Contract administration is the management of contracts made with other legal entities, including customers, vendors, partners, clients, or employees. Contracts are the necessary mechanics that make businesses run, so every business larger than a sole proprietor needs some form of contract administration. Most companies have some form of a legal department or at the least a lawyer on retainer.
But the business world is always expanding in volume and complexity. Beyond simple employment letters, sales invoices, purchase orders, and utility contracts, there’s the realm of more sophisticated legal instruments. These might regard highly regulated goods and services, IP agreements, outsourced services, or goods and services with a highly specified technical aspect. Every business can benefit from a way to better assess and mitigate risks.
Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) helps improve a company’s exposure to financial and legal risks, the more so at the enterprise level. This makes software that can address this need a highly competitive market, but creating it is a highly specialized task. It’s a rare thing to find a software company that understands the unique needs of a legal firm or department. However, several solutions are cropping up, as seen on Business Wire. Contract management for legal firms includes the following commonly popular solutions:
Contract Management Software Used By Law Firms
Clio is a legal technology company based in British Columbia. For the law practice, it offers a cloud-based software platform, with services including client intake and accounting, document management, time-tracking, and invoicing. Established in 2007, the company introduced practice management software developed for legal professionals. By 2012, they had raised a round of investor funding totalling $6 million, with an additional round of $20 million investor funding by 2014.
Clio has risen as one of the industry standards for project management software adapted to the use cases of the legal profession. Supporting a wide range of integration with other office software, it’s common to find Clio on the desktop of the average law firm.
ActionStep sets itself apart by being more focused on legal practice as an aspect of business. It is also legal process management software, but it emphasizes workflow, automation, and integrated capabilities between the front and back office. It’s partly an accounting package. Established in 2004, ActionStep is based in New Zealand, and its first product was focused on the construction industry but responded to demand by making a version focused on the requests of legal professionals.
ActionStep has stayed out of the limelight as far as Silicon Valley is concerned, but has quietly been making gains in the fringes of the legal market for firms and departments with a holistic approach to legal business management.
Evisort is a Silicon Valley bred start-up which is the latest realization of the recent innovations in deep-learning artificial intelligence. Evisort’s focus is on contract processing, where its software is capable of data-mining legal contracts and other documents, automating away a step of the legal process which has traditionally been a bottleneck. Established in 2016 by the united talents of a pair of graduates from Harvard and MIT, Evisort has attracted a round of investor funding of $5.6 million as of 2018. Well beyond merely being an office management interface, Evisort’s system takes the extra step of indexing contract documents, storing the key data points in a cloud-accessible database.
Because of the unique capabilities of its cutting-edge tech, Evisort has won clients from Fortune 500 companies to the smallest garage start-up entrepreneur. Their success story has shown the way for a new breed of professional AI software, dubbed “cognitive computing,” which may have applications beyond contracts into other industries that could benefit from an automated reading.
WestLaw and LexisNexis
Both of these companies are part of the Computer-Assisted Legal Research (CALR) sphere. Neither of them are in-house contract management but are instead large databases of archived legal and public-records related information. LexisNexis is the world’s largest, while WestLaw is a subsidiary of West Publishing, which publishes printed works of legal, business, and regulatory information.
Law firms do use and rely on services like these to find legal comparisons and precedents for contracts, findings, rulings, and case studies, so they are part of the legal document management ecosystem.
The days when firms relied on manual handling of paper contracts are disappearing. Contract management for legal firms has become a necessary tool for keeping track of multiple liabilities and obligations, including automated administration, compliance checking, risk monitoring, reporting, and automating a process of alerts to critical deadlines.
At the highest end of this field are large enterprises involving projects such as capital expenditure. The various shared deadlines and complex interactions have brought up the necessity for Contract Risk Management Software (CRMS), taking a dynamic approach to enable more competent decision-making.
While this field of business software is still an opportunity for innovation, the technology level we have now has already enabled business transactions on a level that was unthinkable a couple of decades ago. Improvements in machine-assisted cognitive computing will allow greater efficiency in legal proceedings in years to come.