How contract review software can save your law firm time and money
As the pandemic rages on, lawyers have become accustomed to the new normal, and their comfort levels with remote working have increased significantly. Many larger law firms have extended work-from-home requirements into next year. And most lawyers from firms of all sizes have worked remotely at some point—and many continue to do so.
Videoconferencing for meetings and court appearances is now commonplace, as is the use of cloud computing software to facilitate remote work. That’s why my most recent articles have focused on software lawyers can use to streamline remote work and ensure they’re able to get their work done, no matter where they happen be located at any given point in time.
When 2020 started, my goal for this year’s columns was to revisit and update the columns I wrote in 2018, since the legal software landscape has changed significantly over the past 2 years. Of course, the pandemic and its effects on the practice of law required that I refocus my efforts on immediately addressing and update my 2018 columns that focused on remote working tools. Now that we’re seven months into the paeffectivendemic, and I’ve covered many of the basic cloud-based legal software categories that facilitate remote work, I figured it was high time to address other categories of software that can likewise be used remotely and help to increase efficiency in the practice of law.
In keeping with that objective, I’m going to cover contract review software in this month’s column. This type of software is grounded in machine learning and natural language processing, and it assists lawyers in analyzing contracts for their clients more effectively and efficiently, saving tons of time and money. If you’re a lawyer who regularly works with contracts, then this type of software is definitely worth a look.
Contract review software constantly learns from new contracts, such as nondisclosure agreements, as they are uploaded into its database. It then applies this knowledge to contracts submitted by users and compares the document under review against a multitude of similar documents contained in its database. Then the software typically provides a report that includes recommended revisions drawn from its analysis of the components of similar contracts, including suggesting paragraphs that appear often in other contracts but are missing from the one uploaded, and highlighting outlier paragraphs in the uploaded document that are atypical.
When I first wrote about contract review software in 2018, there were only a handful of products on the market. However, now that artificial intelligence software is no longer a novelty and lawyers are beginning to realize its potential, there are now many more options to choose from. Below I’ll discuss some of the more well-known tools available.
Note that this list is not all-inclusive. Also of import is that when you use this type of software, you’ll be entrusting your law firm’s confidential data to a third party, and thus you have an ethical obligation to thoroughly vet the technology provider that will be hosting and storing your data. This includes ensuring you understand how the data will be handled by that company; where the servers on which the data will be stored are located; who will have access to the data; and how and when it will be backed up, among other things.
Unless indicated otherwise, pricing is not available on the company’s website, and you’ll need to contact the company directly for this information.
First, there’s LawGeex, one of the first products launched in this space. With LawGeex, contracts are analyzed by the software, which then suggests revisions based on the firm’s or company’s preset policies and language. It doesn’t simply flag outlying clauses—instead, it provides a detailed analysis of the document that includes redlining. Once the software has processed your contract, you can then edit the document within the platform.
Another option to consider is LegalSifter, which uses AI to review and compare uploaded contracts to those in its database, and the software then highlights any unusual clauses. Once the analysis is complete, you can export the contract and accompanying advice into Word, where you can edit the document to comport with the advice provided. Pricing details are available here.
Another contender is ThoughtRiver, which offers contract analysis in a number of different contexts, including the use case we’re discussing here: automated contract review. Contracts can be analyzed using ThoughtRiver in order to quickly identify sections in need of revision. The findings can be viewed and acted upon in Microsoft Word, thus simplifying the contract revision process.
Finally, there’s Della AI. Like ThoughtRiver, Della provides contract analytics for a number of different use cases, including contract review. When used for contract review, the software analyzes the contract and provides a report that highlights sections or clauses that are atypical or otherwise deviate from your predefined conditions.
So if your practice involves a significant amount of contractual drafting and analysis, then one of these software products may very well be worth the investment. Certainly, these software tools aren’t cheap, but for some firms, the benefits will far outweigh the costs. If using this type of software will save lawyers in your firm hundreds of hours per year while still providing the same high-quality work product to your clients, what have you got to lose?
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com, Above the Law and the Daily Record, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].