Contracts play a crucial role in the operation of any business, and managing them efficiently is essential. While eDiscovery mainly focuses on responding to legal and compliance issues, contract tech, on the other hand, is aimed at delivering strategic value to the business. This technology is not just used by legal and compliance teams but also by other key decision-makers such as:
- procurement; and
- sales departments.
The goal of contract tech is to provide more than just improved efficiency in the legal negotiation process, but also to create long-term benefits for the business as a whole.
Contract analysis helps manage risks and derive value from contractual obligations in historical contracts quickly. The manual nature of contract analysis exercises can be expensive and results in the analysis of a sample of contracts, rather than the entire contract universe. Delays can have significant financial and legal ramifications. Contract analysis tools can speed up the consolidation of contract portfolios during mergers and acquisitions, re-papering exercises and responding to new compliance, regulatory or industry requirements, such as, new data privacy rules. An unprecedented event such as COVID-19 results in the need to quickly identify and understand the impact of contractual agreements relating to a business' supply chain.
Contract lifecycle management ("CLM") refers to the management of the business' contracts from pre-signature and implementation of the contract to termination or renewal. Contract analysis for a once-off event is an opportunity to perform a lifecycle management readiness project deriving greater value for less By integrating contract analysis within CLM, a company can extract important information that can help them identify opportunities to renegotiate contracts and save money.
Even the most sophisticated AI struggles with unstructured and complex contracts. Without incorporating an element of human eyes-on review, there is a risk of missing contractual obligations sitting in obscure clauses that an AI extraction tool has not been trained on. Further, handwritten amendments on contracts may not be readable by a computer and thus human intervention is required until the business' contract universe is completely electronic.
The technology is rapidly evolving to integrate contract analysis and contract automation tools to streamline the day to day handling of contracts in one unified platform. In the meantime, in-house legal and compliance teams are supported by external contract tech experts to streamline the process with a mix of automation, artificial intelligence and strict quality assurance procedures (the human in the loop).
eDiscovery is a critical part of the legal process. It is a form of digital investigation that assists in finding evidence in business communications in preparation for:
- settlement negotiations;
- disputes and litigation;
- civil and criminal proceedings;
- forensic investigations;
- employment matters; and
- responding to regulatory requests.
The move from the traditional, manual (timely and costly) paper-based methods to the digital methodologies for managing data makes sense as corporate communication methods are digital. As business communication methods evolve from traditional means like letters and faxes to more digital modes like email, instant messaging, and electronic signatures, the volume of paper-based documents related to legal and compliance matters has significantly decreased. To efficiently handle the increasing volume of digital data, it's only natural to adopt digital approaches that are better suited to handle such data.
In litigation, parties are required to disclose relevant documents and other electronic information to each other. The discovery process is standard during litigation, but the e in eDiscovery stands for "electronic", highlighting its specialty in handling digital evidence and has far wider application. It significantly reduces the time and cost involved in determining whether information is relevant to a specific requirement (be it an arbitration, class action, forensic investigation, litigation, mediation, regulatory request or otherwise). eDiscovery helps legal and compliance teams to identify the facts, locate the relevant documents, and act quickly and confidently on the evidence.
The volume of data is expanding exponentially meaning the time and cost involved in traditional, manual methods is also increasing exponentially necessitating a greater reliance on technology to improve efficiency and interrogate larger volumes of information to find the best evidence to support a case. eDiscovery incorporates industry-standard tools and techniques to reduce the amount of information requiring review, including forensic collections, processing, deduplication, near deduplication and applying custom machine learning models.
Ensuring greater control over the eDiscovery process by handling it in-house enables us to achieve the best possible outcome for clients while maximising efficiency and effectiveness, ultimately saving them valuable time and money. Our wealth of resources being Africa's largest law firm and our contractor model combined with RelativityOne means we can scale up with very little lead time. This enables us to meet any review needs, no matter how large or complex.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.