Contract management has turned into a buzzword in the legal industry over the past few years. The term generally connotes a process: the process by which contracts are managed. However, it has been used as a job title, Contract Manager; a line on a larger job description, and as a description of what a software can offer.
While successful contract management is possible without a technology solution, legal tech offerings can improve ROI, reduce risk, and improve turn-around times as compared to a human resource. This is not to say that your team is less valuable, but that you can invest in a team dedicated to high-value work, rather than investing in administrative functions.
If we’re considering technology, what, then, are the four secrets to successful contract management?
1. Create reliable intake processes
Simple and repeatable intake creates efficiencies in collecting information from internal customers while providing a simple audit for requests pending, incomplete request, and completed work.
Technological improvement to intake processes blends the importance of a single intake point, like an online intake form (no more emailed requests!), and workflow automation. Your internal customers input the information you actually need through the form, and based on the type of work and criteria it meets, the matter can be auto-assign, started, or with highly-repeatable documents like an NDA, sent straight to signature without attorney intervention.
While elements like this greatly impact the legal team by saving time and effort, it also benefits your internal customers. You’re able to fulfill their requests more quickly with less back-and-forth, smoothing the relationship between the legal department and requesting departments.
2. Use a CLM tool to collaborate on important documents
While this might not seem like a secret, it’s included in this post because it’s a critical piece of success. Even more critical is consistency in collaboration and documentation.
Keep your work in a place that is visible to your team members with appropriate permissions (don’t worry, your tool keeps track of that for you). If you’re out of office, especially unexpectedly (like getting stuck without power for a week in a winter storm), your team members still in office will be able to see what you were working on, address time-sensitive issues, and understand the context.
What should be tracked? Every relevant detail to the matter. Capturing an email from the external party with an expectation or reasoning is a simple example that you’re likely to capture. However, a reference to a previous contract in your system that sets a precedent for how you handle this one can be an important note for future reference; or may be helpful during renegotiations at renewal.
Use the documentation abilities in your system to manage your risk, explain your decisions, and make your life easier if/when you revisit the matter.
3. Be diligent with contract storage
Central repositories feel like a heaven-sent option if you’ve been housing executed contracts on individual computers, in complicated manual folder systems, or, gulp, in filing cabinets.
Good contract storage can and does exist without a central repository, but this technology offers a huge savings of time to legal teams. How?
- Central repositories can automatically store your contracts to reduce filing time
- Retrieve files quickly when they are needed – whether you originally worked on the contract or not
- Pull all contracts with a specific term, clause, or special circumstance in seconds
- Generate auditing reports in minutes – no more digging through contracts to find everything you need!
Diligence in storing contracts – using technology or not – will reduce risk, increase compliance, and save time. This should be a key part of your contract management road to success.
Legal teams are focusing more heavily on proving their department value to leadership. Reporting on KPIs, capacity planning, productivity building (and proof), delivery time reports, and renewal and expiration tracking are just a few tools departments use to prove value. CLM tools help attorneys do this more easily by providing up-to-date dashboard reports and the ability to pull field-based reports as needed. When searching for legal operations tools, be sure to get a detailed understanding of what reports are possible in the system and how they are built. When you have the ability to build them as needed, it empowers you to get the information that matters to you, making your tool more valuable.