Legal demand is growing faster than Legal capacity
In-house lawyers are under increasing pressure to do more with less. Managing a growing demand for legal support in an environment where budgets are flat or shrinking is the harsh reality for many teams we speak with.
There is a major need for legal to be made more accessible to the enterprise. Fortunately, legal contract automation has become sophisticated and specialised, and in-house teams now have the ability to manage risk across the business more effectively than ever.
Traditionally, when you’d think of contract automation you would be forgiven for thinking of a basic document assembly tool. While the ability to assemble documents from templates is still incredibly useful for Legal teams, it is no longer the only requirement from a contract automation tool.
Here are four examples of functionality you’d expect to see from world-class contract automation tools:
1. Automated approval and execution workflows
In a typical business, Legal is managing a variety of contract support requests - all at various stages of their lifecycle - at any one time.
The unlucky lawyers are required to sift through their email inbox and instant message chains and record verbal support requests to ensure the relevant facts are correctly documented. Once they have the information to write the contract, Legal would typically email (or worse - print and courier!) the document to all necessary approvers and signatories before storing the contract in their filing system once signed.
The issue with managing contracts this way is that it drags out the approval and execution process substantially. Each moment spent sending and waiting for the next stakeholder along the line delays the ultimate business outcome.
It also potentially exposes the business to serious risks where red-flag terms are missed due to the contract owner accidentally leaving out, or assigning the wrong key business or legal approvers from the contract workflow.
To overcome this lengthy and often confusing system, leading Legal teams adopt contract automation tools to streamline and simplify their contract approval and execution workflows.
Through automation, these Legal functions save time and reduce risk by allowing the business to send automated documents straight to the right person for negotiation, approval, delegation and signing from anywhere, at any time, on any device.
Contract workflow platforms like Plexus Gateway also take their automation a step further by automatically saving and storing contracts within the platform and enabling customised reminders to be enabled to automatically remind the business of expiry and renewal dates.
2. Automated intake and contract briefing
Managing legal support across a business of any size becomes increasingly difficult as that business grows. What starts as support for one particular legal matter at a time rapidly grows to multiple business functions that require a range of legal and contract support simultaneously.
Any in-house lawyer will tell you their inbox is constantly filled with support requests and contract briefs coming left, right and centre. New requests, old requests and a whole stack marked URGENT!
This only gets more complex when the Legal team is more than one person and certain lawyers are responsible for managing different legal or contract areas.
Without a simple to follow process for managing these requests it’s all too easy for them (and the inevitable follow-up comms) to get lost in the noise.
To overcome this, Legal teams are adopting technology platforms that automate the legal intake and document triage process.
By digitising the legal intake process the Legal team can ensure they get all the facts they require to begin drafting contracts and advice, every time. These systems allow the business to triage a complete request with all necessary details to the right lawyer, instantly. They will even integrate seamlessly with your Lawyers’ inboxes for those matters and details that come through email to create and triage matters within the platform so lawyers can work on matters in one centralised place.
Automating this process boosts Legal productivity while also maintaining a clear audit trail of all support requests.
3. Automated self-service for common contracts
Top GCs are combatting the “more for less” pressure by introducing contract automation that allows business users to self-serve standard agreements.
Many businesses have contracts that their team frequently use, yet, don’t typically contain a high volume of risk due to containing relatively standard terms each time they are drafted. For some companies, like beauty brand L’Oréal ANZ, this was their Influencer agreement, and in the case of global solar power company Sonnedix, it was their Non-disclosure agreement.
By introducing automation into their contracting process and templating their standardised contracts, these Legal functions were able to empower the business to take on the repetitive, low-risk tasks. Now Legal is only involved in exceptional circumstances, rather than every contract.
By freeing the Legal team from working on high volumes of these standardised contracts, the L’Oreal and Sonnedix Legal teams now have the capacity to spend more time on the higher-risk, more strategic Legal work. This means that Legal has become more of a source of competitive advantage for the business, rather than a bottleneck.
4. Automated trade promotion terms and conditions
In addition to contract automation, many businesses are opting to transform their marketing compliance processes with automation.
Ensuring trade promotions are all legally compliant and follow all regulations of the jurisdiction they are operating in is a critical component of a business’ legal activities - after all, competition terms and conditions are a type of contract too.
However, reviewing the competition mechanic, requesting trade promotion permits and drafting terms and conditions for trade promotions can be incredibly time-consuming if managed manually, particularly if the Legal team are not advertising or promotions law specialists.
In response, a growing number of businesses are introducing legal automation tools that allow marketers to generate legally compliant, standardised trade promotion T&Cs.
These automation tools transform business processes, allowing businesses to get ahead of the competition and launch marketing campaigns faster than ever.
Over to you
Forward-thinking GCs are already leveraging marketing and contract automation technology to free up their people to focus on more strategic work.
Are you ready to join them?