The Contract Review Process: Updated and Automated

icon-contractThree basic stages define the contract review process: negotiation, revision, and execution. And each stage is accompanied by unique risks and delays — especially when legal departments rely on manual review and negotiation processes. The negotiation stage alone can sometimes take months.

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Companies can streamline contract review by leveraging innovative technology that replicates an attorney’s review, redlines documents, and even offers context-based suggestions. With the right legal technology solution, corporate legal departments can enhance every aspect of the contract approval process.

Issues with a Manual Contract Review Process

The three broad stages of the contract review process — negotiation, revision, and execution — introduce a variety of risks. These issues become even more pronounced when corporate legal departments rely on manual processes.

 

Negotiation

Revision

Execution 

Definition

The negotiation stage of contract review covers everything from the initial decision to make an agreement to a review of the potential terms. Negotiation may occur through phone calls, emails, or simply by sending redlined copies of various contracts with suggested updates.  

At this stage, contracting parties have agreed on the terms of the agreement and updated the contract language. Minor changes to provisions and clauses that occur at this stage should only further clarify the terms. 

Execution describes the actions the parties take to complete the contract. Execution begins when authorized individuals sign their documents, and it continues as parties meet their required actions throughout the agreement period. If renewed, the contract returns to the negotiation phase. 

Potential complications 

Protocols: Many departments follow playbooks that define negotiation steps and what to avoid. However, playbooks can be hundreds of pages, leading associates to miss important information.  

Missed opportunities: Attorneys may focus on the overarching terms of a contract and overlook minor issues, which could put them in a better position or offer room for concession.  

Ambiguities: Attorneys do not set out to create ambiguous clauses, but they may unintentionally develop them under the erroneous assumption that their intent is obvious. 

Missing clauses: Corporate legal departments frequently update their contract requirements to add new clauses based on issues with old contracts. However, if communications falter, essential information is missed. 

Deadlines: Deadlines in a large contract can be easily missed if the department relies on a manual tracking process. This could result in contract breaches and missed renewal opportunities. 

Outdated copies: Manual record-keeping methods could lead to the storage of multiple, outdated documents. Departments must find a way to ensure all copies reflect the most recent terms of the contract. 

Problems stemming from the contract review process arise because legal departments traditionally have had difficulty automating their review processes. However, with advanced technology, opportunities to fully automate the contract review process have emerged. 

Improving Contract Review with Automation

Legal innovations have created options for automating the contract review process and improving corporate legal department productivity. These innovations may use big data, artificial intelligence, and other advanced features to review, categorize and follow up on contracts. Here are a few ways they are enhancing the contract review process. 

  • Redlining: An AI-driven contract review process will evaluate the language of a contract based on prior data and company guidelines. It will redline areas of concern for the attorney to review and assess, helping to eliminate issues with ambiguities or missing clauses. 

  • Authoring: Some more advanced contract analysis programs will provide text insertions to improve the agreement's language. This is especially useful when the department has playbook to guide negotiations. Attorneys can use the suggested language to ensure playbook compliance and accelerate the contract approval process. 

  • Data extraction: Data extraction software harvests vital information from contracts. The software then organizes it into a database that can power automated reminders and warnings for upcoming due dates. This can eliminate issues with missed deadlines or overlooked renewals. 

Automation in the contract review process dramatically reduces contract review time eliminates oversights inherent with manual strategies. Advanced programs can read a contract much like an attorney would and offer insights into the language. However, as this is a machine-driven process, these reviews occur faster, saving time and money.

LexCheck automates and enhances the contract review process by leveraging artificial intelligence. Reach out to us to request a demo, or contact us at sales@lexcheck.com to learn more.  

gary-sanghaGary Sangha | Founder & CEO

Gary Sangha is the Founder and CEO LexCheck. He's a serial entrepreneur and an academic. Gary previously founded Intelligize, a legal technology company that was acquired by LexisNexis. He's affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University and started his career as an attorney at Shearman & Sterling and White & Case.