January 26, 2019

A Survey on Contract Playbooks: Part I

Written by
Henal Patel

Playbooks and contract policies are an increasingly important best practice for legal teams of all sizes.  Over the past six months, we sat down with over ~300 legal departments and operations teams and surveyed how companies use, create, and manage contract playbooks in order to improve contract negotiation outcomes.

We hope this series will help you identify where your organization is, and more importantly, what actions you can take today to move things forward.

In Part I of this series, we'll explore maturity levels, where they tend to fall, and where we see the future heading.

Stages of Playbook Maturity

As legal operations mature, we found a consistent trend:

Early Stage Legal Operations

  • Contracts are reviewed on an ad hoc basis - emails come in with PDF/DOCX attachments for review
  • Negotiation logic is stored in silos (i.e., tribal knowledge in legal teams) without standardization
  • Playbooks and template / clause libraries are on a wish list, and knowledge management is not focus or discipline
  • New hires have a difficult time "getting up to speed"
  • Lessons learned and business concerns fall to the bottom of inboxes

Intermediate Legal Operations

  • Templates and clause libraries are established, but there are still questions about deviation and workflow
  • Drafts of deal negotiations are kept in a central repository in Word format
  • A "contract policy" defines negotiation parameters and dives into more nuanced legal theories
  • Legal teams meet regularly to discuss transactional issues
  • Trainings, webinars, and other opportunities to learn increase amongst the team, but lessons learned continue to be lost

Advanced Legal Operations

  • Playbooks are charted in Word, Excel, or OneNote with a more clear direction for the reviewer
  • Lessons learned or new legal precedent finds its way to a documented source
  • Ownership of information and iteration on the playbook goes stale (i.e., the first version does not improve)
  • Outside consultants or legal service providers (i.e., LPOs) leverage playbooks to execute contract review processes as mandated by the organization

Maturation is a Challenge

In our surveys and discussions, we learned that organizations have a difficult time maturing across each stage.  Here are some reasons why:

  • Change management: how do we get our team onboard the playbook process and how do we get them to use the playbook consistently?
  • Writer's block:  how do we get started?
  • Metrics:  how do I know that this will actually help us?
  • Implementation support: where do I find time to define our policy and playbook?

The last bullet in particular is true across small to medium size legal departments.

Designing a Review Process

Without a doubt, the number one blocker to moving maturity is the time it takes to develop and build a contract review process and strategy. Without strategy, we find a reluctance to improve. We also found that legal teams are growing reluctant to use the tools of today - e.g., Excel, Word, etc. and are trending toward point solutions that execute quick wins.

Stay tuned as we explore further.

Written by
Henal Patel

Henal is a native Houstonian and the CEO of DocJuris. Before founding DocJuris, he worked as a senior in-house lawyer and legal ops specialist for over fifteen years.

Let's Jump on a Quick Call šŸš€