In this episode, Bernadette Bulacan the Lead Evangelist at Icertis, discusses her legal background and experiences, emphasising the current challenges in the legal profession amid the global pandemic.

She highlights the role of Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) and how Icertis aids organizations in streamlining contracting processes for business continuity. Bernadette advises organizations to create a team of champions for successful digital transformation.


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Dom Burch: Welcome back to Legal Tech Made Simple with me, Dom Burch. I’m not a lawyer and I’m not a techie, which makes me perfectly qualified to make legal tech simple. And I’m absolutely delighted to be joined today by Bernadette Bulacan, who’s the Lead Evangelist from Icertis. Now, Bernadette can draw down on her experiences as an assistant general counsel, law firm partner, and legal tech entrepreneur.

She’s a frequent speaker regarding the digital transformation of the legal profession, and specifically the modern legal department. Bernadette’s expertise includes the adoption of legal technologies, data and performance metrics for legal departments, and other innovative practices that are helping transform the practice of law. Bernadette, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the podcast.

Bernadette Bulacan: Dom, thanks so much for having me.

Dom Burch: Tell our listeners a little bit about your background. How did you get into legal tech in the first place? And I believe it goes back to the kind of early dot com era.

Bernadette Bulacan: It certainly does. So, I loved your intro because I am a lawyer by training, kind of a moonlighter when it comes to technology, but I’ve always been so very interested in startups and technology. And so, I had started my practice, with a Silicon Valley firm called Venture Law Group, working with startups and entrepreneurs doing venture capital financings and transactions. And it is kind of funny that we’re in a global crisis right now because I just feel like my career has all been about global crisis. So, I was part of the dot com bust. I was part of the boom for a bit, then the bust and it was after the bust that I joined a team of lawyers that were developing, which would be one of the leading e-billing technologies for corporate legal departments, Serengeti and the e-billing tool with Serengeti Tracker. That’s where I really cut my teeth on learning about legal tech development, the pains and challenges that legal departments were having, especially as it pertained to outside counsel. I spent several years at Tracker, went back, and did a little interlude back in private practice. But eventually came back to that original team at Serengeti and it was there at Serengeti and after we sold Serengeti to Thompson Reuters, where again another global crisis happened in 2008. I was on the front lines of watching this changing legal market. A lot of the lessons that I learned in 2008 in the recession, I think, play out here post this pandemic, but it’s been so exciting for me and each of my career, in each of these steps in my career is just to see how technology has really transformed the practice.

Dom Burch: And there are these moments on there throughout the kind of recent history where things like the dot com crash and financial crisis and so forth. Those act as real catalysts, don’t they, for change, and you see real leaps there made by sectors and industries. And I guess what the legal profession is going through now is this kind of forced home working, the need to be able to share information more seamlessly. And some of those old-fashioned practices of wet signatures and all that stuff are having to go whether people have wanted to let go of them or not.

Bernadette Bulacan: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, I just want to shout out to all my friends and colleagues that are working parents, working lawyers, home schoolers, this is a crisis like no other. But again, to your point, digitization is our only outlet. So more than a catalyst it is our sole way to interact whether it’s professionally, socially outside kind of our nuclear families. And so, we’ve the good news is we’ve always had the tools and I think the thing that has always been the hurdle has been mindset, especially for attorneys, as lawyers, we are taught to be very deep in a particular subject matter. We get very comfortable on the box that we put ourselves in and sometimes we are forced, like we are today, to break out of the box and feel uncomfortable about how we are delivering that legal service. The good news is that I think there’s so many opportunities and we are seeing exactly how flexible we can be as lawyers in delivering the service. It has nothing to do with the quality of work and the arts of your legal advice, it really goes to delivery.

Dom Burch: So, let’s go back a year and you joined Icertis. People will have heard of Icertis, they’ll know the software, but just tell us a little bit about the role first of all, because I think you’ve got the best job title in the industry. You’re an evangelist. I mean, that sounds like my kind of gig. How do you get to be an evangelist?

Bernadette Bulacan: Yes, I go around converting hearts and minds. I joke about it. I joke about it, but I’m sincere about it. So, I do love technology and I love it in the hands of lawyers. And after when I joined Thompson Reuters, that was part of my role was to evangelize the use of tech, not just technology, but all these different ways that we were looking at. The relationship between in house and outside counsel, whether it was the use of alternative fee arrangements, the use of alternative service providers. All of that was happening, again to your point an accelerated pace after the financial global crisis. And I had the very good fortune of being able to work with legal departments as they were looking at technologies, the wise of deploying the technology, how they were going to measure success. I was both a student and teacher and went around the world again, mostly focused at that time on e-billing, the data that was coming out of these systems, and working with innovative general counsel. We thought in addition to the automation and the efficiency, what can we gain from these systems, what data can we take out of these systems, and how could we use that data to tell a different story about how we work, what we’ve contributed. And I believe that CLM offers that all over again. I am very thankful for these innovative legal departments, all the legal department ops, professionals that have been ushering in technology because they are the ones that have created this groundswell and this confidence for lawyers and legal departments to embrace that technology.

And now that they’ve had comfort in things like e-billing, e-discovery, they are ready to look at other parts of their practice, including contracting, to embrace technology, to look at opportunities to tell a different story, to talk about data. And I am so excited about joining the Icertis team to do that because this is the next trajectory for legal departments. Now we’re starting on this other trajectory.

Dom Burch: And what kind of things are some of the customers of Icertis saying to you when you go out and meet them. Quite often we’re bumping in now to large companies, large law firms, particularly legal teams that might be displaced globally saying, do you know what we really need? We need a digital front door that just helps triage all this incoming request from our own people and helps us navigate and filter and sift and in some cases even self-serve some of these legal documents that, gosh, even going back two or three years would have been, would have been unheard of.

So, what kind of things are customers telling you that they, is there pressing need now?

Bernadette Bulacan: I’ve been talking to several of our customers, especially right now in the pandemic and the fact is that business has to continue, contracting has to continue. I think one of the reasons why I was so attracted to coming into CLM is when I spoke to our CEO, Samir Bodas, I’ve always known this because I’ve worked in contracting and I’ve done transactions. He said to me, ‘Bernadette, you do realize that every dollar in and out of an organization is represented by a contract.’ And it was this kind of simple phrase with such an epiphany to me. So, I share that now because again, business needs to continue, contracting needs to continue.

Contracting is having its day. If you asked me six months ago how many people knew what force majeure was, I would say a very small group of individuals. Globally, we all know what force majeure is. So, I believe contracting is having its day and contracting teams are feeling pressure. They are being asked to look at their global agreements, better understand what’s in them, how flexible they are, what other suppliers might be able to provide, each of these widgets and all these goods, other contracting teams are looking about, again, flexibility in the relationship, because right now everything is so uncertain.

One of our customers said to me now that they’ve had digitized their agreements, they were early adopters. He was able to say, first of all, we were able to work from home and transition without interruption because our teams are just so used to working on the platform.

So that type of efficiency in and of itself with work from home is incredible, especially at the start of the pandemic, they were asked to surface impacted agreements and not only look at which agreements might be impacted by geography or division again around the world, they had to be able to very quickly across a portfolio of tens of thousands of agreements, pull out specific clauses. That would have been undoable in a manual world, let alone in a world where you weren’t able to go to your physical steel file cabinet and pull them out. The only way that type of work is done is through technology and digitization. And the thing that was struck me so much was he said, in these uncertain times, being able to surface that data was their currency as a legal and contracting team. Because in an uncertain time, being able to deliver that data helped to feed confidence and calm. And that was priceless and tremendous to hear just exactly how our customers have been relying on the system for business continuity. You know, it’s hard to say that they’re thriving, but I just can’t imagine what this would have looked like in a manual paper world.

Dom Burch: And so, what would your advice be to perhaps one of our listeners from, who’s at a large law firm or in a large organization themselves and going, I know we need to start this journey. I want to take the first step. You know, we need Icertis in our world. What would your advice be to help internally get the traction they need? Because often it’s a hearts and minds thing, isn’t it? It’s about helping people internally understand the value and getting some early wins.

Bernadette Bulacan: I’ve always gone back right now to the fact that this is a global pandemic. And when I look at our customers, they are big, complex organizations. My first piece of advice is to create a team of champions across your organization, because that pain that is being felt is global. It is across geographies and across divisions, right. This is not just a legal department pain. This is a procurement pain, a commercial team pain, a CRO pain, a CFO pain. Again, underlying all of the work where each of those organizations are their contracts. And so, I would really encourage you to find that team of champions, because that is when you can start this process of understanding where they sit, how they’re contracting now, and doing that early diligence.

You have this shared pain to really start this initiative to embrace digital transformation. If not now, when? You know, unfortunately, if this is the new normal, maybe it’s a pandemic, but maybe it’s something else. Having the flexibility of digitization for your contracts in place. You know, eventuality is that you must prepare for, but to prepare for it with, again, a global team that takes into account geographies, And across divisions.

It sounds like a very heavy lift. I was just reading an article that these little solutions everywhere. And that becomes more of a burden. And so, thinking about it globally, holistically, and having a team of champions will be the best first step that you could take.

Dom Burch: Bernadette, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

We could talk all day long, but we can’t. So, thank you so much for joining us. Bernadette Bulacan, who’s the lead evangelist at Icertis. Thank you.

Bernadette Bulacan: Thanks Dom. Appreciate it.