NATIONAL—As a private practice attorney, you may often feel like you are riding a burning bicycle with people around you splashing gasoline on your back. Oh, by the way, you still have to get to your destination on time despite all the obstacles. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. The bike is your to-do list, the gasoline is that never-ending pile of new tasks to handle, and your destination is Deadline the Inevitable. Does it sound close enough to how things are?
Undoubtedly, contract review is something that always remains on top of that pile. But you still can’t dedicate it all the time it needs because there are only that many hours in a day and no fewer than a dozen of contracts to handle weekly. That’s why you probably have no choice but to focus on the main aspects of the contract and make peace with the rest being less than perfect.
Meanwhile, you may have been prompted by your competition, clients, and media to eye technological solutions to help you handle contract review. It is completely justified since the use of technology has been proven to boost efficiency. In fact, the number of law offices linking boosted efficiency to employing legal technology in 2019 soared by half in 2020.
The number of tools to choose from and changes following the tech adoption may seem overwhelming, though. Many lawyers shy away from introducing technology because it seems to be adding even more work rather than taking it off your shoulders. A remedy seems to become a poison.
But it shouldn’t be like this. When approached wisely, technology can make you much more efficient in contract review and, thus, much more valuable to your clients.
How do you do that?
Think small, expect drastic changes
At Loio (from Hawaiian ‘lawyer’), we believe that when it comes to introducing innovation, being overwhelmed is counterproductive. Instead, lawyers should start by taking baby steps rather than revolutionize everything at once.
The equivalent of baby steps is upgrading the technology you already have by adding small improvements which do not require massive financial and time investments and are easy to master. For example, by incorporating a variety of add-ins, also known as plugins, for Microsoft Word. Some of them use machine learning algorithms as the most advanced tool to process data and offer users the most accurate insights — just like Loio does.
Using add-ins to enhance your ability to perform a variety of text-related tasks is becoming something of a trend. Personally, I know a lawyer who boasts having at least a hundred Microsoft Word add-ins for legal document review. Not using technology in contract review, on the other hand, is listed among the top ten causes of contract value leakage.
Installing an add-in usually takes a couple of minutes. You can do it either by clicking “Insert” — “Add-ins” in your Microsoft Word document or via Microsoft AppSource. Some add-ins require registration, others don’t. The interface of such tools is usually pretty intuitive, but you can always sign up for a demo or check out a knowledge base.
Microsoft Word add-ins can do a variety of things when it comes to improving the mechanical tasks of contract review. These include looking for typos, detecting missing terms, names, places, sums of money, and references, fixing broken formatting and lists. Namely, all the tedious jobs that usually don’t require legal expertise to perform, can’t be omitted, and distract you from focusing on what clients appreciate the most and pay for — understanding the risks and knowing how to negotiate.
Whatever the length of your contract is, modern add-ins will process it in 10 seconds or less and give you an instant map of your contract. Imagine how much more time you will be able to save for higher-risk and value-adding tasks by initially investing 15 minutes in learning the ropes.
Overnight success does not mean overnight tech adoption
Any success requires thorough preparation. This is equally true for the adoption of contract review tools like Microsoft Word add-ins. Do not be hasty when it comes to choosing the right solution. When choosing a contract review tool, think of it as an assistant you’ll be spending most of your time with every day.
Start by compiling a list of tools you like most. You can check out such software review platforms as G2 and Capterra or ask around. It’s quite possible your peers are already using something to that effect.
Once your shortlist is ready, sign up for a trial period. Almost every contract review tool offers that. Allocate time for mastering every solution. A good idea would be to test the solution first and then book a demo to go through it again and ask all the questions you already have in real-time. Once you know your way around, testing can begin. Set your goals and expectations, as well as a time period you can dedicate to trying out the tool. Don’t be hasty or impatient. Ask for help if you need it. Evaluate the results of every test drive and choose your champion.
To wrap up, boosting your performance in contract review does not necessarily equal being tech-enabled in every way imaginable. It’s rather about knowing the way to make small incremental improvements that bring about incomparably bigger benefits. It’s about pushing the right buttons.
In contract review, it can be using machine learning-powered Microsoft Word add-ins that are easy to install and master. They help you concentrate on contracting tasks that clients appreciate the most rather than spending hours on mechanical tasks that machines will be glad to handle for you.
The idea here is to be consistent in taking small steps in the right direction.