When someone in a business needs to create a new contract, the process to make this happen remains largely unchanged. Most companies still live in Word, email, and local or shared drives.
That means they hop on the phone or into email to hassle the legal team for the latest version of the contract. Or they might look around for a recently signed contract, and copy/paste the terms from it (Ken Adams explains some of the dangers of this in his post).
Non-legal colleagues freestyling contract terms is usually a shortcut to risk, friction in the deal and bad outcomes once it’s signed. Needing to dig around in shared drives and hassle lawyers for boilerplate templates is also a waste of everybody’s time. To avoid this, forward-thinking businesses are increasingly turning to automated templates for their contracts.
An automated template is a master version of the contract, created by the legal team, from which colleagues can ‘self-serve’ contracts on a case-by-case basis, just changing a few key fields each time.
For example, in an NDA template, the majority of the legal obligations for both sides will usually stay the same. But key details like the name of the counterparty, the length of the NDA, its effective date, and so on, will need to vary each time.
The legal team owns and controls the template, so they can make sure its terms always reflect their latest thinking and the commercial position the business wants to take. But day-to-day, business colleagues can get the contract drafts they need, without needing their in-house counsel to work on each individual contract. This kind of self-serve workflow saves time for everyone. So how do you make it happen?
How to create automated templates
To create automated templates, you’ll need a contract automation platform. For automation to work and be adopted, it’s important to find a solution with a great user experience - ease of use is the difference between colleagues using the platform, or colleagues sticking to their risky process of tinkering with old Word documents.
Once you have access to your contract platform, the first thing to do is for contract ‘owners’ - usually the legal team, but occasionally ops or sales ops - to create templates in the editor. Juro’s editor is purpose-built for contracts, but has much of the formatting functionality you’d recognise from Word.
Alternatively you can drag and drop existing contracts into Juro’s contract reader; or ask our legal engineers to set up your templates as part of onboarding. This might be a faster option if your standard contracts are particularly long, complex, and include advanced features like conditional logic.
It’s important that the template you create reflects the best version of your contract terms - meaning, those likely to attract the least amount of negotiation. Automation is all about speed, so that time saved during the contract process can be better allocated to higher-value tasks. If there’s a term that you don’t really care about, and which is always negotiated, can you just soften or remove it?
Key elements of automated templates
Beyond the main copy that forms the bulk of the contract template, the two most important considerations for an automated template are:
These are the elements of the contract that can change between contracts generated from the template, like counterparty name, effective date, and so on. Formatting these clearly in the template is key.
The Q&A flow
In Juro, template owners define a question-and-answer flow as part of template setup. This is how users self-serve on the contract - they go through the Q&A, and when they’re done, their answers populate the smartfields with the correct details.
These features enable users to self-serve on contracts, keeping core language the same, but varying the terms they need for the specific document. Contract automation platforms like Juro also allow template admins - usually the legal team - to ‘lock’ parts of contract text, so that it can never be changed by someone without the correct access levels:
How to set up automated workflows
Automated templates for contracts are there to enable the first stage in an end-to-end contract process - contract creation. Contracts then go through collaboration, negotiation, eSignature, post-signature management and contract renewal.
Before embarking on a project to create automated workflows and redesign your contract process, it's important to consider the impact of the project, the time you have available to implement it, and the stakeholders who'll be affected and enabled by any changes you make.
Process changes are easier to achieve if there's broad buy-in from people affected by contracts around the business, like sales teams, HR teams, procurement and finance. If you think it might be right for your business, our advice is always to start small - select a pilot project, work with your vendor and see what efficiencies you can make quickly, before rolling out a wider deployment.
If your interest is mainly in the pre-signature part of the lifecycle, read more about contract automation.
This NDA template is available to new users with a free Juro account. If you’d like more advice and guidance, and for us to set up automated contract templates for you, then just hit the button below and we’ll be happy to help.
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