Legaltech and innovation; innovating and legal technology

Female Heads of Legal are more successful

One of the greatest challenges with contract automation and legal tech is to get everyone to change their way of working. Fact: legal departments with a woman as head of legal are more successful in achieving change than others. Not a little bit better; they outperform significantly.

What do our successful customers do, with a lady as captain? If we ask them, we get somewhat imprecise, vague answers. Even so, we have investigated how Weagree’s contract automation can be implemented successfully. We’ve also asked the help of experts on change management (here is a bestseller).

83 choices to adopting contract automation effectively

Our customers made some 83 successful choices, which we framed in a structure easy to remember and transpose to your own context. Female heads of legal and general counsel:

  • Accept that resistance is often a lack of clarity. Establish an innovation vision and talk about it. Act accordingly: free up time for those responsible for implementing contract automation. Prioritise legal tech.
  • Empathise with team members: find the feeling (engage). Make the change steps smaller (everyone is already busy enough). Build a growth mindset – many suffer from a fixed mindset (“not invented here” focusing on objections). Help everyone start with contract automation, if only try.
  • Create an environment in which failure is acceptable. Anchor contract automation in the daily work (not stop it after a first trial). Shine a spotlight on early signs of success.

Contract automation change management iconClick the links if you like to learn more – here is an executive summary of our framework.

 

5 practical steps to change behaviour

In practice, what our successful customers did to change behaviour, included:

  1. Dedicate one or two persons for the whole contract automation project.
  2. Make everyone responsible for a part of it (create individual ‘ownership’).
  3. Plan one or more days of walk-in hours with Weagree (it sets deadlines, allows everyone to be heard, it takes away unfamiliarity with the unknown, it secures continuity of your project).
  4. Implementing technology requires concentration: so free up time (it will repay immediately – because what looks like laziness is often exhaustion).
  5. People who resist, often lack clarity about what to do or how precisely. Shine a light on success stories.

What our successful customers then do

Our successful customers continue exploring how to further optimise their contracting processes: delegate contract creation to ‘the business’. Here, they arrive at the point where contract automation becomes collaborative, and successful in ways that could hardly be predicted.

Our statistics show that women are considerably more successful in having their team to adopt innovation. With 50 customers this might not be statistically reliable; it still is remarkable. And indeed, we also have very successful customers under leadership of a man.

Upgrading your contracting process (from start to finish)

We have been listening carefully to our customers, and we know that your accelerated contract drafting does not stop at the creation of a first draft contract. During the forthcoming months, you will see numerous new functionalities, improving your contracting processes.

Here is the first in a series of sneak peek videos: Weagree contract-negotiation-versions management. It’s only 1:30 minute and addresses the stage of contracting:

During the next weeks, more details about the upgrade will follow. In a few sneak peek videos, we will show how you can benefit from the Weagree Wizard.

Demonstration day

We plan to organise a demo day, at which the new functionalities will be explained; we will discuss what is needed to make it work for your team. There will be plenty of opportunities to share your experiences with other customers and hear how they are implementing legal-tech. Details will follow shortly – if you know others who would be interested

Quick update on Weagree

Since November 2017, Weagree has doubled the number of its customers. Most of them are well-known corporates with cross-border activities. They all assumed the challenge of changing the way contracts will be made.

 

Failing to implement contract automation successfully? 9 best practices

Do you have team members who ‘resist’ change? Are you short of time to innovate effectively? Don’t know where or how to start? Does implementing contract automation feel like a mountain – without a starting point, like an endless project? Do the grapes hang too high for some of your team? Meeting these challenges is easier than you think.

A framework of 9 best practices.

In our ten years of implementing contract automation, Weagree has gained a lot of experience in successful change management. Reason to develop an easy-to-apply framework, with tips, do’s and don’ts how to optimise your contracting processes swiftly – and become a champion.

As ever, we’re sharing our best practices on our website: click here.

They are divided into three parts: how to influence the emotional elements of change (the elephant in your head), how to optimise the rational aspects of implementing legal tech (the elephant’s rider), and making the path, and your challenge, easier.

Contract automation change management icon

Absurd inefficiencies.

It sounds absurd – being incapable to innovate effectively – but many lawyers experience it as their reality. Team members who are:

  1. still creating contracts based on ‘latest-deal example’, spending time on repairing cross-references and inconsistent definitions, removing redundancies at risk of making errors.
  2. not creating contracts in an automated fashion, up to 120 times faster, because “there are too many Q&A questions”. (Did you realise that every Q&A question is relevant and to be answered in old-school contracting as well?)
  3. allowing a response time by Legal of more than three days, where contract automation reduces response time to a few hours (or zero).
  4. not structurally allocating time to improving contract know-how, but perpetuating in short-term client-first service. Little ‘pearls’ of transaction-precedents never end up as a model contract or in a proper clause library.
  5. ignoring the importance of model contracts for the so-called ‘urgent’ questions from business managers knocking at your door.

The precondition to your success with innovative technology is its user-friendliness. We have made it our compass. But to change people’s behaviour, you need to steer your elephant.

Introducing the framework – 9 best practices.

Bestseller authors Chip and Dan Heath created the framework for effective change management (SWITCHChange when changing is hard). To keep their framework simple to copy, they formulated nine best practice rules and divided them into three pillars; they used a threefold metaphor (of an elephant, its rider and their path) to make it manageable.

We translated our own success stories into the nine best practices, and discuss three crucial diagnostic errors that must be avoided if you want to be a successful leader. We presented the framework in a customers meeting in November.

In December 2017, we welcomed some 15 multinationals and law firms as new customers, and quite a number of existing customers picked up our innovation challenge with new user groups. These months, we are supporting them with our framework. So we continue to learn, and will of course keep on sharing our best practices for implementing contract automation.

Should you have any suggestions or questions, please let us know.

Contract automation for smartphone and tablets – Weagree Wizard major upgrade

Swiping and tapping your contract on mobile or tablet! We released a major upgrade of the Weagree Wizard and the marvelous experience on smartphones and tablets is available for all our customers.

A few highlights…

…of our transition to ‘mobile first’:

  • Seeing only what is relevant for you; with a sense of full control over your contract: using the Weagree Wizard will become even easier.
  • Previewing your contract as you’re creating it; the WYSIWYG underwaterscreen, your real-time contract editor, is realistic. And of course: on mobile you can swipe to it.
  • The Weagree Wizard is faster: not that it was by any means slow, but when you answer the questionnaire of an LMA, SPA or a Strategic Purchase Agreement, it will open and proceed at once.
  • Search and filter functionality can be folded out, when you need it.

Create contracts on mobile phones and tablets

Our contract creation software upgrade was inspired by our collaboration with the United Nations and WTO: while their main target audience, SME in developing countries, usually have good access to internet, internet access is typically through mobile phones and tablets. More about our collaboration with them shortly.

Your clause library.

Maybe this summer is a good period to improve your clause library? If you need an incentive, this Weagree Wizard release further improved it:

  • The clause library is easier to access from within a contract questionnaire: facilitating you to ‘plug in’ and tailor model contract clauses halfway the contract you’re creating (and as always, the related definitions and annexes will come along and position appropriately). On mobile phones, this works with a few swipes and screen-taps only.
  • Your model clauses are now ordered and displayed the way people read-scan a website. So on mobile phones, searching your clause library follows your intuition.

Weagree clause library screenshot

For more information about the clause library, watch our admin video (tutorial D2). On our renewed website, you’ll find best practices of upgrading model contracts and model contract clauses.

Automated import of model contracts.

This release version 6.0 also includes functionality to import entire Word-documents into the Weagree Wizard. Also, we further improved the template creation tooling. This means several improvements:

  • Administrator training time is further shortened: learning how to insert or modify a template and how to build the related questionnaire is now two blocks of less than 2½ hours each (plus a few hours of follow-up coaching).
  • Our administrators have more fun inserting templates and building questionnaires: little copy pasting. For Weagree administrators, user-friendliness prevails – no coding (never – not even under the strictest interpretation of ‘no coding’)!
  • We approximate our ambition that template insertion work must be easy for every type of user. We already welcomed partners and several general counsel who themselves insert or modify their precious templates and optimise questionnaires.

Automated import Word documents

System requirements. Before releasing the upgrade to customers with (very) large user groups, we want to make sure it is going to work: this release upgrade supports all recent browsers, but if you’re still using Internet Explorer 9 (despite its severe security vulnerabilities) the user-friendliness may not improve – and unfortunately, many larger organisations are still using it.

Updates to integration plugins. Our customer EndemolShine connected Weagree with Effacts, which reconfirmed the robustness of our external-integration technology. Of course, all related updates and plugins were built to plug-and-play, are packaged in this version 6.0 and available to all Weagree licensees. If you want to see which data can be exchanged between your IT systems and the Weagree Wizard (it’s more than you think!) let us know.

What’s next?

At the request of our customers Thales and ASML, we will further develop the WYSIWYG underwaterscreen. It will support contract creation on two monitors and enable a user to edit their contract text while answering the questionnaire! Also, we have a few customers that will embed the Weagree Wizard in their corporate IT environment, which will result in additional external-integration features available for all our customers.

We will add new administrator video tutorials (to the current 22 tutorials).

For more information about the new release or integration options:
Imke Burghouts (imke@weagree.com) or
Sara Stork (sara@weagree.com).
Tel. +31 20 616 9696

Weagree Wizard – release of version 5.0 – and other great news

Multi-document creation and collaborative contract creation

Those who dare to innovate discover blue oceans*!

We are proud to have released upgrade version 5.0 of the Weagree Wizard. During these weeks, it will become available to all our customers. In 2015, Weagree took worldwide ‘product leadership’ in automated contract creation solutions – we are now developing it into exciting directions and it is only promising!

The upgrade of the Weagree automated contract creation application (“Weagree Wizard”) once again introduces great functionalities, a major one developed together with Endemol Shine and one with BASF. Take a minute to see how this upgrade may reshape contracting processes.

A. New functionality.

1. Multi-document creation:

a functionality permitting to link several templates together, avoiding having to answer Q&A questions twice. This powerful functionality reveals unexpected opportunities:

Example 1: first create a term sheet, then the definitive agreement based on the term sheet. The answers already entered for the term sheet are reused and can be updated (in the Q&A of the definitive agreement, they are clearly marked as reused).
Example 2 (‘click your closing together’): in connection with an SPA (share purchase agreement), you can create all closing documents of the transaction in one single go: powers of attorney, shareholder resolutions, deeds of pledge and all related (intra-company) agreements. For each acquired legal entity, closing documents can be grouped into subprojects, and relevant Q&A questions simply clicked together. Generate the documents in just a few mouse clicks (if the closing is postponed by a few days: recreate updated closing documents by reanswering only the Q&A question regarding the effective date).
Example 3: all contracts with the same customer or supplier are kept together: when, at any time in the future, an extra contract (or amendment) is required, you can add it with just a few mouse clicks (and the relevant contract data are linked and reused almost automatically). Think of a master agreement with statements of work.
Example 4: create a contract in one language and switch, reusing (virtually) all Q&A answers, to a contract in another language. Or: create two identical contracts in different languages without unnecessarily repeating questions.
Example 5: alongside creating a contract, tailor a contract approval form automatically, or an executive summary of the contract’s terms.

Altogether, setting up and tailoring a transaction is highly intuitive. Linking the relevant template Q&A’s is largely automated. Both a user and an administrator can do that.

2. Collaborative contract creation:

users can now collaborate on the creation of a contract (or set of related agreements). After creating a project, users can invite colleagues to join the transaction and to link up their already created templates.

Obviously, the functionality includes the possibility to see who has answered which question, in which template and when. Every user will only see those transaction or project-related templates in the project which that user is authorised to create (corporate lawyers the corporate agreements only, technical people the templates for statements of work, and the project leader everything).

We believe that the functionality under 1 and 2 above will reshape the practice of contracting, making contract creation much more ‘social’ (i.e. co-creation by several disciplines involved, as well as the counterparty, who collaborate in the completion of a transaction).

3. External connectivity: the Weagree Wizard is equipped with a very flexible and highly user-friendly functionality to synchronise with external applications: contract management solutions, document management systems, contract lifecycle solutions, workflows, including Sharepoint, Salesforce, SAP et cetera. Linking Weagree templates to external applications has become more intuitive: hardly any training is required.

4. Sharing Weagree templates: we have upgraded our import and export functionality. It is possible to export Weagree templates (including the Q&A) and import them into the portals of others. As a result, we are able to share a complete SPA (share purchase agreement) with our corporate customers – see below.

The import functionality also means a significant reduction of implementation time. In particular, as regards larger templates timesaving may even exceed 35 percent. Given that we are able to insert some 500 model contracts in less than seven weeks, Weagree’s competitive advantage on this ‘hidden’ implementation effort is tremendous. We will continue to improve this functionality.

5. Upgraded hosting: due to the considerable growth of our customer base, we experienced reduced performance. Accordingly, we upgraded the server capacity. Of course, the security of our hosting services is still of the same high quality.

6. Various small features.

  • Updated templates and finished contract entries. When a template is changed after the Q&A was answered, on your my contract page both the contract’s entry date and description turn magenta instead of black (and upon hovering over it, a tooltip will explain the possible inaccuracy of the created contract).
  • More interface languages available. We translated the English Weagree Wizard interface into French, German, Dutch and Suomi (Finnish). Let us know if you wish to upload it into your portal.
  • Simplified UX. The interaction design for approvers has been simplified: the workflow page ‘remembers’ the most recent filter settings and returns to it upon return. Part of this improvement of the user experience (UX) is that we replaced all buttons, both permitting a multilingual interface and anticipating the forthcoming ‘responsive’ interaction design.
  • User accessibility of templates. It has become possible to make one template available to more than one user group.
  • Forcing Q&A answers improved. A year ago, we introduced the possibility to force users to answer a particular Q&A question. The way it worked was rather prohibitive because the user could not continue the Q&A until the answer was indeed given. We made this friendlier: a user cannot generate the contract until the question is answered and is properly notified of such impossibility.
  • Filtering answer options. It made it possible to filter Q&A answer options, based on user authorisation level. This was already possible for regular Q&A questions, it is now also possible for global questions (the questions that affect the template in several places).
  • No generate both Word and PDF. We removed the green button for generating both a PDF and a Word-document, uncluttering the screen.
  • Copy contract. On the my contracts page, you can copy and reuse the Q&A answers of a previously created contract (and reuse the Q&A answers for creating a similar contract).
  • Party details not inserted. If certain party details were not entered by the user (or imported from a connected external CRM or other application), the contract can mark the unfilled contract text with a big blob or any other character.
  • Tailoring contract description. In case the intermediate ‘contract properties’ page is ‘bypassed’, users are prompted to enter a contract description as the first Q&A question. It makes the descriptions on the my contracts page more descriptive.
  • Out-standing navigation tabs. The top-navigation tab (either ‘new contract’, ‘my contract’ or ‘workflow’) from which the user entered the questionnaire stays up, indicating where the user started.
  • Reassign a contract entry. It will be possible to hand over contract entries created by one user to another user.

If you wish to join one of our webinars during which we demonstrate and discuss the possibilities of the new features for you or of the further implementation of the Weagree Wizard generally, please let us know.

B. Weagree – ASML: a highly successful fit

We recently evaluated the adoption of the Weagree Wizard within ASML, our launching customer. “How many contracts did we create in 2015?” Well, that appears to be very impressive: not just a few hundred first-draft contracts per year, but they are using a very substantial part of the full contract know-how base of about 60 templates (including ASML’s enterprise-wide automated NDA tool).

Since their start with Weagree more than six years ago, we obviously knew of the improvements in productivity, response time, quality of contracts and contracting process, the increased compliance with contracting requirements and pleasure of working, but still, the actual numbers simply impress. Curious fact: ASML’s share value on Euronext and Nasdaq increased almost 500 percent since they started with Weagree.

C. An SPA-template for our corporate customers

With great thanks to our customers Eneco and JanssenBroekhuysen (click here), we have been developing a full-fledged (purchaser-friendly) share purchase agreement. The SPA will be available to our corporate customers, and although useful in acquisitions of any size, the template may be particularly supportive for ongoing (portfolio) investments in start-ups. It provides for all regular clauses, in all varieties of transaction structures.

D. Weagree core-customer meeting

We have always been in close contact with every customer, evaluating our performance and the Weagree Wizard continuously. Obviously, this is the only way to innovate effectively and maintain the high level of user-friendliness of the Weagree Wizard.

Now that we are welcoming large new customers almost every week, at the request of AkzoNobel, we planned a meeting with the close circle of our long-standing and larger customers. With this somewhat exclusive group of Weagree ambassadors, we want to further improve our services, to share experiences and to define the roadmap of the Weagree Wizard.

E. Weagree reseller programme

We’re benefiting tremendously from our efforts, last summer, to formalise and standardise all internal support processes and procedures. Because legal IT providers and publishers have been approaching Weagree to become a reseller, we are now able to train them efficiently and effectively and to provide second-line support. In view of this, we are setting up a complete reseller programme enabling us to scale up quickly in other jurisdictions.

* A ‘blue ocean’ is the metaphor used in a bestseller by INSEAD professors Kim and Mauborgne on strategies for groundbreaking innovation. It refers to an innovation approach into the great wide open: the blue ocean reflects an unexplored space of opportunities, as opposed to a blood-red ocean where competitors, like sharks, fight for ever decreasing profit margins.

Weagree achieved this thanks to lucky timing: because Weagree was established after 2003 (when Microsoft opened up their document format into .docx) the Weagree Wizard was not forced into Word-integration (but enabled contract know-how management based on a database) and accordingly, the contract automation is visualised (Apple-like) as opposed to a (DOS-like) complicated, time-consuming programming language. Also, Weagree has always been truly web-based, so we never had to make the transition from a PC-installed application, as almost every software solution from before 2006 had to accomplish.

Newsletter – update: innovating and courses

Today, Weagree has published a new eBook, volume 9. Of course, the eBook is free. It complements part 1, about the miscellaneous provisions at the end of your contracts:

  • Miscellaneous (boilerplate) clauses (part 2, including confidentiality clauses)

We hope you like the eBook. Download it here.

We also distributed the following newsletter:

After the update of the Weagree contract assembly wizard in May, we enjoyed a wonderful summer. Two major Dutch multinationals signed up for a license, which enabled us to define new functionalities.

Over the past few months, we contacted Weagree Wizard users individually, and interviewed those who had seen our presentations. The users are proving to be very happy with the Weagree Wizard.

1.  Weagree’s ‘design slot’ for our contract assembly wizard
Our users are drawn to using the Weagree Wizard: they find our document automation solution convenient and rich in features and possibilities, and experience great time savings both in drafting time and response time. Happy users are more than happy to provide us with feedback. And so they are enthusiastically taking part in our innovations.

In May, we upgraded Weagree’s contract assembly wizard. Along with various technicalities, we improved multi-language support, simplified the user-interface and improved contract formatting capabilities (house style).
The forthcoming upgrade characteristically remains focused on user-friendliness. Having listed some 48 points for improvement, we made detailed specifications, requested quotations for realising them, and prioritised the list according to committed license fees.

A noteworthy comment came from Chantal, long-time user at our launching customer: she told me about her ‘lawyerish’ inclination not to delete her contract assembly history: lawyers wish to archive. A feature to put on the list.
Equally, we will continue to improve centralised contract house style management. Many organisations struggle with the ‘enforcement’ of a unified contract house style (if there is one at all). In a previous free Weagree eBook, we made various suggestions on how to achieve this. The coming upgrade will permit differentiation between different types of automated documents. (All house style changes will be managed from one central place and changes need not be repeated for all templates.)

2.  New courses on contract drafting
This autumn, we will be giving contract drafting courses. Not the boring type of programme, which discusses the latest pseudo-developments in case law on general terms and conditions, on contract rescission or pre-contractual liability. Rather, we’ll be offering tricks and techniques on the subject of:

  • How to avoid ambiguities and write clearer
  • How to set up a first draft agreement
  • Best practices on the use of definitions, conditions, covenants, warranties and limitations of liability

Obviously, we will also address legalese and the stupidity of archaic doublets and triplets, together with a comparative law tour d’horizon of the major legal systems worldwide. If you’re interested, it is all in my book Drafting contracts – Techniques, best practice rules and recommendations related to contract drafting (Kluwer 2011).

Newsletter on free eBook and our project for ITC

In April, I received a phone call from Geneva, “whether I was willing to develop a training programme on contract drafting.” I tell you the story, which I circulated in our Newsletter of this morning, in this blog post.

About a year ago, Weagree’s work had attracted the attention of the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of two major ngo’s. They were planning to establish the contract drafting training programme for the world’s 48 least developed countries (LDC’s). Though we were somewhat short of time, we undertook this dream job, being aware it was a unique opportunity.

1.  Forthcoming book: Cross-border contracting – Practical guidance and training materials

Our work for the ITC will result in a new book “Cross-border contracting – Practical guidance and training materials“. It will constitute the basis for training sessions that the ITC will provide to the 48 LDC’s during the coming years. For this purpose, I travelled to Cambodia and Laos, where our training sessions were received with great enthusiasm. It struck me that these countries are clearly developing into full members of the world community. As you can imagine, this work and the feedback are highly rewarding!

The new book builds on eight key model contracts developed by ITC with the involvement of over 50 law firms worldwide. The contracts cover international sale of goods, long-term supply, manufacturing, commercial agency, distribution, provision of services, alliances and joint ventures. If you are interested, click here for a free PDF.

The forthcoming book complements the model contracts with explanatory notes, do’s and don’ts regarding cross-border contracting, contract drafting best practices, negotiation tips and training materials. A considerable part deals with the Vienna Convention (CISG), as well as intellectual property law. Also, various well-known materials of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) will be worked out: documentary credit, Incoterms 2010, arbitration proceedings.

2. The Weagree Wizard upgraded

Early May, we upgraded Weagree’s contract assembly wizard. Along with various technical improvements, several functionalities were added:

  • Multi-language support (i.e. date format, country lists, and headers, footers and cover page can be generated in the correct language)
  • Generating PDF’s
  • Simplifications for users
  • Improved workflow
  • Improved contract formatting capabilities (house style)

This upgrade is in line with the key feature of Weagree: focus on user-friendliness.

3.  A new free Weagree eBook

I’m happy to tell you that Weagree has published a new eBook, volume 8. Again, the eBook is free. This time, it focuses on whether to insert and how to draft the miscellaneous provisions at the end of your contracts:

  • Miscellaneous (boilerplate) clauses (part 1)

We hope you like the eBook. Download it here.

Many thanks for your vote!

Now that the voting stage for the Innovating Justice Award has ended, I would like to thank all of you who voted for Weagree! I’m truly grateful! Thank you so much!

We have not been able to surpass the nominated networks of lawyers, but have certainly made a great impression. None of the nominees has been able to mobilise such a large number of votes set off against the number of people directly involved in the innovation. The larger networks achieved their own size, and the smaller nominated companies hardly doubled their size. Weagree ‘outperformed’ all.

Above all, I enjoyed working on the nomination questionnaire (which you can read in this blog post or on the Innovating Justice website), as well as on the process of entertaining votes.

The very positive reactions and the great number of people who actively sought for additional votes were overwhelming and are encourabing to continue working on this unique and groundbreaking innovation:

Weagree offers the contract assembly software solution combined with contract drafting services.

Vote for Weagree’s nomination!

In order for Weagree to be granted the Innovating Justice Award, we need to qualify as one of three most-voted nominees.

Nominated! As you may know, Weagree is nominated for the Innovating Justice Awards! The award is for innovations that bring professional legal services to a breakthrough level. The Innovating Justice Award is worldwide: inter alia, the nominated innovations come from the US, Latin America, India and the Netherlands. They (and Weagree) have been selected by Innovating Justice, a platform of international legal non-profit organisations. Mid June, an expert jury of Innovating Justice decides which of the three most-voted innovations will be granted the award.

Voting. For Weagree, the nomination is an unexpected and phenomenal recognition! The innovation on which Weagree has been working during the past four years, is a disruptive breakthrough for the legal service industry. Help us conquer the Innovating Justice Award and vote via this link.

Weagree. As you know, Weagree accelerates contract drafting by providing an advanced software application with which you can create both complex and day-to-day contracts. During the past few months, Weagree has gained momentum:

  • Weagree has been supporting several large multinationals in their model contract upgrading processes.
  • Willem Wiggers’ book Drafting Contracts is completed and will be in the bookstores shortly.
  • In anticipation of that, over 400 people have downloaded the free e-book General contract drafting principles (click here for your own copy).
  • Weagree’s training courses on Contract Drafting have been received in great enthusiasm by the participating experienced interim and in-house legal counsel.
  • In November 2010, Weagree published its one hundredth blog post on matters related to contract drafting.

We appreciate your vote! Maybe you even want to encourage others to submit theirs?!

Weagree accepted nomination for Innovating Justice

Weagree has gratefully accepted its Innovating Justice Award nomination as an outstanding example of innovation in the legal sector.

We have accepted the nomination and provided Innovating Justice, the organisation responsible for the grant, with the following answers to their questionnaire.

If you’re interested, you can download the PDF of the questionnaire.

Questionnaire related to the nomination for the

     Innovating Justice Award 2011

of

     Weagree (Accelerated contract drafting)

under the subtitle

Weagree offers a contract assembly software solution combined with contract drafting services.

Weagree’s solution or innovation can be summarised as follows:

Weagree’s contract assembly software application (the “Weagree Wizard”) accelerates the creation of contracts. The Weagree Wizard enables a fully automated creation of tailor-made agreements and other documents (based on your own or Weagree’s models and templates) by processing an extremely user-friendly Q&A. The powerful Q&A-function enables a user to assemble simple or complex contracts of high quality expeditiously, in the own house style.
The Weagree Wizard also contains a knowledge management functionality. This feature enables a legal counsel to maintain individual contract clauses, for exceptional cases not covered in the regular template or for inserting in a first draft contract received from the other party.

Drafting an agreement is one thing; writing crystal clear, accurate, consistent and without ambiguities is something else. Because Weagree has broad contract drafting experience of the highest level, the proposition of Weagree is not merely a software application. Weagree’s drafting and practical experience lifts the quality level provided by legal counsel to a breakthrough service level and ensures the effectiveness of the Weagree Wizard.

Weagree’s proposition:
(a)   accelerates the time required to draft a tailor-made contract;
(b)   reduces a legal counsel’s response time;
(c)   dramatically increases productivity;
(d)   reduces the transaction cycle;
(e)   anchors individual counsel’s know how (model contract clauses) in the organization;
(f)    improves compliance with corporate contracting requirements;
(g)   minimizes the risk of errors in first draft contracts; and
(h)   catalyses a legal department’s contract upgrading efforts.

1.             Can you briefly describe the innovation, the problem it tries to solve and why it is necessary?

The innovation is twofold:
(a)   a contract assembly software application (the “Weagree Wizard”) for creating simple or the most complex agreements;
(b)   an effective process-design for an efficient creation of (your) model contracts, supported by first class contract drafting services according to contract drafting conventions (reflected in an online book on all aspects of contract drafting).

2.             What makes your innovation unique?

Weagree’s solution combines a highly innovative software solution with an intimate knowledge of the legal contracting practice (based on experience in premier European law firms).

Not merely legal support service
The innovation must be distinguished from legal support services:
(a)   Weagree has broad experience in the day-to-day practice of multinational enterprises: this requires an essentially different approach as regards ordinary-course-of-business contracts, as opposed to agreements drafted and negotiated by premier law firms (in which Weagree’s founder has also worked);
(b)   Weagree developed a framework for drafting and maintaining model contracts. In practice, it appears that Weagree’s project-oriented approach has not been adopted in law firms or enterprises. This approach, as simple as it is, aims at putting first things first (working towards quick results) and at establishing a robust framework ascertaining consistency amongst all of a company’s model contracts. The framework consists of contract drafting conventions both on an abstract level (on two A4 pages) and is elaborated in the online reference guide (of 340 pages).
Since 1993, Willem Wiggers (founder of Weagree) is an active member of the Groupe de travail contrats internationaux (GTCI), an international working group on international contracts, composed of partners of European law firms, senior legal counsel of multinationals and law school professors, for discussing the law and the reality of selected types of contract clauses.

Not merely a software application
The innovation must be distinguished from other ‘contract creation’ software applications:
(i)    it incorporates all particularities as applied in the legal practice of premier law firms (the level of detail in the quality of generated contracts is without precedents);
(ii)   the Weagree Wizard is flexible (can be adapted to the personal desires of each user);
(iii)   the application uses state-of-the-art technology (it is web-based, ready for cloud computing) and communicates with software applications commonly used in large enterprizes and law firms (e.g. document management system, workflow, CRM).

Weagree’s experience in legal practice must not be underestimated in view of the implementation phase: an important success factor for implementing and using the Weagree Wizard is the quality of the Q&A that is built in together with a contract. An effective setup of the Q&A of a contract template is largely driven by the underlying business case and avoids overly ‘legalistic’ questions.

3.             What triggered the development of the innovation?

The Weagree Wizard has been developed after a brainstorm session between the head of the legal department of a major Dutch multinational (Royal DSM) and Willem Wiggers (founder of Weagree), who wondered how a worldwide upgrade of the ordinary course of business contracts could be done effectively, in a sustainable, yet efficient manner.

The presumed first step would be the (project-group-steered) process of establishing the model contract wording; the second and final step would be to insert the contracts into a centrally managed, user-friendly and intelligent database. This database should prevent that ‘no-one’ is willing to further upgrade or amend the models in the future or that everyone does so for him or herself (e.g. because the upgrading process is time-consuming and burdensome, because the then-current standard is widespread in the personal folders of the organisation and practically impossible to replace). In order to be successful, the database (now the Weagree Wizard) should be faster than ordinary copy-pasting of a contract, and be user-friendly (the application’s ‘interaction design’ had to be attractive and encouraging for technology-averse lawyers).
Reality showed that the first step (i.e. establishing a set of model contracts) should preferably be preceded by the second step (i.e. first implement the Weagree Wizard and then be encouraged to upgrade the model contracts).

4.             Which persons and organisations were involved in the development and what role did they play?

The Weagree Wizard is a result of the input of many people. Its functionalities have been developed by Weagree in collaboration with a software development company. The interaction design of the Weagree Wizard (i.e. the steps towards creating a contract and the components on the application’s webpages) has been developed by Weagree in collaboration with its communication and design firm and a group of test users. The business proposition was developed with a strategic sourcing director employed in the high-tech industry. The pricing model was developed in collaboration with Weagree’s launching customer. The first leads to potential customers were provided by Voxius, the legal headhunting agency that assigned Willem Wiggers to Royal DSM, Royal Philips Electronics, NXP and Civolution. Many personal friends of Willem Wiggers have contributed in various ways to the successes of Weagree.

Weagree’s launching customer, ASML, has been playing a major (testing and funding) role in the development of the Weagree Wizard. The members of ASML’s legal department actively promoted the Weagree Wizard to potential other licensees and to their internal clients: discussing and further developing the Q&A-functionalities related to their core model contracts, leading to an expansion of Weagree’s license and the development of additional functionalities.

The contract drafting experience is based on Willem Wiggers’ having been associated with Allen & Overy Amsterdam, and having been contracted by Royal DSM, Linklaters, Royal Philips Electronics, NXP, Q8, Civolution, AkzoNobel and ASML. Willem is a member of the Groupe de travail contrats internationaux (GTCI, a working group on international contract practice), and has contributed to the European Common Core of European Private Law (participating in the working group on Unexpected circumstances[1]). He is the sole editor of International Commercial Law – Source materials[2] author of Drafting contracts – techniques, best practice rules and recommendations related to contract drafting[3].

5.             What kind of resistance have you met and how have you overcome that?

Potential customers seek certainty (do not want to be first-mover) before crossing a chasm to an innovative product that is not yet proven-product. The resistance appeared to be driven by:
(a)   wrong prioritisation of prerequisites: incorrect belief that first the own model contracts need to be upgraded before inserting them in the Weagree Wizard (thereby misjudging that the opposite is true: the actual use of the Weagree Wizard is rather a key incentive to speed up the process of upgrading model contracts);
(b)   insufficient sense of urgency:

  1. a failing belief that there is a problem to be resolved at all (i.e. complaints of lack of productivity, responsiveness or compliance are absent or the business people in an organisation simply avoid (critical and non-critical) legal support);
  2. a failing vision on the future;
  3. failing competitive incentives: there are no clear market forces necessitating the adoption of the innovation;

(d)   little risk appetite regarding the business proposition (regardless of the innovative promise);
(e)   the availability of inferior ‘comparative’ products or services in the market (a few large multinationals did step into such inferior solution but stopped it after bad experiences, such as lack of knowledge of legal practice or unreliable promises);
(f)    uncertainties about implementation impact (both in timing, costs and organisational efforts) and cynicism about change management success in the own organisation;
(g)   costs (wait until the product price decreases or competitors show up);
(h)   incomplete proposition: the adjacent supportive services required to achieve the full promise are not (yet) available or present; and
(i)    reluctance to contract with a small start-up company (backed by a person with no track record in the business).

6.             How did you make the goals realistic and attainable, and at what time will which quick wins be available?

Regarding the Weagree Wizard
After defining the main specifications and features, we started investing time and efforts in the interaction design and the look & feel of the Weagree Wizard. We believed that convincing a lawyer to acquire a license, required that the software application is extremely user-friendly. User-friendly means that (a) the user experience should be remarkable, (b) a user should have a strong sense of being in control of each step in the contract drafting process, and (c) the actual use should be simple. This implied that the prototype had to be simple and yet contain the key functionalities (and not much more). Subsequently, with the first user-experiences, we were able to define functionalities for a second release, making the Weagree Wizard suitable for large organisations.

Regarding the contract drafting services
After having been closely involved in model contract upgrading processes at Allen & Overy, Royal DSM, NXP and Q8, it became clear that selling the proposition of contract drafting would be improved by the publication of a book on contract drafting. As an initial step to such publication (is agreed to be published the forthcoming months) we had an excerpt printed in a luxury style: a nice-to-have booklet of 110 pages.

Initially, we offered a pilot at no charge with supporting services at low cost. This investment turned out to be extremely promising and led to the customer ‘going all the way’ and gradually becoming convinced that the risk involved proved zero and the return on investment was far beyond expectations.

Book and weblog on contract drafting
To establish authority as contract drafting expert, Willem Wiggers wrote a book “Drafting contracts – techniques, best practice rules and recommendations related to contract drafting” which is accessible on the Weagree website and to be published with Kluwer (Spring/Summer 2011). Furthermore, Weagree hosts an (on average: weekly) weblog on drafting contracts: the hundredth blog post appeared in November 2010 (two years after the first one).

7.             Will the innovation have an effect on other organisations in the chain and if that is the case, how will it affect them?

The innovation will fundamentally change the business model of law firms and legal professionals: clients will seek cost reduction on the contract drafting work related to M&A and financing transactions (including the closing of each such transaction). For such a cost reduction, a contract assembly software solution is a prerequisite. Law firms may more and more need to provide services at fixed price (and work on the quality of their know-how and automate part of their drafting processes).

Law firms can grant their clients access to their portal of the Weagree Wizard, enabling the client to create all day-to-day contracts (or term sheets) based on the know-how of that law firm. Large clients will even require access to such a service.

Users of a contract assembly solution with high quality contracts are enabled to deliver their services more expeditiously and at higher quality level (their work will change: stupid copy-paste work disappears, the focus can shift to the things that matter).

8.             How was the development funded and what were reasons for the financing organisation?

The development of the key functionalities of the innovation was funded by Weagree’s sole shareholder personally.

Several important adjacent functionalities were funded out of license fees and development fees (NRE’s) paid by licensees. The latter group was willing to fund on the basis of their (largely proven) belief that the innovation is a major cost-saver.

9.             Can you name 3 to 5 properties of the innovation that are most essential to making it work?

a)   excellent knowledge of the contracting practice of a legal department or law firm;
(b)   high priority for user experience (both the interaction design and the look & feel);
(c)   excellent contract drafting skills;
(d)   flexibility of the software to the personal needs of the user groups and state-of-the-art software technology.

10.          How do you measure whether it is a successful innovation?

The success is visible in the continuous and rigorous expansion by licensees of their license to various corporate departments and business units and in their requests to develop certain specific (yet sustainable) functionalities. Such success includes the expansion of the Weagree Wizard license by a law firm to its clients (i.e. clients getting access to contract templates made available by the law firm).

The success is audible from the abundance of compliments about Weagree coming from persons who are not directly or personally involved in the use of the Weagree Wizard (hearsay).

The success is eventually perceptible in the personal satisfaction of the people involved.

11.           How many people or organisations will benefit from this innovation now?

The innovation is licensed to ASML, a top-tier Euronext AEX and Nasdaq listed company, which seeks to extend the license to an increasing number of internal departments and their suppliers (including their US law firm).

The software part of the innovation is currently used by an online service provider for delivery of low-priced contracts (e.g. 7 euro for high quality tailor-made contracts). The proposition is targeted at a completely different market: SME’s and law firms smaller than (say) ten fee earners. Potentially, this service helps each individual person who needs a contract (or wishes a check-list reference for a contract received from someone else).

12.           How many people or organisations could benefit from this innovation today and in the future (scaling-up)?

Everyone who needs a contract can benefit from Weagree’s innovation. This includes each company, each law firm, each governmental body and any other organisation, as well as individuals.

The benefits are not limited to the creation of contracts but can be extended to other complex forms and documents (e.g. quotations and tender documents).

13.           Can you quantify the financial benefits? (Cost savings, additional income or otherwise)

The financial benefits have several dimensions, each linked to the type of goal achieved:
(a)   as regards time saving for preparing a first draft contract:

  1. financial benefits are between €14,000 and €18,000 per legal counsel per year (depending on salary levels and overhead employment costs) or even up to €42,000 per year, if temporary external support is hired;
  2. €50,000 or a great multiple of that amount for a law firm per closing of an M&A- or financing transaction or a corporate reorganisation.

It must be noted that most companies will not cash in these amounts but nevertheless achieve a greater productivity and time to dedicate to things that matter.
(b)   as regards the response time (productivity) of the legal department: a greater chance of obtaining more business by being faster than competitors (e.g. 1 per cent of the entire enterprise’s turnover by being more customer-oriented?);
(c)   as regards higher quality of the contracts (i.e. the availability of errorless contracts, which are not the result of the latest-similar deal): a significant part of the amounts referred to under (a);
(d)   as regards better compliance with contracting requirements (i.e. as regards a better contractual coverage against operational risks and less disputes about “what applies” as a consequence of considerably more contracts being in place): part of the amounts paid in connection with settlement of damages or disputes;
(e)   as regards the effectiveness of contract upgrading work (and anchoring an individual counsel’s know-how): the availability of model contracts and useful templates and contract clauses cannot be expressed in an amount (but are presumably very significant on the long run).

The above amounts are net amounts, after taking into account the costs of a license under the Weagree Wizard.

14.           Is the innovation financially viable and sustainable and if yes – how?

Yes. The innovation will remain sustainable by continuously investing in product development; improvement of the product and the quality of supporting services.

15.           Can or will the innovation be used internationally and how will you overcome cultural differences?

The innovation is already used internationally. Cultural differences play a small role (if any) in the European context: contracting practices are very similar all over Europe (including, to a lesser extent, the UK). Cultural differences do play a role compared with US legal practice. As regards the presentation of a contract, functionality is being developed in order to overcome this by one push of a button. After all, it is eventually the customer who determines which contract language is used in a contract and what a generated contract must look like.

Cultural differences that are not supported are the Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and languages that affect the product itself (e.g. text written from left to right affect the user interface).

16.           What lessons did you learn along the way that could be useful to others?

Crucial are:
(a)   commitment, reliability and authenticity of the persons involved in the innovation;
(b)   focus on a well-defined and narrow-scoped business proposition (refuse out-of-focus requests);
(c)   priority on developing and positioning the product quality (and not aim at quick profits);
(d)   belief in the own proposition and its sustainability.

Reluctance to enter into a license or to use Weagree’s services requires that a first step is reduced as much as possible (but still adds value).

[1]               Contribution included in: Ewoud Hondius & Hans Christoph Grigoleit, Unexpected Circumstances in European Contract Law, Cambridge University Press, 2011 (714 p.).
[2]               International Commercial Law – Source materials, Kluwer Law International, 2nd rev. ed. 2007 (738 p.).
[3]               Drafting contracts – techniques, best practice rules and recommendations related to contract drafting Kluwer, forthcoming (in print) (332 p.).