Lawyers and Contract-Management Personnel—Never the Twain Shall Meet?

On April 11–13, the American chapter of the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM to its friends) will be holding in New Orleans its “5th Annual Forum on Commitment Management: Shaping Change and Driving Value Through Lean Contracting.” (Click here for more information.)

IACCM is an organization geared to the needs of contract-management personnel. As I looked through the agenda for the New Orleans forum, I had a couple of thoughts: First, that many of the topics should be of interest to lawyers. And second, how when it comes to handling the commercial contracting process, lawyers and contract-management personnel often operate in separate spheres.

I know that I, for one, have tended to divide the world into two slightly antagonistic groups—the lawyers and the “business people.” Here’s a caricature version of the relationship: lawyers consider business people to be loose cannons willing to sell their first-born to close a deal, whereas business people regard lawyers to be “overhead” always eager to find obstacles so as to remind their masters why they were hired in the first place.

That this world view is a common one is suggested by the fact that one of the New Orleans sessions is entitled “Lawyers and Added Value: Brand Image, Reality, and Possibility.” Here’s the abstract:

The common image of lawyers is suggested by a survey conducted by the Case Western Reserve University Law School, which found that many business leaders associated the word “lawyer” with “authoritative,” “conservative,” “arrogant,” “intimidating,” and “know-it-all.” Notwithstanding this image good lawyers can add significant value to the businesses of their clients, but only if they understand each other and communicate well. What conditions favor this outcome? What is the most effective role of lawyers in the contracting process? How should they relate to other contract professionals and the rest of the business? What do they need to learn to become more effective and improve their image? Or, given the role lawyers are called on to play, is it inevitable that the corporate legal department will always be viewed as the “Department of Business Prevention”? Is that image being exacerbated by the increased focus on compliance? What practical steps can companies take to maximize the value that lawyers can add?

I imagine that a gathering of in-house lawyers might benefit from a counterpart session entitled “Contract-Management Personnel and Added Value.”

Tim Cummins, president and CEO of IACCM, has told me that the legal side will be well represented among the speakers and attendees in New Orleans. That suggests that people are getting the message that the contracting process would run more smoothly if everyone involved were to work in concert.

I’ve never worked in-house, so I don’t have first-hand experience of the relationship between lawyers and contract-management personnel. I’d be happy to hear any comments from the peanut gallery.

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.