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What Previous Tech Trends in Legal Can Teach Us About Contract Management Software

By Bernadette Bulacan

Note: This is an excerpt from a Q&A conducted with ElevateNext2020.

During my legal and legaltech career, I've witnessed firsthand a number of digital revolutions impacting legal departments.

In the early Aughts, it was the introduction of tech to improve the business of law. I was part of a team that launched a product called Serengeti Legal Tracker in 2002. Our mission was to digitally transform the manual, cumbersome process by which legal departments received and approved their paper invoices. Additionally, once invoices were digitized, we aimed to empower GCs with data concerning their legal spend and their outside counsel.

To be expected, it was slow going at first. Then adoption increased after the Great Recession forced GCs ‘to do more with less' and better manage legal spend. If you attended any legal event or conference in the period immediately following the Great Recession, it felt like every CLE session touched on some best practices to improve relationships with outside counsel (Try a convergence initiative! Use matter budgets and outside counsel score cards! RFP's are your friend!). And, of course, there were a myriad of software solutions to facilitate this change, many of which are now standard in a legal department's technology stack, like e-billing.

At Icertis, I now have a front row seat to the next digital transformation impacting legal departments: the establishment of enterprise contract lifecycle management (CLM) as a standard solution in a department's technology stack. Contract management software is allowing leading legal departments to re-engineer their contracting processes and automate paper-based workflows.

This revolution shares many qualities of the last: a continued need for legal departments to do more with fewer resources; a hunger by general counsel for additional streams of data to measure value, output, or risk containment; manual, paper-based processes that scream for streamlining and digitization. Other indicia: recent gatherings of legal operations professionals in Minneapolis and Las Vegas offered dedicated tracks and CLE sessions addressing contracting best practices. For instance, during a session entitled "Getting Things Done" at the recent ACC Xchange (and led by Pratik Patel, VP of Innovation at Elevate), more than 40% of the room responded that their legal department was in the process of or actively deploying contract management.

There are some notable differences between this tech revolution and the last I described.

First, the transformation with legal spend technology was driven by market forces and accelerated by The Great Recession. Here, the CLM digital transformation will be driven by the seemingly never-ending regulatory change facing enterprises, especially those with global operations. For instance, the pain of identifying paper contracts in connection with GDPR and the laborious processes to revise and amend these agreements is still fresh for many legal departments. Or how about the many financial services institutions who are the midst of repapering commercial loan agreements and clauses in response to the sunset of LIBOR?

Another difference: e-billing impacted the business of law. Here, portions of contract lifecycle (like drafting and negotiation) is more closely tied with activities central to an attorney's practice. Attorneys are protective of their workflows; this will invariably affect adoption rates among corporate counsel.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Icertis solution, I invite you to check out our eBook, The Definitive Guide to Enterprise Contract Management for General Counsel.