Contract management software and recent technology like artificial intelligence and natural language processing are helping law firms and legal departments confront the many challenges of contracts.
Contracts are hard. Both ubiquitous and impenetrable, they are read by many and understood by few. The plain language movement has done little to simplify everyday legal contracts, which often contain center-embedded clauses filled with low-frequency jargon, passive-voice construction and non-standard capitalization. Not only do these linguistic features make contracts difficult to understand, but they also make it hard for users to recall any of the information they spent hours devouring.
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Advances in Contract Automation and Management
New technological developments are redefining the kinds of tools attorneys use to manage contracts, all of which influence the content of contracts and the process by which they are made. Here’s a look at a few of the contract management software products shaking up the legal industry.
Legal Contract Management and Unmanageable Numbers
One of the primary challenges a legal team faces is the sheer number of contracts they must manage day to day. Attorneys need tools that can add uniformity to the plethora of contracts that hold a company together. These tools must be able to organize, update and track all agreements circulating between a business and its clients, vendors and employees. This is the job of Lexion, a contract management system that deploys natural language processing technologies to help legal teams manage their contracts. The platform, which prides itself on its intuitive, quick and easy implementation, allows a company to create “a single source of truth” for all its contracts by organizing them in one central place. The software will then file each contract by type and provide users with automated alerts for key dates, keeping employees abreast of all renewal and expiration timelines.
Into the Thick of It
But what about all the nitty-gritty details of a contract? What tools can help companies (and their attorneys) navigate the quagmire of legalese? Powered by AI, contract management platforms are making it easier for legal teams to integrate their work into every division of a company. Juro, for example, offers a templating feature. With this feature, a company’s legal department can create a scalable, off-the-shelf system for contracts, which allows employees to self-serve from a library of preapproved templates. Once the legal team creates a template, other company members can generate their own contracts from that template, using an automated questionnaire to populate all the contract’s variable fields.
This means that a sales representative no longer needs to meet with the legal department to complete high-volume, low-complexity agreements. It also gives the legal team control over the terms and definitions embedded in each contract, as new contracts in the library are always generated with the latest rules developed by company attorneys.
Pushing Boundaries With Advanced Tools
It’s clear, then, that consistency is an important component of contract management software. But legal teams, who are asked to reconcile, negotiate and approve contracts with speed and accuracy, also need more advanced tools. Icertis helps contract negotiations unfold smoothly by incorporating a robust clause library that contains preapproved fallback and dependent clauses in addition to version tracking and one-click approvals. The Icertis platform links each contract to every associated contract or document, such as master service agreements. Attorneys have a holistic view of each agreement and its dependencies. Company employees can negotiate basic terms and create multiple versions of a contract amendment without consulting the legal department. This has the potential to move contracts through the pipeline with fewer hiccups.
A Smooth Contract Management Process
Other contract management platforms remind attorneys that a contract isn’t just a document. It’s a process — a procedure. Contracting requires a diverse set of skills, as contracts need to be drafted, negotiated, managed and reviewed. For example, eBrevia was designed to help with the review process. Reading the fine print and identifying key terms across legal documents is one of the most time-consuming parts of contract work. As a contract analysis software, eBrevia offers customizable features to help legal teams analyze virtually any type of contract. The software performs a first-level review of the document, synthesizing the information in a matter of minutes. This review can detect anomalies by identifying unusual language and undue omissions or additions. It can also compare and contrast two separate documents, pinpointing the exact overlaps and points of convergence.
Once the review process is complete, attorneys can turn to an end-to-end contract lifecycle platform. LinkSquares, for example, was built to handle the nuances of legal documents, nurturing an artificially intelligent program that follows the latest language trends. A key feature of LinkSquares is Finalize, a system that helps users execute a finalized agreement. Users can send contracts for signature directly from the LinkSquares platform. The signature feature is ESIGN, UETA and eIDAS-compliant, which keeps documents secure and enforceable, backed by an immutable audit log. If there are any bottlenecks, LinkSquares can develop comprehensive reports of every action taken on every contract, starting from its first view and ending with its final signature.
The Art of the Contract
The art of the contract no longer needs to remain a secret. As the texts of individual contracts expand in complexity, legal teams can benefit from contract management platforms that extend the capabilities of in-house legal departments. Contracts, after all, aren’t just documents. They are relationships. Contract management platforms are helping us learn more about these relationships, identifying the ways they come together so that we don’t unwittingly let them fall apart.
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