Today we are releasing the 11th episode of Icertis’ podcast series, “Contracts Over Coffee.” This series brings together the most influential voices in the Icertis contract lifecycle management (CLM) partner ecosystem to discuss all things related to contracting while enjoying a delicious coffee beverage.
In this episode, our senior director of partner marketing, Anne Baker, was joined by Prashant Dubey, Vice President and General Manager of Contracts Services at Elevate. Prashant is a serial entrepreneur, with his last venture, Sumati, being acquired by Elevate in December 2018. Prashant has co-authored a number of industry books such as The Generalist Counsel and Litigation Readiness.Icertis · Elevate — Prashant Dubey
Here are four key takeaways from their chat:
1. Legal Shouldn’t Fear AI
Anne: What do you think is the biggest contracting challenge today?
Prashant: As organizations internalize technology, they sometimes overlook the change-management elements, and how processes need to be streamlined and optimized. Let me give you a really concrete example: It’s obvious that if somebody creates drafts, redlines, negotiates, approves, and executes a contract in Icertis, that is absolutely more efficient than doing it with stone tablets and chisels. But if I’m a lawyer in a legal department, and I’m used to Microsoft Word, and track changes, and attaching contracts to email, changing to a CLM system will be significant. Sometimes organizations overlook the change that adopting a CLM is going to mean in an organization. And really focusing on user adoption, and the challenges associated with it will help technology to really fulfill its promise, which I do think has tremendous promise in organizations.
Sometimes there’s a tremendous amount of anxiety in lawyers’ minds that AI is meant to replace them. In fact, the real promise of AI is to enable lawyers focus on more substantive issues that allow them to utilize their legal training. Right now, a lot of lawyers are doing non-bespoke routine work over and over and over. AI and workflow technology can really assist that so that they can focus their time on more strategic issues and be advisors to the business, which reduces the risk for the organization overall.
2. AI Is an Enabler, Not an Elixir
Anne: Where do you think contracting is going? Is that AI component really where it’s headed?
Prashant: One of the early places that AI has been applied is the extraction of information from contracts that are fully executed—to have post-execution obligation management conducted more fluidly, and being able to respond to things like regulatory compliance requirements. But it certainly isn’t an elixir. Rather, it enables people to do their work more efficiently. A lot of organizations are going to deploy AI in a more rational way. And they’re starting to internalize, 10 years after the beginning of the infusion of this technology and by contracting, that it really is an enabler, not an elixir.
Anne: One of our customers had an article where they talked about how CLM technology freed them to automate those manual tasks and allow the legal team there to have more time to be a leader in the company and drive big initiatives. AI is going to be a critical component for that, especially for larger enterprises. The efficiencies you can gain with AI are just incredible.
Prashant: For example, a company might have sports marketing professionals that are creating relationships with athletes. They don’t necessarily need to be experts in this process. They call a support line, it gets routed to legal, and we walk them through how to create the agreement on their iPad, so they can focus on the relationship. Then that contract is automatically routed into the CLM system with AI extracting the metadata, so it’s available for analysis and review and obligation management within 24 hours. That has increased user adoption by 80%-100% for the past couple of years.
3. Start With a Single Source of Truth
Anne: What is one contracting tip you wish every person knew?
Prashant: A lot of people think that when they’re implementing a contract-management business process, they need to first simplify their templates. In my opinion, the best place to start is to create a high-integrity, single-source-of-truth contract repository that represents your and your counterparties’ obligations. The benefit is you have a tremendous amount of information, so you can inform yourself how to standardize and simplify templates, rather than starting from the beginning where you have to sit in a room for hours and discuss and debate with lawyers what language they want. So as counterintuitive as that may sound, we found that it’s very productive to go through the process of setting up that repository upfront.
4. Take It One Bite at a Time
Anne: What would really surprise our audience to know about contracting today?
Prashant: That it’s actually much simpler than they think. I mean, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We found that in organizations, regardless of size, there’s a speed limit that allows people to internalize change in a proper way. So if you do things like starting with the repository, it’s very gratifying to lawyers to say, OK, if you’re gonna change my workflow, at least I have the benefit of knowing that when I’m negotiating with the counterparty, I’m in a strong position because I have the agreement and all related documents. Their ability to then absorb the change becomes much greater and really enables a program to take root. A consensus-driven approach is much better.
Anne and Prashant wrapped up this episode with a little personal reflection: his fascination with the psychology of the legal profession (“Despite the fact that I’m not a lawyer, I’ve actually become quite a student of law practice”) and how the pandemic is reinforcing for everybody the importance of simplicity ("Appreciate the simple things because they’re fleeting moments”).
For more information, don't forget to check out Elevate Services' website.