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How to collaborate to master contract management

In-house counsel teams must partner with their business and other stakeholders during contract negotiations. A head of legal at a software development company outlines how to do it well.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 05 March 2024 Corporate Counsel
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Ahead of her session at the Corporate Counsel Summit 2024, Modaxo senior legal counsel Emilie Franklin said all stakeholders must be aligned to collaborate effectively when managing contracts.

In order for this to occur, it is crucial for in-house legal teams to implement best practices in their organisation.

At the summit, Franklin will provide practical insights on how in-house counsel could master contract management, including through implementing processes and using legal technology.


Getting started

The first step is for in-house counsel to identify who is managing the contract (i.e. legal team, sales team, or procurement team) and how the organisation is managing it.

“From a practicality perspective, find out if the business (including each team) has a formal process or procedure already in place,” Franklin told Lawyers Weekly.

While larger companies could have employed more robust processes, smaller greenfield companies may not have reached that stage yet, she pointed out.

Legal departments must also remember that the appetite for change could vary across businesses.

“Once in-house lawyers have understood the existing processes, they can then determine whether it is sufficient for the business’s requirements and needs. If there are gaps, in-house lawyers could seek alternatives and embed new processes to make the process and systems more efficient and effective. This may consist of sourcing several products that integrate, or it may be a one-size-fits-all approach,” Franklin said.

“For example, I’m in a relatively greenfield role that I’ve grown over the last couple of years. We initially had very few processes for managing contracts.

“Each business managed contracts in their own way. When I started my role, the most common request was to have a better contract management process in place to ensure that we were not missing renewals, reporting requirements, price increases and the like.”

This prompted Franklin and her team to implement a robust contract management system to help manage contracts.

Getting everyone on board

The next step is to ensure that the entire business, including the C-suite, board, and external stakeholders and investors, agree upon the procedures being implemented, Franklin highlighted.

“You have to make sure that all your stakeholders’ needs are going to be met either through those procedures or on a single platform,” she said.

“You have to collaborate with each stakeholder to make sure that the system will meet their needs, whether that includes contract summaries, legal intake, reminders, or templates.”

Securing business buy-in early in the process is vital before the in-house legal team embeds a new process, Franklin suggested.

Delineating roles in contract management

The in-house legal team and the organisation must also reach a consensus on who is responsible for carrying out functions of contract management.

“For instance, once a contract is signed, who is responsible for managing the contract? Is it a legal or commercial role?” Franklin asked, adding that she believes this is the role of the commercial team.

“If, however, an item escalates or requires legal assistance, this is where the legal team should get involved. It is important to have a clear delineation and process of what is considered legal and what is commercial. This ensures that the legal team is only involved and responsible for legal matters.”

Upskilling teams to lessen workload

Franklin said it is important to upskill non-legal teams in order to lessen legal workload. It also empowers the business, providing responsibility and ensuring that legal is not seen as slowing down the process.

Franklin and her legal team have upskilled certain teams within their business, including the sales team, for this exact reason.

For example, the sales team can now manage contract variations for clients and verify that these are legally compliant. These items still come through legal for sign-off; however, the required effort has drastically decreased, which means that the legal team can focus on more pressing issues.

Franklin concluded: “Upskilling the sales team means that the sales team now understands what needs to go in a contract and how it needs to be described, which ensures that the workload has decreased for our legal team.”

To hear more from Emilie Franklin on how you can ace contract management and negotiate crucial clauses for your business, come along to the Corporate Counsel Summit 2024.

It will be held on Thursday, 2 May, at The Star, Sydney.

Click here to book tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including speakers and agenda, click here.

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