New Free Contract Analysis & Document Assembly Tool [#ILTA11]

Kingsley Martin, Founder and President of KIIAC LLP announced at the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference 2011 a new resource that he has created and is making available to the legal community free of charge. His hope is that through this website we can work collaboratively to improve the quality and efficiency of legal drafting. His new website, www.contractstandards.com contains tools to help analyze legal documents and identify component provisions, to generate drafting checklists, to automate document drafting, and a discussion forum to develop contracting standards. On the website, Martin describes their mission statement as follows:

Our mission is to openly share contract standards–contract analysis, checklists, and clause libraries–in an effort to establish global contract norms. It is hoped readers will share their knowledge through comments, practice guidance and other contributions. Contract Standards is a work in progress with new materials added daily.

[The site is developed and maintained by kiiac.com.]

In an educational session on Low-Cost Information Management and Knowledge Management (ILTA INFO7), Martin demonstrated how this new resource could be used to provide some core KM functionality free:

  • Creating Contract Standards.The contracts standards section of the web side includes a list of all major agreements types, a matrix for identifying the components of agreements, and a clause library. In time, there will also be a Definitions Library. The provisions are drawn from publicly-available sources.
  • Contract Automation. The contract automation section of the website contains free document assembly tools and end-user guides. Participants are invited to suggest new features, or even collaborate in developing open source document assembly tools for general use. The document assembly tools allow you to create a document template and then populate the template with the variable terms that are specific to each contract such as the name of parties and economic terms. Finally, the website can automatically generate a drafting checklist containing all variable terms, optional text and questions that you should ask clients to help you with the drafting.
  • Drafting Guidance and Discussion.This discussion section of the website is intended to collect the comments, questions and recommendations of users. The hope is that this discussion will contribute to the development of contract drafting standards, as well as the development of document automation and analysis software.

Kingsley Martin and KIIAC welcome comments, questions and suggestions. The main question is how lawyers will react to a free resource that has the potential to change the way we draft — at a price that is hard to ignore.

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Light Bulbs in Las Vegas [#ILTA10]

How many light bulbs are in Las Vegas casino lights? According to WikiAnswers, 9,000,000 light bulbs per floor. Last week, however, the International Legal Technology Association’s 2010 annual conference resulted in a great deal more light in Vegas as one informative session after another caused “light bulbs to go off in my head.”  There were several “aha” moments in the sessions I attended, but here are some of my favorites that I don’t want to forget:

  • Ron Friedmann, Gerard Neiditsch and Jeffrey Rovner presented a compelling case for analyzing more carefully the business of law as practiced by most firms.  Their session provided a practical way to take some of the provocative ideas presented by Richard Susskind at ILTA 2009 and make them a reality.  The key take away: different business models may require different technology and business processes, and a mismatch can lead to great inefficiencies.  Do you understand the business drivers at your firm? (For more information on this session, see the presentation slides and  a summary by Andrew McLennan-Murray.)
  • Paul Domnick, CIO of Freshfields, described the viral way some of their social media initiatives behind the firewall have taken off.  Most striking is how they have been willing to stretch and experiment to achieve fantastic results.  In one experiment, they replaced their traditional intranet with a wiki.  That wiki now receives an amazing 1,000,000 page impressions per day.  Further, they did this using Atlassian’s Confluence — NOT SharePoint. In explaining his team’s approach, Paul said: “We need to be the broker between the art of the possible and the real needs of the organization.” (For more details on this session, see the presentation slides and  David Hobbie’s terrific notes.)
  • Kingsley Martin’s astonishing KIIAC software is able to analyze precedent documents and generate a form automatically in a matter of hours.  This will transform the creation of model documents and the role of practicing support lawyers. Above all, if this software allows firms to generate an “at market” form of a complex agreement at the push of the button, what will that do to the practice of law?
  • Keynote speaker Jason Jennings reminded conference attendees that “the right [corporate] culture is the ultimate competitive advantage.” His research indicates that companies achieve and sustain success by engaging their employees in a “shared, noble purpose.” This is an interesting litmus test for both companies and law firms.
  • From a fantastic session on  developing a social media policy by Julia Montgomery and Karen Sheehan:  Education is the key to a social media policy. Without education, it’s difficult for employees to understand both the opportunities and dangers presented by social media.
  • In a session on Supporting Alternative Fee Arrangements, Jason Epstein of Baker Donelson said that most firms were already doing AFAs in one form or another, but most likely weren’t doing them well.  As a result, these firms were probably losing money on them.  In his view, AFAs should be “a spur to make the practice of law better.”
  • From my notes on the Matter-Based Budgeting Session: “Budgeting is an iterative process. Once the lawyer puts a draft budget on the table, that opens up an important ongoing conversation with the client.”
  • Major General Clyde Tate (of the US Army’s JAG Corps) on dealing with massive change: Perseverance is key. “Bureaucrats love it when you give up…your job is to wear them down.”

What were your “light bulb moments” at ILTA 2010?

[Photo Credit: Zetson]

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