In this post on his Commitment Matters blog, Tim Cummins notes that at an IACCM member meeting in Zurich, one of the big topics of discussion was “the extent to which templates cause rigidity.”
Note that the discussion wasn’t whether templates cause rigidity: that’s not open to question. Although Tim sensibly says that “templates should not be a static imposition,” Word templates are fundamentally just that—static. And footnotes and alternative language are a clumsy way to make templates more flexible.
You don’t want your templates to be static? Then use document assembly, which allows users to create a contract by answering an online questionnaire. More specifically, use ContractExpress, the market-leading document-assembly software. With a document-assembly template, you can build in whatever customization you think appropriate, and it’s activated when a user completes the questionnaire.
To determine whether document assembly would make sense for your organization, do a cost-benefit analysis.
The cost part is easy. ContractExpress currently costs $160 per month for legal users and $80 per month for business users, with a 12-month minimum. If you use the installed version rather than the cloud version, you’d also have installation costs.
As regards the benefits, how many contracts do you do a year? What level of customization do you need? (If all you do is change party names and the date, you probably don’t need document assembly.) How important is speed? How important is it for you to push contract-creation out from the legal department to business users? (ContractExpress incorporates control features that allow you to do that.)
Want to see state-of-the-art document assembly using ContractExpress? Go here to subscribe, for free, to Koncision Contract Automation’s confidentiality-agreement template. (Lately I’ve been quiet about Koncision, but it’s very much on my mind.)
For successful document assembly, you need not only good technology but also optimal content. In other words, the substance should address your company’s needs exactly, and it should be expressed clearly and concisely. The process of automating provides a perfect opportunity to reassess your templates. You think they’re great? Think again. Get an outside opinion. If you send me your templates, I’ll take a quick look and tell you, without charge, what I think.
You also should be sensible about the automation process. In particular, it’s a good idea to have whoever’s working on the language also handle automation, so the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. That’s why I offer as part of my consulting services both template redrafting and automation. I can also offer you, off the shelf, Koncision’s automated boilerplate language to use as a starting point. That would save time and money and assure a level of quality that would otherwise be unobtainable.