(b) Build and anchor habits

Model contracts is recurring work. Contracting and model contracts are the core business of a lawyer. Similarly, case law and court decisions are the core business of a litigator or a lawyer with a national-law practice. It means that if a good model clause is drafted or received, it needs to be ‘modelled’ (genericised) and inserted in the clause library. Individual lawyers should prepare new (but small!) milestone-model-contract-clauses, to be inserted in the clause library. It means that the agenda of every weekly meeting should address this. Likewise, next generations of lawyers and colleagues in other business units benefit from the contract know-how developed previously.

If your organisation’s focus shifts from focus on compliance (‘bring all transactions and relationships under a formal contract’) to high-quality contracts (‘agreements must exclude all imaginable risks’), you may need to change your model contracts accordingly. If your contracts were aimed at being signed on short notice, their clauses would probably focus on addressing the key contractual aspects only and in simple, conceptual wording. A successor head of legal might even believe that until then, the model contracts were of a poor quality. You would better be prepared for sudden shifts – the shift of focus may make all model contracts redundant but, equally, you may prioritise your templates and start excluding any imaginable risks step-by-step. If contract know-how management is part of your legal department’s day-to-day work, you will complete the shift on very short notice (because you will probably have most of the required clauses on the shelf in your clause library).

Piggyback a new habit on another one. It is more convenient to start a new routine when you can build it onto an existing routine that happens regularly. Weagree identified one of those:

  • External integrations. Operating your contract (lifecycle) management system (CLM or CMS) obviously requires that the data of the (final) contract are entered, each time a contract is signed. By linking the Weagree Wizard to your CLM, CMS, ERP or CRM, entering those data becomes largely redundant: the data will be exported and imported automatically; they only need to be updated for the negotiation results. By implementing such integration with CLM, CMS, ERP or CRM, or by using Weagree’s CLM, contract creation ‘piggybacks’ on using contract management (and vice versa).
  • Feedback in WYSIWYG editor. When tweaking a contract for a certain transaction, you will typically encounter clauses, provisions or phrases that should be updated in the underlying model contract as well. Therefore, Weagree introduced a feature in the WYSIWYG editor, the WYSIWYG feedback feature. Whenever a user wants to upgrade a clause, add a Q&A-question or extra answer-option, the Weagree Wizard (in the WYSIWYG editor) contains a feedback button to facilitate this work. It prevents that the user must write a Post-It note (and not loose it). If the user had tweaked the contract clause already also the modified text will be ‘fed back’ along with a comment or explanation, for the administrator to pick up. When automated-creating a contract, you ‘piggyback’ your model-contract-upgrading notes on creating a contract.

Set action triggers. Very compelling research demonstrates the effectiveness of action triggers. The power of an action trigger is that decisions are ‘pre-loaded’. If you want to act in a new way (e.g. upgrading your model contracts, adding your best clauses to the clause library, translating a template into another language), frame the exact time and context when to do it. For instance, I will identify one clause-library clause every morning, first-thing after logging into my laptop (before opening Outlook).

Communicate your action triggers. What is the aspect of your change efforts that people tend to put off, or that tends to get displaced in favour of more ‘urgent’ work? Ask your team to set action triggers – and to announce their intentions for a contract know-how deliverable in the weekly legal team meeting. Ask you general counsel to report on the concrete steps taken by their teams in the Legal Leadership (or Legal MT) meetings.

Create a checklist. Suppose you had a five-item checklist for the most important or most frequent routines in your legal practice. What five things do you need to do every time?

  • Contribute to the clause library or your contract know-how (one clause at the time).
  • Check e-mail (respond to the important urgent quick ones, plan the others).
  • Update the Weagree template for any submitted feedback.

Walk the talk. As a head of legal, ‘live’ your principles: all team members will follow what you do, not what you say. If the first thing you do under time-restraints is to pick your latest-transaction example, you must expect your team members to do the same continuously.