Artificial intelligence (AI), databases, search engines, and technology that is created daily are changing the legal world.
Attention lawyers: Learn to use computers and computer software such as contract management systems to your advantage to save yourself time or maybe to save your career.
First, think of how contract management has changed since the days before the modern computer era. The late 1900's was a time when lawyers of today were in law school, or perhaps still in grade school. Last century, getting an answer to a legal question was a long process that took days or weeks.
- Searching for a lawyer started with the yellow pages of a phone book for a lawyer in the field pertaining to your need or question
- Voicemail messages were left on a lawyer's phone system or with a live personal secretary
- The wait for a returned call was anywhere from a few hours to a few days
- The lawyer’s secretary called you to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the lawyer
- Arrived to the appointment time on-time
- Completed paperwork (legal name, reason for the visit, contact information, address, form of payment, etc.)
- Sat in the waiting room, despite arriving to the appointment on-time or early
- The secretary called your name, for you to approach the service counter
- The secretary or the lawyer walked you to the back of the office, down a hallway, to either a conference room or a lawyer’s personal office
- The lawyer asked you questions unrelated to the question that you had for the lawyer, probably to pad their billing time to you
- The lawyer gave you the chance to ask your question
- The lawyer gave you a very long-winded answer to your question that created other questions in your mind, and/or did not answer your original question
- The lawyer answered your other questions in a manner that lead you to needing an additional meeting with the lawyer
- You and the lawyer shook hands and said goodbye
- You met the secretary at the service counter to pay your bill, $175 to $450/hour were average fees
- You scheduled another appointment date with the lawyer’s secretary, as you frantically considered how many hours or days at your job that you would work to earn enough money to pay your lawyer bill
Last century, getting a contract created by a lawyer could cost upwards of $10,000 between meeting with the lawyer, drafts of the contract, and meetings with the other parties of the contract to sign and execute the contract. Today, some contracts are $0 when the contract is created with a contract management system. A contract management system organizes contracts, guides non-legal users through contract templates to create legal contracts, provides a portal for all parties of a contract to communicate, and more. View features of a contract management system here.
The dotcom era spawned a new approach. Software companies began creating contract template software and selling these for pennies on the dollar to consumers. No longer did it cost $10,000 and five appointments with a lawyer to draft a complete, legal contract. Consumers could shop at an office retailer such as Office Depot or OfficeMax and buy a template for a contract for $30.
A wave of companies copied this approach to other industries. One year, consumers could find one contract template for leasing residential property. The next year, there were a dozen options at office stores. A few years later, the contract template space grew to include dozens of other transaction options. Consumers could buy templates for selling their car, construction contractor agreement, non-compete, general agreement, quitclaim deed, power of attorney, living will, and more! Just as quickly as these multiple brands flooded the marketplace, competition drove prices lower. $30 per template became $27, then $25, then $20, then $12, then online versions eventually offered templates for $0.
The game had changed by the mid 2000’s. No longer was creating a contract about profit to a lawyer and protecting the lawyer’s client. Instead, companies were creating databases! Companies would give consumers free contract templates in exchange of the consumer’s data – name, address, phone number – data which would later be used to advertise products and services back to these same consumers, subjective to the database “profile” for each consumer. Companies like Facebook and Google thrived on this model. Links to free contract templates on Facebook and Google were hidden advertisements and data capture. This data capture created the early algorithms for AI, artificial intelligence.
The dotcom era was the birth of contract management software. Software companies created contract management systems that specialized in helping enterprises of all sizes to create their own contracts, subjective and unique to the contract templates for purchase at the office retailers.
In the mid 2000’s, the contract creation business was a mix of tech-savvy consumers and companies that preferred the “greener” approach of populating contracts on a computer screen, instead of the less-tech-savvy consumers and mom-and-pop shops still using the antiquated paper contract templates.
The mid 2000’s was also the time when cell phone technology migrated from flip-phones to smartphones. Contract management became mobile.
According to the American Bar Association, “In 2019, 84% of large law firms (firms with 100+ lawyers) utilized the availability of remote access technology.”
Mobile contract management was a major contributing factor to contract management system popularity growth by companies of all sizes, tiny to gigantic, local LLCs to large market cap international enterprises. Executives stopped carrying briefcases with physical paper folders and started carrying all their contracts on the contract management software apps on their smartphones, tablets and laptops.
To consider the bell curve of acceptance, the “innovators” and “early adapters” began using contract management software in the late 1990’s. The 2000’s saw the “early majority” start, inspired by U.S. Congress passing the ESIGN Act in 2000.
In 2021, the world is in the middle of the “late majority” in terms of contract templates, and we are in the middle of the “early majority” in contract management software utilization. Contract management software continues to evolve. The organizations using contract management systems are leading the growth and market share. Lawyers that use contract management systems are leading their competition.
Who Uses Contract Management Software?
Yes, lawyers use contract management software. But much research is done by paralegals. If you are a paralegal, make sure to become very familiar with your contract management software. Learn the shortcuts. Watch the YouTube videos. Become efficient. Let the technology help you work smarter hours, not longer hours.
If you are a trial lawyer at the top of your field, your job security will probably remain high throughout your lifetime. Trial lawyers will likely always have a job, as plaintiffs and defendants in court are currently given rulings from a judge based on laws created by humans. Trial lawyers that use contract management systems likely work more efficiently than lawyers that rely on paper trails. Train your team and paralegals or get them trained. Click here to get trained on contract management software.
AI in Contract Management
There are other lawyer roles that may not have as high of a job security throughout their career. Artificial intelligence (AI) software is doing more job responsibilities, instead of human input. But job security of lawyers can be preserved if these non-trial lawyers learn how to make AI work to their advantage.
If your law expertise is outside of the courtroom, some or all roles as a lawyer may be eventually replaced by artificial intelligence (AI).
Contract Management Software = Data Management
AI is creeping its way into more legal duties daily. The reason is data. Data is growing daily, but there are still only 24 hours in a day.
However, if you are a paralegal, AI may be doing more and more of your job until AI advances to the point of making your role obsolete. If you are a paralegal, start to learn how AI works, and AI’s pitfalls, and you can secure your career future.