Monday, August 22, 2016

Thomson Reuters Contract Express: Document Assembly Made Easy



Last October Thomson Reuters announced the acquisition of a UK based company Business Integrity which had developed a document assembly product called Contract Express. According to the press release the product had already been adopted by an impressive list of Magic Circle" and Am Law 100 firms. The product offers enterprise licenses for large law firms and corporations.  I recently spoke with Andy Wishart, Global Head of Contract Express, to learn about the product and to get an understanding of where it fits in the constellation of Thomson Reuters drafting products. According to Wishart, Contract Express can reduce the time a lawyers spends getting to a first draft by 82%.  Wishart Views Contract Express as a “second generation” product which will lower the barrier of entry for “non-technologist “lawyers.

 Law firms are using the product internally to streamline the production of high volume documents. Several firms are leveraging the product as service for existing and potential clients. Corporations are integrating the product with Salesforce.com and provide employees with a self service document portal.  Contract Express can be linked to a firm’s CRM and can integrate with Docusign. 
 
Contract Express Dictionary Editor
 Document assembly always sounded like an easy solution to me. But apparently many document assembly programs used by lawyers still require technical expertise  to create the templates. This requirement is often a bottleneck which constricts the number of templates a lawyer or practice group can create.
The Contract Express website describes the products advantages:
"Unlike all other document automation products, Contract Express document automation understands lawyers’ “square bracket” legal markup notation. There’s no programming notation, no XML markup, no hidden codes or fields, no questionnaire scripting, no use of proprietary editors, and no need to reapply styles to generated documents. This capability is unique to Contract Express contract automation software and protected by thirteen granted US patents with more pending."

 I am not an expert on document assembly issues and I can't comment on the uniqueness of the features listed above, but I have seen the product and I was pretty impressed. In June, Contract Express 6.0 was released and it offers several impressive new features: Datasheets, Matters, Document Versioning and Contract Express Author.

Datasheets feature enables users to create dynamic views of the transactional information contained in documents created by Contract Express. This advanced feature allows law firms and their clients to gain greater insight into their automated documents, surfacing valuable information such as key dates, non-standard clauses, deal values and more.
Document Versioning Documents created by Contract Express 6.0 are now fully versioned, meaning users can upload and share manually edited documents with internal users and clients.
Matters The matters  feature in Contract Express 6.0 makes it possible to group one or more document templates around a specific legal matter.The relevant answers in the questionnaire are populated in related documents. Its new Workflow Steps feature allows template authors to suggest the next template within a matter and ensuring necessary steps are followed.
Contract Express Author eliminates the need for creating a separate questionnaire, document, and metadata program. After a lawyer marks up their template, Contract Express processes the Word file and automatically generates the questionnaire to guide lawyers and other users through a document.
Contract Express Questionnaire

Contract Express for Client Portals and Marketing
Several law firms are using contract express as a differentiator. Seyfarthlink and Baker Donelson have portals that enable clients to enter to a branded Contract Express website. Clients can create documents in a self-service environment.

Cooley LLP offers a free suite of Contract Express generated documents for start-up companies on its CooleyGo website. SeyfarthShaw offers clients Contract Express generated documents on its SeyfarthLink portal. 

Contract Express Integration with TR Drafting Products. According to Wishart,  future developments will include the integration of Contract Express into two other Thomson Reuters products: Practical Law and Drafting Assistant. In the near future a lawyer will be able to select a document from Practical Law hit a "draft" button  and use that document to create a Contract Express template, which is tailored to the needs of his or her client.

Given the relentless pressure on law firms to streamline workflow and develop innovative client support products, Contract Express is hitting two of the "hot button" issues which always get the attention of law firm leaders.

Thomson Reuters is currently offering free trials of Contract Express.

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