Legal’s Digital Transformation: 3 Core Needs for Remote Contract Work
It almost seems like a joke. What did it take to make a macroscopically large shift in the legal industry’s outlook on contract automation tools? The answer: a microscopically small virus that forced remote contract work across corporate legal departments – worldwide!
CRISIS LEARNING POINTS IN LEGAL’S DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Ironically or not, there is an opportunity in the COVID-19 crisis. And that is for general counsels to transform legal teams for a digital future.
After all, there is a push now for greater efficiency through digitization, as corporate legal teams and legal services departments have transitioned to working from home (WFH).
IS LONG-TERM REMOTE WORK THE NEW NORM?
We called it out in our recent IACCM webinar: “Contract Management Tips to prepare for the Next Crisis.” Many companies view their recent remote work as a temporary measure. In fact, we all thought this would be a lockdown of a few weeks at most. But the need for social isolation and legal staff to WFH is becoming longer-lived than that. And what if we must continue to work remotely until a vaccine materializes for everyone? That could make this self-isolation period last anywhere between 16 to 18 months. Is your legal team ready for that possibility? Today’s corporate legal teams need to focus on getting contract management right.
Or what if going back to the office is not the ‘return to normal’ that we expected? What if the ‘new norm’ is not scheduling time to WFH, but the other way around? Maybe service delivery will come from legal teams that work remotely more regularly than they work in the office.
This certainly paints legal digital transformation in an entirely different light. Contract automation tools, for instance, are not just nice-to-haves anymore. In this new world, they become efficiency-defining elements for legal teams.
THREE CORE NEEDS FOR REMOTE CONTRACT WORK AND LEGAL’S DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Today’s corporate legal teams need to focus on getting contract management right. This is especially true during periods of crisis. These are the times in which some clients default on payments or business partners fail to deliver critical supplies. And this puts extra pressure on your team to have a real-time pulse on your contracts.
So, your legal department needs to focus on:
1. EFFECTIVENESS & EFFICIENCY
This is where having a smart contract repository is instrumental. Not only does it allow your contract team to find agreements quickly, it provides extracted summaries of each contract. This is a result of the machine learning and artificial intelligence of systems like EV, powered by IBM Watson AI.
Look, too, for elements that help to speed up your processes outside of the office. For example, built-in e-signature capabilities with your contracts can make a dramatic difference to your team’s overall impact on the business – even as they work remotely.
Collaborative tools are also crucial here. Think of the option to negotiate with the sales team on the finer details of the contract. If you do this sequentially, it can take weeks to finalize a particular deal. But if you do it collaboratively, with real-time updates, it can be completed within a few hours. And all this with an audit trail to keep everyone on the same page.
Security is important to everyone these days. Cybercriminals lurk everywhere, looking for vulnerabilities. As a result, your legal team simply cannot put digital contracts and associate documents in a DropBox, for instance.
Brian Kint, a privacy and data security attorney for Cozen O’Connor, points out that you can “let minor things go when most of the workforce is in the office, but when lawyers are largely dispersed throughout the country, there needs to be strict compliance to make sure the data is where it needs to be.” That means that corporate contracts cannot be stored on personal hard disk drives (HDD), thumb drives (USB), or other memory cards either.
With a contract management system (CMS), though, all agreements are immediately stored in a secure smart contract repository. This aspect specifically ties into both security and efficiency.
Contract automation will help your team drive greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Truly, contract automation will help your legal team to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness within the organization.
Just think about automatically generated contracts based on standard and accepted terms and conditions. That element, alone, will save your team considerable time otherwise spend on mundane projects. So let this self-service tool take away your busywork and speed up the process for simple tasks while allowing your team to focus on higher-level business matters.
Also, intelligently automated workflows allow for important approval gates. But it can be set up in a way that if one approver becomes ill (not unlikely during this lockdown), the entire agreement will not block. Instead, alternative approvers are allowed to keep the business running smoothly.
Another example of contract automation is a smart summary. A good CMS uses its AI to extract and summarize pertinent details. These help attorneys quickly find out whether they have the right contract and document for review.
And yet another example is AI analytics. This is particularly vital during a crisis, as the senior leadership team will want to know your exposure to certain clauses. The search for terms and conditions discussing ‘force majeure’ is an excellent example of this.
LEGAL’S DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW
So indeed, it took a microscopic virus to create a tidal wave in the legal industry. Legal digital transformation in the contract domain is no longer a luxury. Contracts are the lifeblood of modern businesses. As such, contract management is one of the most important elements of legal’s digital transformation journey.
And given the uncertainty around this present crisis, it is critical that GCs and legal teams move as quickly as possible to better prepare their companies for the next wave. Check out our e-book, ‘Three Stages of Legal Digital Transformation.’ So do not let this opportunity to digitize your processes escape you.
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