29th April 2019
29th April 2019
By Sarvarth Misra, co-founder and CEO of ContractPodAi
In this article Sarvarth explains the rudiments of digital transformation in contract management and how his definition of ‘end-to-end’ has shaped his business journey, from an LPO to a high growth SaaS business.
I have always been comfortable disrupting my business model if it meant serving my clients more effectively. While drafting, negotiating, and managing commercial contracts for large, multinational businesses from 2005 through 2012, there were vague mentions of legal engineering, transaction playbooks, and preferred processes, but they always seemed overly complicated and inapplicable to a typical, everyday deal.
When I realized the benefits of disaggregating the law firm model to incorporate an offshore legal process outsourcing component for high-volume, low-complexity M&A due diligence using paralegals and contract analysts instead of attorneys, I left my firm to focus on providing better results, rather than more hours.
Answering the Call From Corporate Clients
Leaders of corporate legal departments have been asking their outside counsel to perpetually reinvent their business model in this manner for years. Despite that call to reimagine the way they provide their services, firms still predominantly bill by the hour and lawyers typically measure their performance in terms of activity, rather than outcomes.
Although clients were asking our LPO for more value, we were really just taking advantage of labor arbitrage in offshore locations, in a manner that was just slightly better than the law firm staffing structure. Despite our willingness to change, most technology was not user-friendly and the systems were either old-fashioned or inappropriate. Lawyers, particularly those working in-house, were also somewhat resistant to the cloud and generally suspect of artificial intelligence.
Then, law department dynamics began changing with the emergence of legal operations leaders, who became heavily focused on digital transformation and reorganized their budgets to specifically allocate funds for legal technology.
Shifting With the Market
As in-house teams began to embrace new digital options, we realized that there was a powerful way to free humans to focus on higher-value work by employing technology for more rote tasks. After listening to an array of corporate leaders, we found that they could gain a competitive advantage by using a scalable tool, which automates and unifies contract assembly, discovery, analytics, review, collaboration, and signature validation instead of enlisting additional personnel.
So, we transformed our manual business into a leading-edge SaaS platform that incorporated multiple technologies to empower them. For the first time, it gave law department leaders the opportunity to streamline their workflows and establish a dynamic base on which to build an entire ecosystem of solutions. Anticipating the emerging period of swift change, we designed our system to fully integrate with existing tools, such as DocuSign for e-signatures, Workshare for document collaboration, and IBM Watson for artificial intelligence, as well as the versatility to adapt to those that are still on the horizon.
The Perfect Storm of Scalability
This evolution has created a perfect storm of early adoption, seamless scalability, and overwhelming opportunity. To realize the full benefit of this new era, more suppliers need to build platforms that are scalable and affordable. Those programs must help users collaborate, incorporate sticky technology, and universally integrate with a user-friendly interface, similar to the iPhone and Slack. After all, it is the user experience that will fuel further adoption.
The End-to-End Ecosystem Matters
To ensure longevity, however, the industry must enter this new era by eliminating the noise associated with artificial intelligence by honestly educating potential consumers about its promise and its pitfalls. Those that embrace technology as an enabler of talent, rather than a replacement for it, will help accelerate its implementation. Recognizing it as an aid instead of a threat will also increase its immediate appeal and minimize resistance. Ultimately, a lawyer’s optimal activity is not extracting information from a contract management system. Rather, it is applying that data to help colleagues make informed decisions within their tolerance for risk.
The Evolution of the Law Department
By combining advanced technology with enhanced talent, legal departments are quickly morphing from cost centers to centers of innovation that provide their organizations with a competitive advantage. They are offering value-added services to their individual business units and members of the C-suite in combination with genuine, strategic advice to help the company’s leaders achieve their objectives. Their use of technology is empowering them to gather metrics that fuel faster, more accurate decisions and help to optimally allocate resources.
Best-in-Class is Better
But, a single solution is not as valuable as a platform that adapts to each new development using an array of best-in-class technology. This customer-centric approach combines a user-interface that maximizes the experience with the ability to repurpose existing technology.
For example, the iPhone reflects a design innovation, but each of the components, such as the screen, camera, and memory chips, belongs to other companies, similar to a car’s construction. Contract discovery, analytics, and review, therefore, will be most successful within a robust platform on which legal teams can apply repurposed technologies that create a seamless user experience. From an architectural perspective, that platform must be sufficiently viable and flexible to support extensive integration.
More importantly, fewer barriers to entry and additional depth in software development have led to an overwhelming number of tools for law departments to manage, whether they use them directly, access them through their outside counsel, or take advantage of customized plug-ins from their service providers. From CRM integration to document version control and from advanced contract review to artificial intelligence, the only option for most organizations is to leverage an end-to-end ecosystem in which to administer all of these tools.
While there is a renewed focus on the value that legal departments provide to their companies, many still operate as lean divisions with minimal resources. To thrive, they must continue to identify the ideal areas in which to accelerate change, which often includes oversight of their portfolio of standard agreements and documents. Large organisations with thinly-staffed, though highly-talented, legal teams are on the precipice of a once-in-a-generation digital transformation, but still need to set a proper technological foundation to progress.
This article was originally published on Artificial Lawyer
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