Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Contract Drafting As A Commodity?

I cannot disagree with Contract Drafting for the 21st Century: A Conversation Between Ken Adams and Ron Friedmann from Strategic Legal Technology.

Ron: It sounds like you think contract drafting should be a commodity.

Ken: Yes, in large measure. And that’s entirely achievable, given all the sophisticated information-technology tools now available to organizations that produce contracts. Companies that buy stuff or sell stuff generally use a few templates repeatedly. After a certain point, their contract volume will be big enough that it would be cost-effective for them to shift to drafting contracts by having their lawyers or, ideally, their businesspeople complete an online questionnaire. Once the questionnaire is completed, clicking “Done” would cause the system to pull together and adjust appropriately the pre-loaded and pre-approved contract language.
A rigorous document-assembly system for contract drafting would save time and money and would allow transactional lawyers to focus on tasks where they add real value—helping devise deal strategy and taking part in negotiations. But serious cultural obstacles remain. I suspect that people who buy into my view of things currently represent a small minority. Sure, you hear a lot of talk of change, but I’ve seen little in the way of action to back it up. So the vast silent majority perpetuates the current dysfunction.
Writing contract ought not take second to the "deal strategy and taking part in negotiations" but this - in my humble, small town opinion - requires a long term relationship with the client.

Nor it Mr. Adams.' views outside of current thinking. Richard Susskind has been predicting similar changes in how we provide legal services for quite some time.
Prophet Richard Susskind Predicts the Future of Law; Internet is Key:
"Now that the ubiquity of e-mail is no longer seen as a wild prediction but an established fact, newer cutting-edge changes to what Susskind describes as the classic interface between lawyers and clients include services that allow clients of some major United Kingdom law firms to download standard contract documents and lawyers in British courts to download standard judicial orders.