In this article, I’m going to explain how resource-constrained in-house legal teams can save up to $30,000 per year per lawyer and increase contract value by up to 20% through the automation of repetitive legal tasks. That might sound far-fetched, but research shows that there is room for massive productivity improvement in modern day legal practice.
So where do these numbers come from? A white paper from International Data Corporation shows that workers spend 5 hours per week searching for documents, 4 hours per week filing and organising documents, 3 hours per week dealing with paper-based documents and 2 hours per week recreating documents that can’t be found. At a conservative $50 per hour, that’s the equivalent of $35,000 wasted per year per lawyer. As a former lawyer, I’ve done all this work before and aside from the time wastage, I know how draining it can be.
So what are the potential savings? Let’s start by being conservative and assume that we can only automate half the work. That’s still over $15,000 per year per lawyer that could be saved. If we can automate 90% of the work – and we will show you how we do that – then that’s potentially over $30,000 per year per lawyer in savings.
Additionally, research from the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management shows that the average organisation leaks a staggering 20% of average contract value every year. This is due to a variety of factors such as invoicing errors, incorrect price adjustments, inadvertent renewals and lost upsell opportunities. With a proper system for contract review, you can remove a lot of this wastage, which for most companies is going to represent hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of dollars annually.
Let’s go through an example of how we helped Sophos solve these types of problems. Sophos is a leading cybersecurity company, who needed to analyse large volumes of contracts in response to regulatory events.
By using Aerofiler, Sophos was able to upload over 10,000 contracts in a day, enabling them to find any information, in any contract instantly. This means that they no longer had to spend time searching for documents, filing documents or opening up contracts one by one.
Mark Nishihara, Legal Operations Manager, described the results as “rather dramatic”. He said that Aerofiler empowered “both legal and business teams with information to make decisions” which previously were “not possible”. By giving them insights into their contractual data, Aerofiler helped Sophos reduce contract leakage and regulatory risk.
Who We Can Help
We focus on helping in-house legal professionals who want to focus on high-value strategic work, but are struggling with the administrative parts of the job, and feeling drained with not enough hours in the day. They’d’ be able to get all their legal work done if only they weren’t bogged down with tasks such as searching for contracts and managing renewals.
They’ve tried spreadsheets, but they don’t work. This isn’t anyone’s fault. Spreadsheets are not a good way to manage contracts. The contracts are separated from the data. There are no alerts. There’s no security.
Instead, they’re looking for a solution that’s affordable, secure and easy to use. That’s what we do, and that’s all we do.
Aerofiler works with in-house legal professionals in Australia, Asia, the UK and the US ranging from venture-backed startups to public companies. We’ve been a Gold Sponsor of CLOC, which is the largest legal operations organisation in the world. We have articles in publications such as The Legal Technologist. We’re featured in the Artificial Lawyer AL 100 Legal Tech directory.
I’m Don, one of the co-founders of Aerofiler. I’ve written two books on our technology stack. I’m also a complete contracts aficionado, having written a 20,000 word thesis on the interaction between the Law of Contract and the Law of Restitution.
Stu is our Chief Product Officer. The genesis of Aerofiler was Stu’s experience at SurveyMonkey, where he was their first lawyer and then Associate General Counsel. Stu had thousands of contracts on a shared drive with no good way to organise them. He evaluated dozens of existing solutions, but none of them solved his problem in an adequate manner.
Jarrod, our CTO has over 15 years of engineering experience building web scale mission critical applications across multiple public companies.
What does this mean for you? There are legal tech products built by tech people with no legal experience. These normally don’t work out very well because the people who build the products don’t understand what lawyers do. Our founding team has deep legal and engineering experience, which means we know exactly what lawyers want and how to build it.
What are the steps?
So what is it that you actually need to do? Let’s start with a high level overview before getting into the details. There are three broad steps. Firstly, there’s document capture, which means consolidating contracts from multiple sources such as emails, shared folders, and USB drives. The next step is data extraction and validation. This is where you extract key information such as parties and dates and implement a quality validation process so that the data can be relied upon. Lastly, you get the output, which means you can generate reports and query your data on the fly to respond to the ever-changing needs of the business.
Step 1 – Document Capture
Let’s unpack document capture, which is a critical step in developing a single source of truth for your contracts. What you need to do here is find your existing contracts and consolidate them into one authoritative place. This is not the most fun part, but you only have to do it once and the alternative is considerably worse. We know of examples where the legal team was called into an audit preparation meeting. The task was to locate a small number of contracts in a short period of time. It took over 90 minutes to complete that task, which left a lot of people nervous about whether the audit would be passed.
Beyond the simple task of finding a contract, document capture is also important for risk management. Most companies have thousands of legal obligations, each of which can have a critical impact. If the legal team doesn’t have good visibility over what those obligations are, it makes it increasingly difficult to protect the company against risk.
Step 1 – Q&A
So if you’re starting from scratch, what are the mechanics of doing this? You start by finding where your contracts are. They’re typically in emails and shared folders such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Maybe even USB drives. If all your contracts are already in one place, the migration will be straightforward. If contracts are scattered everywhere, you may have to tell other business users to start sending their contracts to a central location, and that’s what we’ve had some clients do. You’ll need to start driving home the message that people have to stop storing contracts in emails and USB drives, because that’s how one lawyer we know lost a million dollar contract, with no idea when it would renew.
But perfection is not required and if you have missing contracts, that’s OK. At some point, you start getting diminishing returns, and it’s probably not necessary to track down a former employee to see if they still have that non-disclosure agreement from five years ago. Even if an important contract is missing, with a properly organised source of truth, at least you’ll know that the contract is missing and then you can take appropriate steps to remediate the situation.
That’s much better than the current situation, where contracts are likely scattered, and you don’t even know what you don’t know.
Step 2 – Extract Your Data
Ok, so you’ve managed to consolidate all your contracts into a single source of truth. Now what?
The first step is optical character recognition, which means you need a system to convert any document to readable text. Without the text, you won’t know what’s inside your contract and won’t be able to use computers to search through them.
We know of an example where a company had to go to a law firm multiple times for exactly the same piece of advice. The previous advice came as a physical letter which they scanned in. But because there was no optical character recognition, they couldn’t perform a digital search for the advice and had to pay for the advice to be written again from scratch.
The next thing your system needs is some artificial intelligence. We’ve dedicated an entire webinar to explaining what artificial intelligence is, and how it applies to the legal industry. For now, let’s just say that you want some type of artificial intelligence to assist you in extracting data from your contracts, so that you don’t have to do everything manually.
The final component is quality control. No AI is going to be perfect and it wouldn’t be wise to trust important contracts to a pure machine review. For high-value contracts, you’ll always want a person to perform the final validation.
Step 2 – Q&A
Your optical character recognition should be able to handle scanned images, blurry text and even handwriting. It’s not going to be 100% but it should give you a good level of visibility into every obligation. And it should be fast. Once you get started, you don’t want to be waiting months or even weeks to get results.
The accuracy of artificial intelligence varies depending on the complexity of the contract.
The main purpose of AI in law is not accuracy, but speed. If you have a lot of high value contracts, it’s unlikely you’ll ever want to trust data extraction to a purely machine review. But if AI can automatically extract some of the fields, that will still save you a lot of time compared to starting from scratch.
Step 3 – Run Your Queries
The final step is to get the payoff. Once you have created a single source of truth and extracted the data, you should be able to find any information in any contract instantly.
For example, if you’re negotiating a clause, it should be easy to bring up clauses from similar contracts to quickly get an understanding of what you’ve done in the past.
If you want to create a dynamic folder organising all your contracts by jurisdiction, or document type, or address, you should be able to do that in seconds.
All of this should be done quickly and easily, so that you don’t have to stress about your contracts being a bundle of risks. You can then focus on performing higher value strategic work
Step 3 – Q&A
Should you be able to combine searches? Yes. If you want all contracts from 2018 with a governing law of New South Wales and a change of control clause, the search should take seconds, not days or weeks as it currently might.
Should you be able to export your searches? Yes. Your data should always be yours, which means you should be able to export the original documents, alongside the actual data.
What about reports and charts? You should be able to generate charts and reports on any data into the system. That way, you have not just a repository of contracts, but a legal analytics platform to drive insight and decision-making.
Now there are a few ways to achieve this. Option one is to try and implement it yourself. But:
- Even though legal technology should be simple to use, building it is very complicated. It’s not something that an internal IT department would typically be able to put together
- Building legal technology can be expensive. We know one public company who budgeted $1 million to build their product in-house. It ended up costing $2 million, and their head of legal told me it was the worst decision they’ve ever made
- Even if the project succeeds, you still need to dedicate a lot of resources to ongoing maintenance
The second option is to use one of the existing legal tech products out there. We’ve already tried this option and it was so frustrating that we decided to form our own company. Some of the troubles we encountered include:
- Months of implementation time
- Tens of thousands of dollars of implementation costs
- Super painful to use because they weren’t user friendly
- No accurate way to extract data, or maybe even no way to extract data at all
Or you can use Aerofiler and:
- Get started in hours, not months
- Avoid implementation, migration or set up costs.
- Get all your data extracted within a week
We can do this at a price point that will give you at least 10 times return on your investment in our product.
Case Study – BBP
Let’s go through another case study. BBP is an energy-tech startup backed by KKR. We started working with them when they were growing so quickly that their manual operations were no longer scaling with the business. They needed a system to organise contractual obligations and track key parameters across various geographies and projects.
How did Aerofiler solve these problems for BBP? We enabled them to instantly generate reports to track key information such as contract values, escalation percentages and renewal dates. If you recall, these types of data insights can all but eliminate the 20% leakage in average contract value that occurs at typical organisations.
Wye Lin, who is responsible for legal and corporate development at BBP, states that she spends less time doing manual work and going through folders, and that she uses Aerofiler “almost every day”
Case Study – Amnesty
Amnesty International Australia is an NGO focused on upholding human rights. Amnesty was previously using spreadsheets and hard copy filing to manage their contracts. They were having trouble keeping track of their contractual obligations and renewal dates.
Using Aerofiler, Amnesty can find any contract in seconds. Katie Wood, legal counsel and company secretary, says that: “Aerofiler delivers value for everything related to proper management of contracts”. She also says that Aerofiler “is fantastic and saving everyone time and money on tracking our contract obligations.” If you recall, time wastage for the average lawyer can be over $30,000 per year.
Most importantly for Amnesty, time saved managing contracts is time spent fighting for human rights.
Here’s what is going to happen when you work with us:
- You’ll never miss a renewal date or upsell opportunity ever again
- You’ll be able to find any information in any contract, instantly. This will make it easy to answer key questions such as, “If there’s a data breach, who do I have to notify and by when”
- If legislation changes, you’ll know what contracts are affected and what precedents need to be updated
- You will feel relieved because you finally have enough time to get your legal work done
So how does it work?
Before, when you wanted to track renewal dates, you’d need to manually enter the data into a spreadsheet, set a reminder in Outlook and hope that the person responsible wasn’t away sick or on leave when the contract renewed. If you had consecutive terms or auto-renewals, then your system probably couldn’t handle this complexity.
But now, you can set that information with just a few mouse clicks in Aerofiler and have an integrated solution that can generate reports and automatically remind business teams when renewals and expiries are upcoming. For expense contracts, that means you can avoid accidental renewals. For revenue contracts, you can be made aware of upcoming opportunities for an upsell. Do you see how that would be useful?
Before, when you wanted to find a contract in a folder, first you’d have to hope that the contract was actually in the place where you were searching. Then you had to navigate a folder structure that might have been built by someone else for a completely different purpose. Then you’d have to waste precious time trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack, all the while wishing you were doing more important work.
In Aerofiler, you can generate any folder structure dynamically in just a few seconds. If you want folders by counterparty, jurisdiction, or document type, it just takes a few clicks. If you want a folder by counterparty and then a subfolder by jurisdiction, it’s just another few mouse clicks. Do you see how much time that could save you?
Before, when you wanted to search for something, you’d start with a keyword search then you would need to open and read individual contracts to find the document you were interested in. Now, you can perform that same keyword search and have all the information you want on a single screen.
Traditionally, legal professionals haven’t enjoyed the advanced tools and analytics that their accounting, marketing and sales counterparts have taken for granted. Consequently, they’ve had to deal with massive inefficiencies consuming as much 20% of the working week. That has now changed. Aerofiler takes clients through a simple 3-step process to consolidate contracts, extract data, and run queries on the fly. Contact us to see how we can help you automate repetitive legal tasks.