Four times a year, in-house lawyers and contracts professionals are tasked with closing contracts at record-setting speeds.
Quarter-end is usually a hectic time for parties on both sides of the deal. The sales side wants to hit their quota so they can win those prizes and meet their quotas. The buy side is scrambling to spend what they can before they lose their budget. That translates directly to an uptick in the volume of contracts that need to be reviewed within a short period. The pressure is ON.
As you approach the end of your quarter, every minute you have needs to go towards closing as many contracts as possible. It is the ultimate quantity vs. quality (and hard work vs. sanity) balancing act. So what can you do to ensure that you successfully navigate and hit your quarter-end contract deadlines? Here are a few tips!
Make a Plan
First, you need a plan. Review the contracts currently in your queue and use your best judgment (and contract submission data, if any) to estimate how many new contracts might be submitted between now and then. Then take a look at your planned time off and scheduled meetings to deduce the amount of time you have to work on current and new submissions. You’ll want to maximize your efficiency during these times.
Learn More: Remember that contracts don’t have to be perfect to be considered “done.” Balance the business needs with the legal risks presented in the agreement.
In addition to prioritizing your time spent reviewing contracts, you should work on prioritizing your time altogether. You should say no to low or medium-priority meetings, projects, emails, and requests that are not related to or dependent on a quarter-end deadline.
You will surely have contracts in your queue that do not have this deadline. Simply communicate to your internal business clients that you need to focus on meeting quarter-end deadlines for the next three weeks and will resume their contract immediately after that. Be sure to reach out though and don’t just leave them hanging. This will foster better trust in the long run.
For example, you can say something like, “Can we reschedule this meeting for the beginning of next month? I really want to connect with you about this project but I’m afraid I won’t be able to give it the attention it deserves right now because of quarter-end.”
Align With Your Internal Clients
If you haven’t already, schedule a meeting with the internal business owner of each contract. Use this meeting to level-set expectations, roles, dependencies, and timelines. Together, come up with an action plan to close the contract by quarter-end.
Discuss things like:
- Status of commercial negotiations
- Substantive issues in the contract template
- Internal negotiations and approvals
- External negotiations and redlines
- Contract signatories for all parties
Learn More: Leverage internal redlines to build alignment with your internal clients.
Prioritize Your Approach
Once you’ve aligned with your respective internal business clients, review your queue again and organize your contracts by the level of priority.
Contracts with red flags should be higher up on your list and tackled first. Red flags include high dollar value deals, high profile deals, and complex deals.
Contracts that have not been started yet should be higher up on your list than contracts that are nearing the end of the review cycle. This should of course be balanced with the above point.
For contracts with a low dollar value or low-risk profile, try to focus on the high-risk redlines rather than trying to get every single revision you want. Discuss what’s important to your business client, advise them of the risks, and then determine which changes to push for versus which ones to accept as-is.
When you receive a last-minute request for a contract (and you will) that is due by quarter end, ask why and validate the necessity of the deadline.
Streamline the Redlining Process
Run your redlines as efficiently as possible so that you don’t waste a single minute (or redline) on unnecessary points. Your focus should be on doing everything you can to move the negotiation forward at every step. You want to eliminate lulls, manage your counterparty’s and your response times, and avoid setbacks or causing friction.
Learn More: Apply the 10 Rules of Contract Redlining Etiquette, written by Nada Alnajafi, to run your redlines as effectively as possible.
Pick Up the Phone
Contracts often spend the most amount of time in the negotiation and redlining phase. All of those back-and-forth emails can really make your clock tick. During crunch time, opt for phone calls over emails wherever you can to help speed up the communication and review process. Prepare the contract redlines before the call, share the redlines so everyone on the call can see them, take live notes, and update the redlines immediately following the call.
Ask for Help
Meeting quarter-end contract deadlines isn’t just about you and your performance goals. It should be about hitting the overall organization’s goals. If you find yourself falling behind, you should be able to reach out to your boss or co-workers to ask for help. Maybe someone else has a lesser load and can help you out. Perhaps your boss can help re-assign a few contracts in your queue to an outside resource.
There is no way to avoid the work. No matter how efficient your processes are or how automated your system is, at the end of the day, nothing will replace the analytical work that you need to contribute to successfully negotiate and finalize contracts. Do your best to apply the best practices mentioned above and get ready to double-down if necessary.
Identify Problems to Solve for Next Quarter-End
As you near the end of the quarter, jot down problem areas so that you can come back to them later. At the beginning of the new quarter, review your list with your boss or executive team so that you can work on improving your quarter-end experience the next time around.
It is important to always keep improving your internal contract review processes. There are many other ways to close contracts faster and with more efficiency. According to the Gartner 2021 Report on Critical Capabilities for Contract Life Cycle Management, one way to increase contract process efficiency and lower third-party risk by prioritizing an investment in CLM technology.
Ironclad is not a law firm, and this post does not constitute or contain legal advice. To evaluate the accuracy, sufficiency, or reliability of the ideas and guidance reflected here, or the applicability of these materials to your business, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Use of and access to any of the resources contained within Ironclad’s site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the user and Ironclad.
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