes, an LLC is an option, it also seem like a lot of work to setup when I just want to sever ties with the previous place and move on.
Thanks for your advice, I'll keep it in mind if I ever decide to go solo.
IYDMA, what is "cheap enough" and how much coverage does that get you?
Did you ever see history portrayed as an old man with a wise brow and pulseless heart, weighing all things in the balance of reason?
Is not rather the genius of history like an eternal, imploring maiden, full of fire, with a burning heart and flaming soul, humanly warm and humanly beautiful?
Training a telescope on one’s own belly button will only reveal lint. You like that? You go right on staring at it. I prefer looking at galaxies.
-- Sarah Hoyt
Thanks, It's looking like too much of a hassle so, I'm going to let them know that I'm passing. Before I left, I said I could give some limited support until they got a new dev; like questions over the phone or emails while my memory still held.
I'm pretty sure I never said anything about touching the code, likely they just assumed it; which is odd, because that usually required being on a customer's site to test changes to the software in how it interacts with all the equipment, no simulating that.
Thanks. With everyone's advice, I think I'm going to pass, I really don't need this headache right now. before I left I let them know I could give limited support; as in: training the next dev on the software structure, and answering basic questions by email, while my memory on that system still held. Really didn't think they would be calling me in for code changes.
As a developer and business owner, I'm going to disagree with the prevailing opinion of 'look after yourself only and ignore the ex employer's interest completely'. These are the issues as I see them:-
-You were primarily responsible for the development of the control software over 18 years.
-Your employer clearly trusts your skills and integrity.
-Employing another developer will take months if not longer for them to get up to speed.
-There is a danger of a new developer corrupting the code.
-Burning bridges can be a costly mistake. new positions often turn out to be worse than the previous. People often go back to previous jobs.
-Protecting yourself is not a big deal. All you need is a signed letter from the empolyer setting out exactly what they want you to do and a clause which indemnifies you against any liability whatsoever. I recommend you give them the 'no liability clause', if you don't want to pay legal fees, there are plenty templates on the internet OR use one from one of the major cloud platform EULAS and adapt for dev work.
As developers we also carry an unsaid responsibility for the products we create. You did say you would provide support before leaving. If you are a developer 'support' means code. How would you like it if all support for a product you relied on simply stopped one day.
Of course you are free to set your own rates.
There are always two sides. It pays to consider both.
There is one thing I should add. Professional Indemnity Insurance is a necessity. DerekTP123 has some good advice on this.
As others have pointed out, you need Professional Indemnity insurance. Don't do a THING for money as a freelancer without it; you could potentially end up bankrupt. It doesn't cost a fortune, and you can claim the cost as an expense for tax purposes. And oddly enough, the insurer never seems to require any sort of evidence whatsoever that you're even vaguely competent, when it comes to software. Most policies do, though, have some sort of clause that only gives protection if you are following "industry best practice" so if you're negligent then even the insurance won't cover you.
PI insurance is just another reason why freelancer rates have to be higher than employee rates; we have more costs, and take higher risks.
First, you already left them. So if they are hanging, it is not your fault.
Second, when being asked back to consult, they are asking to use your most valuable time... Your free time... Weekends.
I look at it this way. If you made $80K/yr ($40/hr) before you left, then as a consultant, you have to start at TRIPLE that ($120/hr). Next, if they want you after you are already working full-time, DOUBLE THAT rate, getting you to $240/hr. Next, if they are the shady type, you make them buy your time, in 10hr chunks, in advance.
Finally, they pick up the cost of the lawyer, up front that will indemnify you and make sure the company will take full responsibility with the ownership of the code.
So, in writing you put those points. Simply put, I am not interested in doing this unless you are willing to pay $250/hr, up front in 10hr increments, and pay the expenses involved in me getting a lawyer to write up a contract that indemnifies me against any damages.
At this point, you are "real estate". You have a specific location in the knowledge of the environment that makes you like a Michael Jordan. You can pick up the ball and move it down the court with ease... You charge "RENT" for that kind of knowledge/ability... And frankly, depending on the size of the company, I wouldn't be against asking for $500/hr...
Why? Because then it becomes them saying no. One of the things I learned (much too late in life), is that if you don't ask, you wont get. When I learned this... I found 1 in 10 will literally take the offer. And if they say NO THANKS... Then there is nothing to feel guilty about!
Now, if they agree, you have to really be ready to do that work for that amount of money... So keep increasing it, until you will GLADLY do the work!
But I've got some guilt on leaving them without another programmer to pick up the load.
That's the problem. You should have no guilt about moving along.
It's nice that you want to help out, but you have no obligation. If you don't want to do it, say so and wish them luck in their endeavors.
Maybe it's smarter of you to have them find another developer, then take on a contract to help bring that person up to speed. Be a mentor to the new person, but don't actually do any of the development. So your knowledge gets passed along, but you shouldn't have any liability for the actual code.
I recently had a problem at my job. We work for a company abroad as contractor, so all our communication is done by Slack and our tasks are on TFS.
The task I want to talk about, was basically to hardcode some items in a list that came from a database. I warned them all that this would break some other modules in our application, because it used that same data. They just told me to finish that task and go on.
It didn't work out and it broke the application, as I have told them many times before.
But my main complaint is that, they sent an email to my manager saying that the RC was broken because of me. I did have all chat history, so it was easy to prove to my boss that I just did what I was told and even warned them many times about that.
Was I really guilt in all of this? Should I have just ignored thier orders and didn't finish the task?