Mixing Contract Drafting and Technologies: 4 Takeaways From Webinar
On September 13, 2022, we hosted a webinar dedicated to today’s contract drafting practices and the balance between the roles of AI and humans in this process. We were glad to introduce our speakers from the energy industry and paralegal niche:
- James M. Spillers, PMP, CPL, CDOA — Manager of The Spillers Group, LLC;
- Jerris Johnson, CPL — VP of Innovation & Land Manager at Paramount;
- Barbara Elias — Founder of Beyond Paralegals, LLC.
Speakers shared their experiences and drafting principles they have been developing from their early careers to now. So, the audience could compare previous tendencies and modern methods. Here are the crucial questions the speakers addressed during the webinar:
- How can I organize my business processes smoothly and efficiently?
- How can I draft a flawless and up-to-date legal contract?
- Do I need to ask myself, team leads, or colleagues many questions?
- What role does AI play in business processes?
Jump in and find your answers in these key webinar takeaways.
1. Organizing the Workflow
The horse always goes before the cart. Every efficient workflow starts with deep knowledge about innovative solutions and a throughout plan.
Legal teams help clients at different stages of their legal business development. First, they learn how all business processes are built in a company. Everything starts with a deep analysis of every business process. However, often clients tend to involve consultants straight into their CLM process, which is not a winning option for both sides.
When they indicate “holes” in the client’s daily workflow, she digs deeper with questions to the stakeholders. In most cases, the team’s lack of knowledge about innovative solutions lies at the root of considerable challenges for the company. “It’s like the blind following the blind, so they don’t know what they’re doing”. “It’s really frustrating for me to see departments spinning their wheels so hard when they don’t have to.”
After listening to her clients’ needs, legal teams start fixing their processes immediately by suggesting step-by-step plans. It does not imply instant responses or drastic actions. On the contrary, departments should assess the solution first and divide tasks between every team member. The workflow streamlines significantly after everyone learns what he or she is doing.
Plans and schemes are an excellent way to map your workflow before you start drafting contracts and asking questions.
2. “Can I Ask You Something?”
Asking questions is necessary to get business processes off on the right foot. But, as James M. Spillers puts it, “asking questions is a scary idea for a lot of people.”
Unless teams update their daily missions and everyone stays on the same page, we must deal with barriers. James considers them the questions like “Will I lose my job?”, “Will I offend somebody?”, “Will I sound absolutely and utterly stupid and ignorant in my questions?”, and many others that can build a wall between teammates and team leads when checking on a workflow. James is sure that a fear of being misunderstood or offended and vice versa hides behind these curtains.
The same works for drafting contracts in the legal and land management industries: everything should begin with a question.
3. Contract Drafting Pitfalls
Although every contract varies from field to field, uniform agreements can help contract professionals build perfect documents. However, the specialists sometimes don’t pay due attention to the key details of the document and send it back with mistakes. Jerris Johnson explains these cases in the following way:
Jerris has a broad professional background in working in in-house departments, as an independent contractor, and as a supervisor. “A lack of standardization forms,” as he calls it, still exists in contract drafting and reviewing operations.
Previously, contract drafting and reviewing practices included pointing out errors with red-ink tools and sharing the reviewed document at the office. Nowadays, online red-color highlights have replaced it, which is another drawback. “We’ve just kind of sped it up because now we can send it through email as opposed to in our office.” Jerris explains. “But a lot of those bad habits that we had historically still exist. We’re just doing them faster than what we did before.”
No contract lawyers, land managers, paralegals, or other industry specialists are perfect. But everyone can develop the skill of “understanding” while gaining new experiences at work. That includes a genuine interest in a field, watching its daily processes, and communicating with specialists. James M. Spillers puts here a heavy emphasis:
That was the “soft” side of document drafting and reviewing processes. What about the “hard” side of CLM software or CMS and AI technologies? Are they meant to help us with our tasks or replace us?
4. CLM Tools, AI, and Humans
Technologies are everywhere. We can’t live without our mobile phones, laptops, and favorite software. But at first sight, it’s always uneasy to learn more about the needed solution and launch it, thus cutting down the to-do list.
Although Jerris Johnson’s company exploits Word to the maximum for their documents, he is a big fan of cloud-based solutions because they can provide an instant “collaborative environment” for teams. “I think it’s a huge advantage that’s probably underutilized in many respects,” Jerris shared.
With a big clientele, our speakers have used dozens of CLM software and highlighted similar work algorithms and goals they help clients achieve. Their teams never stick to one helpful software but adapts to their clients’ CLM tools. Fortunately, they are automatic: they can paste ready provisions for humans and assist them in filling out the necessary information.
All three speakers agree that technology cannot replace humans:
- James stated that it “helps drive efficiency”;
- Barbara said, “It can’t replace people because it needs people in place to move it”;
- Jerris is convinced that it “has to have a human input.”
And these tendencies will remain with us for at least decades.
Without a plan, it’s hard to begin building a path to efficient contract drafting practices. Asking questions is always relevant because they help you understand better, learn more, and avoid major risks in the future.
Using CLM software or CMSs is not a shame but a necessity to reach business goals as soon as possible. Even the easiest and most well-known solutions will suit. But these technologies, including the ones with AI and similar backgrounds, are meant to help humans, not replace them. It’s simply impossible as people develop, run, and constantly improve what they have created.