Automated Contract Creation: One Size Does Not Necessarily Fit All

Although I’m committed to helping anyone who’s interested become an informed consumer of contract language, I think it’s self-evident that automated contract creation is the most effective way to scale rigorous contract language. That’s why I continue to discuss automation with my clients.

Some of you might recall that my software of choice is ContractExpress. That remains the case even though Thomson Reuters acquired ContractExpress last year, with my friend and supporter Tim Allen riding off into the sunset.

But companies have other options available to them. More specifically, a popular choice is contract-lifecycle-management software, the sort of product that promises to handle the contract process from cradle to grave. Invariably, contract creation is given short shrift in CLM software, but once a company has already committed to CLM software, it doesn’t do much good to suggest that they revisit that decision for purposes of contract creation. Furthermore, if little customization is required for purposes of a given template, CLM software might be up to the job.

But a company might face a mixed situation. More specifically, I sometimes find myself in separate discussions with two separate groups at a company. Here’s how that can play out:

One of the groups has made a substantial investment in CLM software, so if I were to help them with automation, we’d be using the CLM product. I assume that the same would apply for purposes of my discussions with the other group, but that turns out not to be the case.

My contacts at the second group are familiar with how ContractExpress works—more specifically, they’ve seen what I do with it. They’ve also been given a demo of the CLM product, and they’re not interested.

Whereas the first group handles a high volume of commercial contracts with limited customization, the second group handles a small volume of complex, high-value deals that might involve a lot of customization. In other words, they operate somewhat like a law firm. As such, the fill-in-the-blanks, switch-out-the-paragraphs functionality of the CLM product doesn’t appeal.

They also like ContractExpress’s “Preview” mode, which allows the user to see, in real time, what effect different choices in the questionnaire have on the contract. By contrast, the CLM product is a black box.

How this scenario plays out at a given company depends on a bunch of factors—the economics might or might not allow one company to opt for both technologies. But I recommend that you bear in mind that when it comes to automated contract creation, different groups in a single organization can have very different needs.

Bonus: go here for the article I wrote with Tim Allen, The Illusion of Quality in Contract Drafting.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.