3 Examples of Legal Automation Done Right
Legal has always had a bad reputation for being behind the times. That’s because many Legal teams are still using dated contract management tools. Clunky and unintuitive, analog contract management tools can sap a lot of Legal’s time, energy, and patience. This turns contract writing, drafting, negotiation, and management into a grueling process.
Fortunately, Legal is finally starting to get things right. After years of lagging on digital transformation, many in-house attorneys and contract managers have begun to adopt legal automation with transformative results. Legal automation refers to the technology and process of automating legal processes and tasks typically performed by legal professionals. Unlike analog contracting solutions, legal automation empowers Legal to use Ironclad to fast-track the contract management process.
Here are three examples of legal automation you should adopt.
1. Automated NDAs
Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) are a prime candidate for legal automation.
NDAs are binding contracts that establish a confidential relationship between a person who has sensitive information and one who wants to access that information. Their purpose is to protect ideas and information from being stolen, shared, or leaked into the hands of competitors and malicious third parties. Businesses use NDAs to protect a variety of information, including:
- Inventions and creations that haven’t been patented or copyrighted yet
- Logos that haven’t been trademarked yet
- Client lists
- Business models
- Product specs
- Marketing material for future promotions.
Because companies generally want to protect the same ideas and information from being stolen or leaked, most NDAs use the same languages and clauses. As such, NDAs are considered standardized contracts since they don’t require Legal to write, draft, or edit much. However, NDAs can still take up a lot of your time, particularly when there are many of them. These contracts can eat up to 30% of the General Counsel’s bandwidth at peak busy times.
Fortunately, there’s a solution for this: automated NDAs. By automating NDAs, you can reduce the time spent administrating NDAs from 30% to 1%. The right digital contracting platform will empower Legal to:
- Create and deploy NDA workflows within minutes
- Streamline external and internal approvals and execute contracts faster than ever
- Generate NDAs on demand through templatable workflows.
NDA automation also simplifies the NDA creation process so that anyone—whether they’re from Sales, HR, or Procurement—can start and manage NDAs by themselves. This will give Legal more time and energy to focus on tasks that require human ingenuity and creativity.
2. Self-service automation
Another example of legal automation is self-service automation, which lets users run automated processes to create, collaborate, and sign contracts.
A good example of self-service automation is Ironclad’s Public Workflows. This tool tightens the contract management lifecycle by adding efficiency and speed to your contracts. Instead of emailing Word documents back and forth and conducting endless contract reviews, you can just send a URL to the counterparty. Once they’ve filled out the form, you’re done. You can also enable counterparties to kickstart the contract process by giving you pre-approved terms. This will mean less contract review and more time to focus on negotiation and other strategic tasks.
Another example of self-service automation is clickwrap. Versatile and powerful, clickwrap automation lets users agree to digital contracts by clicking a button or checking a box to say “I agree.” Since they require much less effort than “wet” or ink signatures and eSignatures, clickwrap agreements are a great choice if you want to provide a low-touch and fully compliant experience for partners, clients, customers, and other signers. They can be used for many types of contracts as long as you follow best practices, but they’re better suited for standardized, low-or-no-negotiation contracts that don’t need to be edited or reviewed individually before being sent out.
This leads us to our next point: native HTML contracts. If you’re planning to use clickwrap, you should consider integrating clickwrap workflows with HTML-native contracts built into your website. Users will find HTML-native contracts much easier to read and consent to than PDFs or Word documents, which often fail to work properly on phones. As Extra Space Storage notes, “customers expect online contracts to be managed seamlessly in HTML, not as clunky PDFs.”
3. Contract management solution
The best example of legal automation done right is getting a full-suite contract management solution. If you choose the right contract management tool, you’ll be able to transform contracts from blockers to enablers, making business more collaborative, faster, and more controlled. Let’s take a look at what top contract management platforms should offer:
Most modern contract management solutions come with a workflow designer. This is a self-serve no-code tool that works out of the box. Everyone can use it, whether they are in HR, Legal, or Sales. Workflow designers usually have a simple drag-and-drop user interface that lets you create and deploy contracts and approval processes in minutes.
You can also use workflow designers to:
- Establish a centralized hub for all contracting requests, whether they are on third-party paper or company paper
- Access and use up-to-date templates to create contracts. Some templates even come with extra features, such as:
- Add conditional approvers and contract clauses as needed
- Send updates instantly
You should also look for a data repository. A centralized hub for storing contracts and contract metadata, a data repository lets you:
- Find and secure your agreements without reading a word of legal jargon
- Answer questions instantly
- Use contract metadata to automate business and reduce risk
- Create reports based on your contract metadata
- Set up and use cross-system integrations
- Set up and use automated intelligent alerts based on contract information.
In other words, a data repository can help you put your contract data to work. By digitizing all of your contracts, you’ll be able to answer pressing questions with just a few strokes of the keyboard—say goodbye to looking for answers in inaccessible places like USBs, hard drives, and physical cabinets. This will help you and your team stay on top of encroaching deadlines, prevent revenue leakage, and save money.
However, before you decide to get a legal automation solution, keep in mind that data repositories are not always created equal. In fact, some can be quite challenging to learn to use.
Luckily, there are data repositories that are code-less, zero-training-required, and intelligent. These high-end data repositories help you gather contracts from anywhere, storing them in one searchable cloud that anyone—with proper authorization—can access. In some cases, you can even use these repositories to share contract information with other departments. This will give Legal the expertise and information they need to collaborate on contracts that interest more than one department.
Finally, a good contract management solution should offer a collaborative editing platform for drafting, negotiating, and executing contracts.
Ironclad, for instance, comes with a collaborative editor that helps Legal manage contract revision and redlining in one place. Unlike many other editing platforms, Ironclad Editor allows users to edit, revise, track, accept, and reject changes in DOCX files while staying connected to their colleagues in real-time.
Basically, it’s a DOCX-native Google Docs with Word’s functionalities. Since Ironclad Editor comes with the best of both worlds, you won’t have to convert your DOCX or PDF contracts to Google Docs format to work in real-time. After you upload your DOCX files onto Ironclad, you can start negotiating and collaborating with your colleagues right away. With internal replies and @mentions, you’ll be able to ask colleagues questions within seconds. With only one version of a contract to edit and review, you can ensure that everyone is editing and approving the most recent copy of the document.
Without this platform, you would have to go through the traditional process of:
- Bringing in a colleague
- Saving a document as a Word document or PDF file
- Attaching it to an email
- Waiting for a response
Not only is this a time-consuming strategy of bringing colleagues into your workflows, but it’s also an error-prone way of keeping others in the loop. Think about it—when you’re tired and have a million other tasks to do, you can easily mistype a colleague’s email or attach the wrong document, causing confusion, miscommunication, and delay. Your colleague may also confuse an older version of the contract with the most recent version you just emailed, especially if they’re behind on their emails.
Although Legal is still, for the most part, behind the curve compared to Sales and Procurement, they’re quickly catching up. With legal automation at their fingertips, Legal can now draft, edit, negotiate, and execute contracts much easier. By automating NDAs, adopting self-service automation, and integrating contract management solutions like Ironclad into their workflow, Legal will be able to turn the contract management lifecycle into a frictionless experience for all.