Collaboration:  Not Just post-it notes and highlighters

Posted by Cian on Sep 14, 2015 10:39:38 AM

contract analysis, contract collaboration, contract management"Diane it's month end, I need your comments on the contract for ACME. We have to close this today!" You’ve heard or said these words at the end of the month many times. When you’re trying to get input from others on a contract, the presence of highlighters, post-it notes and sticky arrows are nearly a guarantee. In our connected world including the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, those legacy ways of working with contracts should be extinct. They are not.

Imagine that you have a contract that has an international tax clause and you want Diane to comment on that clause. Think of the steps you have to take to interact with her. Track changes, find the clause, insert a comment, save as, open a new email, attach the document, write the email and send... painful. It's worthy of 500mg of Tylenol® and a nap.

While it’s easy to point the finger at those who avoid technology like a vegetarian avoids meat, it’s not their fault. Truly effective technology that is aligned with traditional contract negotiation methods and the way we have historically interacted with each other has been missing. That has now changed.

Change is happening 

If you are responsible for the negotiation of a contract, getting that input from others can be frustrating, because there is a mismatch between how we communicate in the contract world, versus the every day world.  The tools, and techniques just didn’t match up.  Consumption techniques have changed.

Social media has been a catalyst of that change and it’s a great way to learn how people interact. Likes, dislikes, tags, mentions, invitations and notifications are all part of our daily lives when sharing everything from a cat video to reading an email from your old aunt who just figured out how to send you a smiley face.  A lot of them.  😀😃😄😊😶 👍

Modern interaction, or collaboration, today is more than just a smiley face or a like and dislike. It is also the sense of instant connection; the real time communication.  We chew on small chunks of information and often with near instant feedback and opinion transparency.  We know where our thoughts are and if others we have included have contributed.  We know where things are at.

We’re at the beginning of a major shift in how we create, deliver, consume and comprehend information. And no matter the size of the project or transaction, the traditional methods and tools of interacting are being driven out.

Remember Diane and her international clause? If you are burdened with having to figure a way to ask Diane to contribute, why not just mention @Diane in the comment and have her automagically get a link that she clicks on. When she clicks on that link, it takes her straight to your comment.  Trackable, simple, cloud-based, no version issues. Now you don't waste time on administrative tasks.

Leaders in their fields

Paying attention to small companies that are being creative is essential for your company’s survival.   Companies such as Beagle (out of Kitchener, Canada create technology powered by artificial intelligence that leverages how people want to work as opposed to forcing them to work in an uncomfortable way. Comprehension and collaboration solved together.  Another example is TurboPatent from Patent Navigation Inc. (out of Seattle, USA which is also an excellent example of using modern content creation and collaboration principles in a very document heavy system.

Let’s go back to Diane. If she would have known about Beagle, that contract for ACME would have been closed already, rather than it being a quarter-end crunch fire drill. It would have taken her seconds to answer the question.  And Beagle starts to learn about you as you use the system.  Your likes and dislikes, who you invite for what, and when. You’re training your own contract assistant!  Welcome to the now.  This is not the future.

Modern collaboration methods have many benefits including access control, accountability, speed, and transparency. Take the time to learn about the tools that are out there and which ones are a fit for you. And once you’ve done that, then take the time to take the concept of status quo and legacy ways of doing things and put them on a shelf... and leave them there.

Topics: Beagle, Legal Industry, Artificial Intelligence


Cian is a seasoned contract negotiator, Fellow of Stanford Law's CodeX, and the Top Dog and Founder of Beagle Inc. Beagle Inc. uses artificial intelligence to read contracts automatically, and provides a feature rich review tool set.