Although I am a fervent advocate for simpler contracts [see better contracts by design, or steps to simplification], for many businesses a simple document in MS Word is no longer enough.

In 2017, I helped The Federation of Master Builders move from complex text documents to adobe forms (an editable pdf). At the time, this was pretty innovative!

Since then, the pandemic has raised expectations of what we need and also provided the nudge (aka kick up the b*m) that the legal industry needed to move a little more with the times!

So once you have simpler contracts what should you think about doing, beyond your text template?

Alternative next steps

You should consider which contract tools will help you implement your contract strategy and manage the contracting process from template to project completion. Options include:

  • Automation – allowing you to store, adapt, negotiate, and agree contracts with customers and suppliers [watch my comparison of a few tools]
  • Contract Hubs – archives of your template contracts with guidance on when these templates should be used, how they can be adapted (see playbooks) and who owns the content
  • Electronic Execution – signing your contract and securely archiving the documents [read about e-signatures]
  • Contract management – using a single source of data to manage contract performance [read about implementing CLM]
  • Playbooks – giving you fall-back alternative positions for your standard clauses, explanations and making it easier to empower your staff to negotiate contracts; also known as cheat sheets, negotiation guides [learn what to do here]
  • Training – ensuring your staff understand your contract content, how to create legally enforceable documents in your jurisdiction and how to use the processes to safeguard your business [ask me]
  • Lessons learnt – ensuring you capture the lessons from previous projects, contract negotiation and business changes to improve your contracts and contract processes [tips on when and how to do this].

You also need to ensure that [your] use of standardized master agreements and contract templates does not result in failure to address the issues that may be fundamental to the successful performance of the contract (World CC Most Negotiated Terms 2020, available to members).

What should you do?

Easy: ensure all your contracts can be completed and signed on-line.

Middling: create a contract hub with all your templates, guidance and alternative content in an online platform. You can even share access to some of this with clients and suppliers.

Harder: ask someone to help you create a contract playbook for your own contracts to give you the confidence to adapt and negotiate them without constantly seeking legal advice.

Star performer: implement a contract lifecycle programme based on simple contracts and a clear understanding of your contract strategy.

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