How Legal Operations Departments Are Evolving

As the old saying goes, change is constant. This is especially true within the corporate world, where businesses must keep pace with market forces, technological advances, and other factors in order to maximize efficiencies and stay competitive. No department is spared from this ongoing need for evolution, and that includes legal operations.

So how are legal operations evolving? An annual survey with legal operations leaders shows a number of key shifts. Here are three ways legal operations departments are evolving – and the impact these trends may have on resources, processes, and other considerations that impact in-house legal teams.

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The Biggest Contract Management Challenges Facing Today's Tech Companies

Technology companies manage thousands, if not tens of thousands of contracts. These include:

  • Contracts with resellers and distributors of your software or hardware

  • Patents, trademarks, and copyrights that protect your intellectual property

  • License agreements for the use of technology belonging to other companies

  • Contracts with employee workers and contractors, including NDAs and non-competes

  • Equipment leases, real estate contracts, etc.

And that’s not counting contracts and licenses with customers, which for B2C tech businesses may amount to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of contracts.

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Contract Management Guide: 4 Ways to Fix Outdated Processes

There are few better illustrations of how far technology has advanced over the decades than your smartphone. In 1945, scientists booted up one of the earliest versions of the computer: it was a hulking machine that took up 1,500 square feet, weighed in at 30 tons and had memory and processing capabilities that are barely a fraction of those of today’s pocket-sized devices.

Technological innovation has transformed almost every aspect of life since then, from your cell phone to, yes, contract management. And while even the most die-hard luddite isn’t performing their work on a slow, antique processor, many organizations remain mired in outdated practices and methods of handling important corporate agreements. Some of these outdated processes even predate those apartment-sized computers!

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How Every Department Benefits from Contract Management Software

Contracts are the lifeblood of every modern business, from tiny startups to giant multinational firms. By enforcing the terms of an agreement between two or more entities, contracts are the foundation of a trusted and reliable relationship between separate individuals or companies.

However, you might have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of contracts in force at the same time. Managing and administering them all requires a great deal of time and effort as a result. Fortunately, dedicated contract management software can significantly reduce the resources you need to expend on the task of contract management.

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Evolving Beyond Spreadsheets: A Guide to Modern Contract Management

For many companies, contract management has traditionally consisted of manually updating spreadsheets to help document and track the endless deadlines and complicated terms found within their corporate agreements. However, as technology has evolved, more effective and efficient ways to manage large volumes of contracts have emerged. 

Although spreadsheets might seem sufficient for some contract management needs, it is not a sustainable solution as your company grows. Below are some of the reasons legal teams have often turned to spreadsheets for their contract management needs, as well as the benefits of making the switch to dedicated contract management software.

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Hospital Contract Management: 3 Ways to Ensure Compliance

While the ability to effectively manage contracts and keep up with all contractual obligations is important for any business, it is paramount for hospitals, which are faced with a number of compliance regulations designed to best protect patients’ health and interests.

Though the primary function of a hospital may be to administer patient care, just like any other business, hospitals routinely deal with a high volume of different types of contracts affecting every aspect of how they run. These include agreements with the doctors who work out of their facility, contracts with medical equipment and pharmaceutical vendors, and things like IT service agreements, even though they may not seem directly tied to the delivery of patient care.

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3 Main Benefits of a Contract Management System

Optimizing contract management processes can help businesses improve bottom lines by nearly 10 percent annually, according to the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management. But of all the optimizations that can be implemented throughout contract lifecycles, one of the most impactful may be a contract management system using a dedicated software solution.

What makes employing a contract management system such a powerful way to drive value and reduce risks? Keep reading to uncover the three main benefits of a contract management system.

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The Role of Machine Learning in Contract Analysis

If you think contracts are long and unwieldy, here’s proof: according to an article in the New York Times, the average length of computer software contracts is 74,000-plus words, or, as the professor who combed through all the agreements to calculate that average pointed out, “basically the length of the first Harry Potter book.”

While Harry Potter might make for some fun reading, anyone who manages contracts for a living will likely tell you the pages and pages of fine print involved in most corporate agreements are decidedly not. And analyzing these lengthy volumes has historically been a cumbersome, manual task that – due to the potential implications of details as small as a comma – can take hour after painstaking hour. But contract analysis is hugely important work: this close scrutiny helps businesses to strengthen standard contracts, reducing their risks and improving potential upsides, and helps businesses to evaluate the terms of a specific contract, understanding exactly what they are obliging themselves to do and what they will get in return.

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What Does the Future of Contracting Look Like?

Contract management continues to evolve as the technology and tools involved improve and new features are introduced. One recent change that has already had a tremendous impact on legal teams is the introduction of artificial intelligence, which offers the ability to immediately extract actionable data from corporate agreements, among other benefits.

AI contract management is most likely to benefit industries with highly routine, template-based contracts such as healthcare, government, and manufacturing -- but as the technology continues to evolve, many other sectors will also benefit.

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3 Critical Steps That Need to Be in Your Contract Administration Process

Though the terms ‘contract management’ and ‘contract administration’ are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same thing. Contract management refers to the full spectrum of contract-related activities that occur within your organization, encompassing everything from the earliest stages of planning your approach to contracts in general, to drafting and negotiating agreements, to finally winding down and evaluating the performance of individual contracts after they have concluded. Contract administration, meanwhile, refers to a very specific phase within a contract’s lifecycle, kicking in during the post-award phase of your contract. More specifically, contract administration refers to the processes and procedures that must occur in order for business units to implement and manage a specific agreement after it has been finalized.

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