We've had some dealings with some lawyers over the years that has taught us many things. But the sagest advice I ever got from a lawyer was, get it in writing.
Everyone knows that verbal contracts are valid and can be upheld in court (subject of a future post). But they are way harder to defend than written agreements. One lawyer, who also happened to be a good personal friend, told me that if people are unwilling to commit to something in writing, there is a good chance they do not intend to honor the agreement. Sometimes a person will act offended when asked for written confirmation of an agreed upon point. As if you are insulting them by doubting their word. But this is, more often than not, a warning sign.
I got to a point where I would never accept any changes on any level, not even to the smallest detail without written confirmation. This included changes to the final shop drawings, any additions or deletions to the contract or samples, anything. I just got stung once too many times. This was a hard learned lesson.
It's hard sometimes to stick to your guns and insist on written confirmation. But you must do it. And if you start out with the understanding right at the outset, it's much easier than if you go easy at first and then start asking for signatures later.