New Ebook: Actionable Insights from Four In-house Lawyers
Love them or loathe them, contracts are the mainstay of every business. Virtually every relationship with a customer, client, supplier, employee, or service provider is underpinned by a contract. Each contract defines the details of that relationship, from the financial terms, reporting requirements, and key obligations of each party, to non-performance, break clauses and renewal dates.
As a business grows, the complexity of the contract management process grows – and so do the risks of getting it wrong, from financial penalties and ruined relationships to legal disputes and, potentially, business viability.
To get an inside look at overcoming challenges around maintaining contract visibility and keeping up with obligations, ContractWorks partnered with Alternative Insights to learn how four top in-house lawyers approach contract management.
An interview with Sarah Ouis, In-house Legal Counsel and Legal Content Creator.
Sarah Ouis explains the essential role of contracts in the work of in-house legal teams:
Contract activity is usually pretty heavy for in-house legal teams and represents a significant portion of their workload. It could be commercial agreements, ranging from the most trivial and low risk type of agreements, such as confidentiality agreements, all the way through master services agreements and more project related agreements, such as work orders and change orders. In-house legal teams can also get involved with procurement related needs, such as supplier related contracts, says Sarah.
“Contracts are what puts the money on the table. If there are no contracts, there is no business.”
3 Key Takeaways:
View contracts not just as legal documents for the legal team, but as business critical tools for which everyone should take some responsibility.
Build trust and collaboration with other business units and functions to foster their understanding of, and engagement with, contracts. Leverage other organization-wide processes to build ownership of contracts across functions.
Be creative! You don’t necessarily need a shiny CLM system to manage contracts effectively, or at least get started with the use of technology. Leverage the tools you already have in house, like a CRM or Office 365.
Champion of Consistency
An interview with Chris Fox, Chief Legal Officer at Kambi Group PLC
As Head of Legal for an international firm of about 1,000 employees, Chris Fox leads a relatively large team of around 20 people. The reason, he explains, is that his role encompasses more than legal alone. He also oversees the compliance, regulatory, and regulatory compliance functions, which for an international B2B sports betting solutions provider, are fairly significant responsibilities in themselves.
“All three areas are critical to our business. Compliance includes legislative requirements such as GDPR, anti-bribery and corruption, but also touches on insurance, AML, and various international certifications; our regulatory function supports the Sales department when prospecting, and also acquires new licences for specific territories or US states; and the regulatory compliance team ensures that we maintain our licences and achieve against our regulatory requirements. On top of that, we’ve got the usual legal work an in-house legal team is tasked with.”
3 Key Takeaways:
Don’t dismiss off-the-shelf products. You don’t need to invest big sums to be able to come up with effective solutions.
Make the effort to understand not only the needs of the business, but also the wants – things the company might not even know it needs, but which could deliver significant benefits.
Remember that good governance is not just about risk management. It is about ordering data and processes to give people transparency and certainty.
Be Best Friends with the CFO
An interview with Faye Moran, Head of Legal Operations (Interim) at Booking.com
A seasoned Head of Legal Operations, Faye Moran has first-hand experience of multiple different approaches to contract management.
Regardless of sector or business, one of the issues most organizations have in common – according to Faye – is that no-one has really nailed the contract lifecycle management process. This is surprising given the obvious – and not so obvious – value in their contracts.
“The lack of a contract management system and clause level data can be critical. Without clarity, you don’t know what’s been agreed to or why it was agreed to. If it all blows up two years later, Legal has to try and unpick it all. Better systems and information might prevent some of that.”
3 Key Takeaways:
Contract management is much bigger than legal. Help the business to understand this basic but crucial truth.
Consider creating a ‘contract director’ role, tasked with managing the CLM process and bringing stakeholders on board across the business.
Become best friends with your CFO. Help them understand that investing in the CLM process means less risk – particularly financial risk.
Master of Her Universe
An interview with Tamara Franks, Head of Operations, Group General Counsel at Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited
Tamara Franks oversees the central Group General Counsel Operations team that works alongside the individual legal, compliance, and governance teams to help them streamline and improve the process aspects of their work.
“It’s a delicate balance between developing more efficient systems, without taking responsibility for contracts away from the business units. It is really important that the business does not lose sight of its contracts. We are a second-line function and therefore need business units to consider risk locally and to bring matters to us when legal advice is required.”
3 Key Takeaways:
Be aware of your universe of contracts and understand what is out there in your organization.
Create a record of business-critical contracts, so you understand where the material risks lie and identify an executive owner for each of these agreements.
Allocate your resources according to the different levels of legal risk identified within your contract universe.