The marriage of matters and contracts is a long overdue union. While the two are often interlinked in a corporate legal environment, the processes and systems used to track both are separated. Such a marriage presents an opportunity for a more efficient workflow, better oversight of legal obligations and preparedness for disputes.
Let’s define matters as a piece of work that the legal team owns and progresses, and a contract, in this circumstance, as a written agreement that two parties have agreed to and understood the terms of. The contract, in the case of in-house law teams, is a live document crafted by offers and counteroffers to come to an agreement between two parties. A contract is an end result of a project, and during its creation it is a living document that passes through many hands. There is often a lot of valuable information around the parties’ intentions which has been created before it hits legal’s desk. It is essential that this information is captured and made visible to those tasked with either drafting the contract or managing its ongoing operations post execution.
Historically, contract management software exists to edit, track changes and versions, and monitor an approvals process of the document. This software also provides data around expiry and execution dates relating to specific contracts. However, it is disconnected from the contextual side of the job, the legal tasks performed in order to get the contract to signature. Think engagement with the represented party, negotiation with the opposing lawyer and party, meetings within a legal team to delegate tasks and find a solution to the contractual negotiation at hand.
Matter management software exists to help lawyers do their job to the best of their ability. It does this by streamlining the opening, progression, management and reporting. The key benefits of matter management software come down to visibility (both within legal and in the broader business) time savings in the opening and intake of new matters, the establishment of a central location or “the single source of truth” for all matters, and the ability to proactively manage costs and thereby ultimately reduce legal spend. The importance of the visibility piece cannot be overstated: the legal team should know who is working on what and should have the history of matters to hand, while their business colleagues who have asked for legal help should see who is progressing their work and its status without resorting to follow-up emails.
Software like LawVu marries the established efficiencies of matter management software with contract management, creating a further standardized and automated process which improves staff productivity and helps to manage workloads. In a situation such as a tendering process, where in-house teams are presented with a mammoth contractual task, this software reaps significant rewards as it saves time. Time which can be better spent on negotiations with the client, internal decision-making with other business units and leaders, and executing the lengthy approvals process of a contract. Or, better still, on other work! In this case, having a technology system that holds both matter and contract management services saves time - which, as we all know, saves money.
The union of these two also creates a more streamlined knowledge management and sharing system. Rather than spending time trawling between SharePoint sites and shared drives searching for information, one system equals one source of truth - where contracts and matter are stored. The importance of this relates to the risk that contracts present.
Shaun Plant, Chief Legal Officer at LawVu, says: “At any one time, organizations have millions of dollars in contractual terms that have rights and obligations which must be fulfilled.” Better oversight of these contracts can be obtained by pulling these contractual documents out of a vacuum and into an agile system that legal teams use every day. Covid-19 has highlighted this need, making companies realize the importance of having oversight of their legal obligations and standing with clients.
Yet another benefit of this marriage regards disputes. Disputes require evidence - and evidence comes from good matter and contract management. Without it, disputes can end up where no corporation wants to be, in expensive and time-consuming litigation. Good matter and contract management practices mean recording interpretations of what has been said and agreed on between parties. It means filing emails and documents related to matters and having all relevant contractual information filed and stored. It is best to prepare oneself for the future.
The sum of all this is that the marriage of contract and matter management improves staff productivity and business systems and ultimately leads to gains in ROI. For a company dealing with tens of thousands of matters and contracts a year, this union seems like a match made in heaven, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked in the legal technology decision making process.