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General Counsels: Don’t Make These Mistakes with Your Contract Management

General Counsels: Don’t Make These Mistakes with Your Contract Management

You love your job, but some parts just aren’t fun. As general counsel, you probably love giving advice that requires you to synthesize all your knowledge and expertise. It’s thrilling when a company decision is made with your expert legal opinions. The contract management process, however? Probably not something you’d put down as a top-five perk of your job.

Those contracts can be a beast. Poor legal planning could get your organization into a lot of trouble, so there’s a good chance you’ve taken on more than your fair share of the contract work. You should have a significant stake in the contract process, but don’t make these mistakes.

Acting as a Lone Wolf 

Contracts require input and negotiation from multiple sources. Legalese causes fear and anxiety, so the legal department sometimes takes on most of the responsibility for getting contracts finalized. As a GC, you may be taking on more than your team for ensuring legal compliance and a robust agreement.

Stop.

Contracts require input from nearly all departments. If your team (and you particularly) are taking on too much, you’re missing a lot of input from other departments. And there’s a good chance that input could be really valuable.   

The solution: Find a system that integrates everyone’s input into an easily searchable, organized system that everyone has access to and (here’s the key) will actually use.

No Metadata 

How many contracts do you put together each year? Are they similar? How much confidence do you have that your contracts are standardized? That they’re working for the good of both you and the company, and are in full compliance with ever-changing regulations?

If you’re missing out on contract metadata because your system isn’t searchable, you’re missing out on valuable insights contract to contract. The historical memory for each contract fades the more contracts you see come and go. That’s why you should have a system for making sure that metadata isn’t getting lost through endless legacy documents. Analyzing the corporate body of work is vital to your business’s overall insight.

The solution: Building a repository, possibly with automated document review, to house this data so the history and scope of your contracts can inform each new contract and provide insight for business decisions.

Viewing Legal as Separate from Business

Legal is an integral part of the business process, but if you and your C-suite think of legal as a separate beast, it could be hindering the execution of a complete contract process. Think about it. Business creates the terms and checks to see if what they’ve created “works” from a legal standpoint. Maybe they cross their fingers that you’ll sign off so they can get going. Negative feedback is frustrating at best and a huge issue at worst.

Positioning legal as adversarial to the business process adds time and stress to a process that no one really likes anyway. Contracts aren’t glamorous, but they’re essential for the health of a business relationship. Finding ways to change your company culture to see legal as full partners in the process and not just irritating hurdles to cross could go a long way to making contract management more, well, manageable.

The solution: Breaking down the legal versus business silos.

Using Manual Systems to Handle Changing Compliance

New regulations go into effect, and your legal department goes scrambling to reconfigure contracts already in negotiation. You hope for the best. Each new compliance or regulatory update takes you away from the projects you’re working on, delaying higher-order processes and lowering morale.

One of the most significant advances with machine learning and AI is using the processing power of machines to keep up with regulation. Humans aren’t great at details, not like machines are. It may seem like contracts are a system set in place that won’t ever change, but have you ever thought about disrupting the process entirely? Due diligence has a huge return on your bottom line, and you’re not doing it as well as you think.

Fortunately, the tech is here and ready for adoption. You can turn those old manual systems over to a fully integrated, automated system that can provide advice and flag potential issues while you and your team work on creating and innovating within your business mission. 

The solution: Getting on board with tech adoption, such as contract lifecycle management software.

Buying Contract Solutions Built by/for Law Firms

A lot of legal tech vendors are focused on making law firms more profitable. You purchase their software and discover very quickly that the business mission of a law firm is very different than that of the business itself. You spend months fitting square pegs into round holes before abandoning your tech altogether.

The flipside is purchasing tech built by a law firm. Again, you’re a legal team, and they’re a legal team, so it seems like a slam dunk, but you’ve got two different missions. You know that what you do as GC for a business is different than the approach you’d take if you worked with a standalone legal firm, even if your legal firm represents corporate clients. 

The solution: An out of the box solution built not by or for legal firms, but for GCs and in-house legal teams.

Taking a Fragmented Approach to Contract Management

You purchase a system for the legal department. Sales has its own thing. C-suite execs are downloading a different dashboard. No one knows what’s going on. Each time a contract comes down the pipeline, it goes through 57 different departmental programs. And ultimately everyone just ends up doing a lot by hand. 

Your tech should work well for your department, but it can’t be driven by a single department. Pushing for tech adoption only within the walls of legal won’t help the business see you as anything but adversarial, and those silos can hurt. Break them down with a single solution customized for every department.

The solution: Company-wide software/contract management system that brings everyone to the table.

One Solution for All 

Once everyone’s on the same page with an effective contract management system, meetings can be productive and to the point. You may not even need them much at all. Your metadata becomes searchable. Integrated input for contracts can come through a single pipeline, where the left hand knows what the right is doing.

IntelAgree has a contract management software that could transform the way you think about the contract process and help legal integrate with all departments on the contract pipeline. Contact us for a demonstration and for help getting your decision-makers on board with a standardized, company-wide solution.

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