The Quest for the Best In-House Legal Software
Published on : 07/04/2020 07 April Apr 04 2020
Practice management, contract management, and other tools have existed for years, but selecting and deploying them seems more complex than ever. Here’s how to get started.
The Role of In-House Legal Counsel has Changed
There was a time – back when the goal was just to get the deal done and protect the company from obvious harm – when a manually-produced spreadsheet sufficed for tracking the company’s contracts. Fast forward ten years.
Businesses are operating in an increasingly complex and global environment and every organization is focused on reducing risk and controlling costs. Add to that new regulatory pressures that shape contracting, in-house counsel’s more active role in negotiations, and the enterprise-wide push to reduce operational efficiencies and it is clear that corporate legal is playing a new game.
As the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) has observed, today’s legal department is charged with being a proactive contributor in improving bottom-line results for the organization. Tim Cummins, IACCM’s CEO, has noted that General Counsels are now being asked to justify the business impact of their decisions, and that “…contracting and contract management are being seen as increasingly relevant to their future as a high-value business function.”
This means that counsel cannot simply produce agreements but now need to evaluate how their contracts impact the organization and, by extension, if they can be improved for even better results. Measurement and analysis of key performance indicators provide a holistic overview of the organization’s contracting activities and can identify areas where action needs to be taken.
Unlike the static – and often error-ridden – spreadsheet of old, modern legal technology provides adaptable, secure and scalable solutions for contract management that can meet these new imperatives.
The Need to Maximize Productivity
If ‘reduce operational inefficiencies’ is the new mantra of the organization, what does that mean for the company’s legal department? For the most part, it is a combination of process improvement and strategic allocation of time and resources.
Specialized software can benefit the legal team the same way it does for other departments in the organization – by simplifying tasks and automating activities. In the world of contract management this applies to every step from contract drafting to approval workflows, from visible timelines and automatic alerts on renewal and termination deadlines to real-time reports that allow for in-depth analysis.
Lawyers who are not spending time searching shared drives or rummaging through paper copies and first drafts to find that elusive clause or original agreement, are now freed up to focus on higher value activities. Reports that used to take hours to produce can be built and run in less than five minutes. Understanding the history of the contract is easier to do when all documents, emails, notes and follow-up are captured in one electronic file.
Process standardization, automation and centralization are the hallmark elements of innovative contract management solutions and yield significant productivity gains for the legal department.
The Desire for Better Collaboration
When it comes to contract lifecycle management, the ability to share the legal department’s collective contracting knowledge, resources and data is an advantage. With software that provides access to the entire contract portfolio – access rights by default, or customized by file – it is simple for counsel to review or contribute to the work product. Whether the agreement was created in the same office, or in another city or country, it can be stored in the centralized system.
Using a secure portal that integrates with the tool is an effective way to bring others in the company into the contracting process and benefit from their areas of expertise. Business partners in supply chain, operations, finance, sales and HR can submit contract requests or exchange communications and documents through the portal, and legal can effortlessly input the information into active files.
Finally, a note on integration – contract management software should integrate with existing enterprise systems and new support tools such as e-billing or e-signature. This reassures the IT department and makes the purchase of a technology solution for the legal department a practical and wise investment.
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