How General Counsel and Legal can become a game changer

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Are you looking for new ways you, General Counsel (GC) and Legal teams, can contribute real value to your organisation? Become a game changer?

Legal transformation provides General Counsel with a great opportunity to make a real difference; by reducing costs, increasing productivity, managing risk exposure and by positioning Legal as a dynamic function instead of a cost centre and risk-oriented function.

Let’s explore one area where you can make a significant contribution: Contract Lifecycle Management.

But first, a question. Do you have a contract lifecycle management problem?

  • Are you frustrated when business units send a contract request with little to no information about the details of the agreement, igniting a seemingly endless stream of email exchanges?
  • Do you feel like you’re constantly reinventing the wheel with each drafting of a contract?
  • Is reviewing, then re-reviewing contracts excessively time-consuming and tedious?
  • Do you ever feel that simple contracts (e.g. NDAs) could easily be handled by the business unit itself?
  • Do you spend too much time trying to track down a single contract?
  • Do you find yourself dealing with complex issues with the pressure to turn agreements around faster?

If you answered “no” to all these questions, congratulations you may NOT have a contract management problem. Also, what’s your secret? 

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions like the rest of us, then you may indeed have a contract management problem.

Before you give up your bar license and pursue that pre-law school dream of being an artist, writer, or rock star (I wanted to be all three), there is hope. Life as a General Counsel, particularly when it comes to managing your organisation’s contracts, doesn’t have to be this challenging. There are contract lifecycle management technologies that leverage automation and artificial intelligence. As a result, this helps corporate legal departments increase their efficiencies and improve overall work satisfaction.

What is Contract Lifecycle Management?

For any mid-sized or large company, there is a tremendous pressure on the legal department to stay on top of the organisation’s contracts. Think of the number of potential legal and financial risks and obligations that may exist in any given contract. Now, multiply those risks and obligations by the total number of contracts being handled by your organisation (usually in the tens-of-thousands). See the issue?

Effective contract management will allow you to locate contracts and assess their risks and obligations quickly and effectively. It should ensure contract requests are delegated to the appropriate department and drafted efficiently, leveraging the company’s preferred clause library. When the board of directors wants an audit of all the orgnaisation’s contracts to fully understand revenue, expenses and risk – how quickly can that be done? A few days? A few weeks? Then, when you’ve completed the task, is that data long forgotten and no longer needed? Good contract management should be able to empower the legal department to gather data quickly to better advise on the health of the business as it stands today.

How Contract Lifecycle Management technology makes your job easier

Contract lifecycle management technology leveraging automation and artificial intelligence can improve the sense of tedium and boredom associated with mundane tasks. These are often handled by the legal team, such as:

  • Locating a contract in a single repository should be as easy as running a simple word search
  • Receiving and processing contract requests should be done on one platform with a complete audit trail of date and time stamps. Say goodbye to those never-ending email exchanges!
  • Faster drafting of legally compliant contracts leveraging a playbook/clause library of preferred language
  • Reviewing third-party paper can go from pressing “Control + F[ind]” for searching legal words or phrases, to simply uploading a contract and extracting legal concepts in their legally relevant context

Creating effective workflows so that the right contracts are being automatically delegated to the appropriate department.

Starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

OK, but won’t some of this technology replace my job?

A magazine headline stated: “Automation’s Really Here; Jobs go Scarce. POINT OF NO RETURN FOR EVERYBODY.”

Whether this magazine was trying to sell more copies or really warning off some impending doom, it’s enough to make you feel uneasy. Funnily enough, that headline is from a Life Magazine issue from July 19, 1963.

Relax. Your job isn’t going anywhere. Might it change a bit? Sure. But you have nothing to fear.

Contract lifecycle management technology can make your job as a General Counsel more important and valuable to the business. Sure, you won’t be able to brag about all that “hard work” you did searching for contracts in emails, zip drives, or in those drawers under that semi-comatose plant. The horror! Is that what you sacrificed your artist/writer/rock star career for anyways? Nope. You got into this work to be helpful, to feel valued, and to pay the bills.

Too often, corporate legal departments are viewed as cost-centres. They don’t generate revenue like the sales team and frankly, you’re never the popular one when all you do is discuss risk and argue over legal and financial exposure. 

With effective contract lifecycle management technology, you are:

  • Elevating your own role: Instead of being the legal naysayer and being met with boardroom (or is it a “bored room?”) *eye-rolls,* you can now better advise on the health of the business because you have meaningful information extracted from your contracts.
  • Helping the company avoid class actions: By having insight into your contract’s legal obligations, you’ll know what duties are owed between you and your business partners.
  • Helping the company save money: When you create those important date alerts for your vendors who impose autorenewal clauses, you can get ahead of that and prevent revenue leakage.
  • A Peacemaker between the legal team and the business units: There is often tension between legal and the other business units. By increasing effective communications and workflows, you may actually enjoy that happy hour with your colleagues.
  • You are helping bring your company into the future by leveraging advanced technology: Artificial intelligence and automation can help you do some tasks faster and we will still need your legal guidance.

Contract lifecycle management for Legal teams is… fun?

Someone recently told me that contract lifecycle management is “fun.” That was a new adjective. The rationale? Contract management allows you to assess risk and obligations.

“Lawyers love researching and fact-finding. Uncovering information from my contracts by leveraging good technology is a kind of fun adventure! And if I can find information that is meaningful to my job, and helpful to my company, then it is fun and rewarding!”

While I’m not expecting Steven Spielberg to start the production of “Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Corporate Contracts” anytime soon, contract lifecycle management can indeed be an interesting, rewarding, and indeed, fun process.

We’ve talked about some of the company-wide benefits that contract lifecycle management can offer your team. However, does it provide any benefits to you?

What about the benefits it offers you?

The contract lifecycle management solution will do your grunt work. This will allow you to focus on the things you enjoy doing more.

You can draft contracts with consistent and legally compliant language. That may let you sleep a little better. Other benefits include:

  • Real-time analysis. Your legal expertise is going to be more valuable when you’re able to advise on the health of the business as it is today, not 3 months ago.
  • Improved communication. Your job will be more rewarding when technology helps improve communication and workflows between you and your colleagues.
  • Fun! You became a lawyer to research, write, think critically, and to be a trusted advisor. When you have good data upon which to draw and not spending an inordinate amount of time digging, you get to do the fun stuff.

To the Life Magazine issue from 1963, you were right: contract lifecycle management that leverages automation and artificial intelligence is here to stay. Although with all these benefits to your company and professional life, I’m not sure it’s something to fear. Just think: this emerging technology could free up some time for you to pursue a side hustle as an artist/writer/rockstar. Worst case scenario? You’re the inspiration for the next “Indiana Jones” film!

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