Life as a busy general counsel is stressful enough without the added dread of not having everything you need at the touch of a button.
We’ve all been there. A crisis strikes, the executive board demands to know what the impact is, where the problems are, how big the risk is, and what mitigating action we can take.
It’s at times like these you wish you’d invested in a system of some sort or other that organises all of your contracts, matters and provisions, in one place. A single version of the truth that is dynamically updated, with previous changes documented and stored. A corporate memory no less of what was put in place, who was involved, what they agreed, and how it differs from the norm – assuming you’ve managed to establish a norm – a standardised way of working. A playbook of legal best practice.
For many colleagues in the industry, this vision of the future is still a pipe dream. But with advances in technology and the interoperability of systems improving by the day, these five steps to getting a better night’s sleep are closer than you think:
Ability to search, observe and monitor all existing contract obligations, terms and provisions so you know who needs to do what and when.
Can you imagine that? When is a contract’s end date? Is it an evergreen provision, automatic renewal is approaching, but do you want to continue or risk being bound in for another year? Mapping the obligations you’ve got and mapping the obligations they’ve got, finding a way to visualise that so you can monitor prospective performance in real time. Far healthier than waiting for a problem. And then dusting off the contract and realising you could have spotted it and dealt with it earlier.
Enable your customers or clients to have a digital contract experience for anything they want to do – create a new contract, renewal, termination, request a change to terms – initiate, negotiate, execute.
Sounds simple this one but requires a fair amount of process mapping and workflow design. It’s all there and happening in an analogue way but, as our CEO once said, don’t put lipstick on a pig. Get your house in order, smooth the process, then use tech to oil the engine so it purrs along quietly in the background.
Reduce reliance on your most expensive resource – your people – by only using them for decisions that need really them; for everything else you can use an expert system, to which you have delegated authority.
The idea of triaging incoming requests is relatively new to the legal sector, but dates back to field hospitals that had limited resources, and had to quickly and efficiently decide whether the arriving patient was going to die from their injuries and if so, would treatment prevent the inevitable? Thankfully, legal front doors aren’t quite as grim.
If you configure a legal front door correctly, you can take the user through an easy journey – in an intuitive and helpful way, like picking up an iPhone for the very first time.
They can remain open 24/7, are always welcoming, can collect key data, understand exactly what people want, capture all the info necessary for an internal or external lawyer to progress the matter, and if it’s a frequent request – take the user down a self-service contract.
Pre-contract execution, by knowing if a contract breaches any of your policies or typical negotiation best practices for a customer or client before it touches the legal team.
Scanning third-party papers, using the available technologies you can automatically filter and identify clauses that fall outside of your boundaries. This is a great opportunity to immediately flag up problems/issues in contracts to help you focus your review before they reach your desk. The most innovative organisations are seeing huge savings in resource, as a risk score is allocated to each contract, which is then directed to the right resource to conduct the negotiation (i.e. low-risk score to lower-cost environments) and the reviewing effort is directed onto the points of substance.
Those that adopt WC&C’s (formerly IACCM) fair dealing principles are in an even better place, as the rejection of terms is based on sound, fair business practices. Not seeking an unfair advantage, simply creating a level playing field.
A dynamic map of your friction points and bottlenecks, and a dashboard view as to whether these are red, amber or green in real time.
Rather than coming in blind each day, wouldn’t it be better to have a colour-coded dashboard that gives you the state of play in an easy-to-read format, allowing you to focus in on areas of risk? In my view, this is the future of legal operations. And is the culmination of putting in place the four steps above. It is daft to think legal teams can continue to operate in the dark, lurching from one issue to the next. Firefighting at best, and forever tending to the baby in the room with everyone’s attention diverted to the loudest cry.
If any of the above strikes a chord, why not join us tomorrow when we get together with DocuSign to talk about the current state of the industry and how advances in technology are leading the way to a smarter future.