Innovation Shorts: Think Differently, Raise Your Game

Have you recently done an inventory of your legal technology kit bag? Let’s see:

  • Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) system. Check.
  • AI tool for reviewing documents or performing analytics. Check.
  • Time machine. Time machine?

Yes, the time machine. Often overlooked in the legal technology world, and sometimes known colloquially as the “Post-Mortem” or, for less morbid types, “learning from your mistakes”. Today we hop into our time machine to see in action some of Diane Homolak’s golden rules for unlocking legal tech (see the last Innovation Shorts, available here).

Our time machine is made entirely out of a special glass, which means you can see everything but touch nothing. As sci-fi enthusiasts will tell you, due to the risk of time paradox it is forbidden to interfere with past events, no matter how embarrassed you are about them.

We are travelling back a couple of years to watch a CLM rollout that won industry awards and led to several nervous breakdowns on the team. The project highlighted the perils of overlooking the golden rules.

Out of the Box

We arrive in week 6 following the CLM go-live date. There’s Sarah, swearing at her laptop screen and demanding to know why a report is missing some essential data.

Sarah: Tom, where are the modification stats?
Tom: What modification stats?
Sarah, pulling the legs off a soft toy: the “ModStats” report! You were at the demo, weren’t you???

Tom cannot remember the demo. He saw about 12 in the space of 1 week, and now has problems with his medium-term memory. But we can help. With a few deft swipes and clicks on our control pad, the time machine takes us back to the demo itself. The CLM vendor is pointing out the impressive list of data points produced by the tool’s reporting.

Vendor: Here, you can see how often contract terms are modified from your standard position, and even the degree of modification.

Sarah nods, impressed. Tom high fives the air.

We go forwards in time now, to about one week after Sarah’s meltdown. A CLM technician is helping Sarah to understand how the system really works.

Technician: There’s your problem. You are loading bespoke contracts in the tool. You won’t be able to generate ModStats from bespoke documents. The report looks for changes made to template agreements that have been generated from within the system. With bespoke documents, you would have to manually tag each amended clause and map it to the relevant template.
Sarah, looking slightly unwell: Um, what? But we mainly negotiate sales deals from the purchaser’s paper, not our templates…
Technician, looking sympathetic: That’s certainly a business process issue you need to look into.

Further forwards in time. We are in the office of the general counsel, Uriah Zod. Zod is watching cat videos on TikTok and listening to Sarah as she presents the first quarterly CLM report read-out. She concludes her summary and he jerks upright suddenly, like a startled feline, in his chair.

Zod: Hold up. That’s it? What about the deviation report?
Sarah, feigning innocence: Deviation report?
Zod: Yes. You know, the one about the percentage of signed contracts that deviate from our standard position.
Sarah: Ah yes. Well, of course, that’s planned for Phase 1 Point B.
Zod: Right, right. Sorry, what’s Phase 1 Point B?
Sarah: That’s when we start negotiating sales deals from our standard terms rather than counterparty terms. We need to adjust our go to market model and general bargaining position in the industry.
Zod, swiping through his TikTok feed: Thank God for that. I thought we were talking about some big project.

Golden Rule: Know your out-of-the-box functionality at least as well as the vendor and map them to your operating processes.

More Innovation Shorts to follow.