The Path to Contract Enlightenment Needn’t be a Rocky One: An Interview with Mark Rhodes, Managing Director (Europe), ContractWorks
The past 12 months have thrown up challenge upon challenge for every department of every organisation, and in-house lawyers, often responsible for contracts worth millions of pounds, have been no exception.
The scramble to identify hidden costs, financial risk, and often-forgotten clause language, such as force majeure, has thrown into stark relief the challenge of maintaining visibility of agreements. Add to that a newly displaced, remote workforce, trying to maintain business continuity during a crisis, and the problem of accessing the right contract information has been even more acute.
So, for many teams, this adversity has become an opportunity to recalibrate and reprioritise the way they work and think carefully about how they address their most important process challenges. And often this has meant a renewed focus on post-signature contract management.
For some years now, legal tech has served up a mind-blowing array of brilliant innovations to help lawyers work: how they manage their workload and time; how they analyse and review contracts; how they collaborate with clients and coworkers. And, inevitably, the lion’s share of this innovation has focused on expediting the process of drafting, reviewing, negotiating and executing contracts.
However, it’s the latter part of the contract lifecycle, where negotiations have been completed and contracts signed, that not only carries the greatest risk of financial and reputational damage (it only takes one missed auto-renewal, after all), but has also presented some of the most significant challenges in the COVID era.
For many teams, using new technology to manage post signature contracts and maintain visibility of obligations has been seen as a ‘nice to have’. It’s often a low-priority topic (the contract’s already been agreed and signed), where responsibilities for delivering against an agreement may have been devolved to other teams within the organisation anyway.
What’s more, existing systems, such as Excel, can be adapted to track key contract information, thus avoiding the pressure to adopt new technology (or confront the eye-popping line-up of legal tech available). Add to that the perceived time and cost of implementing new technology to solve a low priority problem, the burden of making a business case and the complications of choosing the ‘right’ solution, and it’s not hard to see why post-signature contract management slips down the to-do list.
But using technology to improve visibility of executed agreements and reduce risk doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming or difficult. And the key to appreciating this point is an acceptance of the fact that legal tech solutions don’t need to solve all of your contract management challenges at once.
At ContractWorks, we’ve chosen to specialise in driving value for our customers through the creation of an easy-to-use contract repository that can act as a single source of truth for legal teams.
By focusing on a single, commonplace problem statement (usually, “we don’t know where our contracts are and we don’t know what’s in them”), our customers can pick off the one aspect of contract management that carries the most risk and solve it with a simple point solution.
They get the benefit of using technology designed specifically for their challenge (rather than hacking something together with existing tools or buying a solution where half the features go unused), without the need to take on the heavy lift of a wholesale transformation project. On average, legal teams working with ContractWorks are fully up and running in two weeks.
The COVID pandemic has shone a light on process improvements that can benefit in-house lawyers and the interests they represent, and technology is often the solution. By adopting a mindset that technology doesn’t need to solve everything at once, and prioritising the areas which carry the most risk to the organisation, the journey to achieving increased visibility and control of post-signature contracts can be faster, smoother and more affordable than you might expect.