Frequently asked questions
Does ClauseBase make use of artificial intelligence (AI)?
Short answer: yes, for those parts where this makes sense for contract drafting.
Long answer: as any good lawyer would respond, the correct answer is "That depends."
One frequently used definition is that artificial intelligence (AI) consists of software that achieves almost surprising results that were unachievable in the past. According to this definition, ClauseBase is full of AI. Our software engine lets lawyers and business users create complex documents in a matter of minutes, which leads to jaw-dropping reactions among legal experts when they see the software in action.
Another definition is that AI is software that "learns" a certain subject matter and can come up with answers that seem to have been formulated by humans, by searching through volumes of pre-existing examples and performing complex statistical calculations. This kind of software has enormous potential for the legal industry, such as case law analysis, automated contract review, due diligences and predictive justice. Common across these use cases is that they fundamentally assume that hundreds of thousands of examples exist for the software to digest, and that users have some tolerance for error and/or will manually review the results.
Our software makes use of this last kind of AI in several parts, e.g. to recognize grammatical constructions in the semi-automated bulk import of clauses. However, our main engine deliberately avoids statistical techniques, because they are simply not accurate enough for contract drafting purposes. Unlike predictive analytics — where you would be very happy with an answer like "this court is 92.6% likely to decide in our favour" — contract drafting is all about precision and certainty. No lawyer would accept to be 92.6% certain that some clause is 92.6% likely to be drafted in a way to assign liability to a certain party.
Yes, in the current state of art, even the most advanced software achieves natural language accuracy around 90% in optimal circumstances, i.e. when tested with easily readable texts extracted from hundreds of thousands of articles of the Wall Street Journal. Imagine what the accuracy results would be for complex clauses spanning many lines, or for clauses written in other languages that are not as heavily researched as English, and accordingly lack good training models.
In short, in the discussion about artificial intelligence, ClauseBase takes a qualitative approach that results in absolute certainty, instead of a quantitative approach with results that are not reliable enough for contract drafting purposes.
How are you different from other contract drafting software packages?
Almost without exception, other contract drafting packages are template-based. Traditional contract drafting software starts from a fully constructed template, usually created in Microsoft Word, to which coding is added to designate placeholders and to indicate certain paragraphs or clauses that disappear when a conditions is triggered. To generate a contract from this template, users are required to fill out a questionnaire.
The template-based software packages work nicely for high-volume, highly-standardized contracts where a fill-in-the-blanks-approach is sufficient, such as many non-disclosure agreements and consumer contracts.
In reality, however, very few contracts fit this description: as any lawyer can attest, contracts may seem simple at the surface, but can be devilishly complex under the hood. We are convinced this is the reason why template-based contract drafting packages have existed for more than 20 years, but have never gained standard adoption because they simply could not handle the day-to-day needs of legal experts.
ClauseBase was designed from the ground up to deal with the complexity faced by law firms and inhouse lawyers, and integrates years of practical contract drafting experience.
Key to managing this complexity, is the clause-based approach, which treats contracts as collections of intelligent building blocks that can be easily varied. Instead of having a few templates that offer a few variations, a clause-based approach allows you to combine hundreds of clauses in different variations, offering a level of power that is simply out of reach for templates.
ClauseBase thus flips the traditional automation process upside down. When you upload your clauses to the ClauseBase platform, you can insert the desired level of intelligence to create a library of intelligent clauses. When an intelligent clause is inserted into a contract, it will communicate with other clauses to ensure that consistency and coherence is maintained regarding terminology, grammar, language, styling, definitions, cross-referencing and even legal nuance. This way, you can easily create templates and contracts by simply stacking clauses on top of each other like building blocks.
When you have created a template in ClauseBase in this way, you can optionally also attach a questionnaire to the contract to allow for easy generation of high-volume, low-alteration documents.
This way, ClauseBase offers you additional tools for contract creation while at the same time upgrading the tools that traditional contract drafting software already provides.
In which legal domains can your software be used?
Any legal domain. In fact, our software is also used outside the legal sector, in situations where documents are produced that tend to be similar on the surface, but actually host quite some variations under the hood — e.g., when drafting a Request For Proposal in procurement areas, or drafting offers or sales pitches where credentials need to be provided.
In practice, we notice that corporate law, employment law and commercial law are the most popular legal domains at this moment. ClauseBase is even used in litigation departments for drafting parts of legal briefs.
Do you offer existing clauses or templates together with your product?
No, even though our team consists of former lawyers with plenty of contract drafting lawyers, we do not offer legal content.
Our clients generally want to work with their own clauses and templates. Top tier law firms consider this legal content to be their most important assets, as they will generally have invested significant time and effort in developing and maintaining it. In-house legal counsels, from their part, also have to work with their own material, e.g. due to the specific requirements of their business line or inhouse "rule book" or compliance requirements.
That being said, several law firms and legal publishers have already expressed their desire to make (parts of) their clause library available to clients through the ClauseBase platform. Over time, we expect that several law firms and third party companies will commercially offer clause libraries and/or advanced automated templates.
Does my intellectual property remain my own?
What do you mean by "intelligent" clauses?
For which languages do you offer grammatical support?
How do translations work in ClauseBase?
How easy is your software?
No training is required for business users who want to use ClauseBase to create legal documents on the basis of a questionnaire prepared by their legal team. All that business users need to know, is how to read and write.
Lawyers who want to create legal documents on the basis of templates and clause libraries, find ClauseBase to be easier and much faster than Microsoft Word, because ClauseBase is specifically focused on legal documents, does not show rows of irrelevant buttons, and avoids the daily "fight" that lawyers have to undertake to get the numbering and layout correct in Microsoft Word. Accordingly, one to two hours of training is usually more than enough.
The story is very different for those few lawyers who want to create questionnaires, or draft complex and/or intelligent clauses that automatically adapt to the other clauses in the contract. ClauseBase offers hundreds of powerful features to allow for the most complex interactions, but learning how all these features work takes time. (But the ClauseBase support team is there to help!). Typically, there will be less than a handful of lawyers in a law firm or large legal team who will take on this kind of role. In the future, we expect this role to expand, with the emergence of legal engineers.
How can you help me with automating contracts?
ClauseBase offers contract drafting solutions that go beyond mere software. As former lawyers with ample experience in automating legal documents, we can help you in different parts of the drafting workflow:
- assistance in how to structure your clause libraries, answering questions such as "do I need a clause library per department?", "who should be granted editing rights?", "do I organise clauses per contract, or per clause subject matter?", "how many variations of a clause should I create?", etc.
- assistance in drafting the actual clauses: dealing with conditions, translations, interactions between clauses, etc.
- how to fit ClauseBase in your workflow
- dealing with electronic signatures
In practice, we see very different needs from clients. On one end of the spectrum, some large law firms have inhouse legal engineers who only request assistance when dealing with complex clauses. On the other end of the spectrum, inhouse legal departments or small boutique law firms completely outsource their entire automation to us. In between the two ends of the spectrum, we also encounter clients who want us to only automate a few contracts in order for them to get up-and-running, or clients who ask us to review their own automation work.
Which benefits can I expect from your product?
Depending on the type of document, you can expect an acceleration factor of 5 to 15. Some real-life examples:
- business users will generally spend about 15 minutes finding the right NDA and completing it; in ClauseBase, this can be done in 3 minutes (factor 5)
- in MS Word, a human resources expert can generally draft a standardized employment agreement in about 30 minutes, compared to 4 minutes in ClauseBase (factor 8)
- drafting an employment deed on the basis of some template in MS Word generally takes an hour for an experienced lawyer, compared to 5 - 6 minutes in ClauseBase (factor 10).
- preparing a complex share purchase agreement on the basis of an extensive MS Word template will take a senior lawyer an entire day, versus 30 minutes in ClauseBase (factor 15)
Note that these quantitative benefits do not even take into account the higher quality and significantly lowered risk of (particularly subtle) mistakes. And the happiness factor: business users generally dislike drafting legal documents, and even lawyers do not like tweaking some clause for the 89th time.
Is ClauseBase suitable for small organisations?
How long will it take to automate a template?
Assuming we are talking about real automation (i.e., not a fill-in-the-blanks template), this can range between less than an hour and more than a week. The more time it costs you to automate the template, the more time you will save when you use the automated template.
The actual amount of time will depend on many factors, such as the length of your template, the amount of interdependencies between paragraphs, the amount of variations you want to cover, the number of exceptions for specific jurisdictions, the number of clauses you can reuse from a previously automated template, the number of languages you want to support, etc.
To give some concrete examples from past projects:
- A single language non-disclosure agreement of 4 pages, that allows you to select a unilateral versus bilateral approach (with changes rippling through several paragraphs), as well as a few secondary options such as applicable law, competent court, duration, etc. can be uploaded and tested in less than an hour.
- A single language employment law deed with 10 different options (dismissal by employee versus employer, notice period or not, varying payments) can be uploaded and tested in less than 4 hours.
- For a triple language, medium-length license agreement (6 – 12 pages, depending on which optional paragraphs are visible) with about 15 different interdependencies and variations, for different types of intellectual property, you probably spend about a day in total to upload this template, test it, and going through some iterations to fine-tune it.
- A single-language complex share purchase agreement (SPA) with 200 different options can be uploaded, tested and fine-tuned in about a week.
Do I need to involve my IT department when rolling out your product?
No. ClauseBase is cloud-based software that only requires a modern browser from its users, so no installation of the software on either the server or the desktop/laptops is required.
More importantly, having experienced the interactions between legal experts and IT experts firsthand, we firmly believe that contract drafting should maintain the responsibility of the legal experts, and should not shift to IT departments. After all, contract drafting is a complex process, requires many years of legal experience, and is one of the core tasks of many legal experts.
You may need to involve your IT-teams when complex integrations need to be achieved between our platform and your existing information technology. But these are rather advanced situations that can generally be skipped in the initial rollout phase.
Even so, our industry is witnessing a convergence of roles with the emergence of so-called "legal engineers", who are either lawyers who are also experienced in legal technologies, or IT experts who have gained experience in legal subject matters. Such legal engineers are obviously ideal for working with ClauseBase.
What will happen to my clauses if I decide to stop my ClauseBase subscription?
Which contract management features do you offer?
ClauseBase is a contract drafting tool, not a contract management tool. We focus on the process of creating the (first draft or finalized copy of) legal documents, and not on the other parts of the contract lifecycle.
The reason is that contract management is largely a "solved problem": since many years, there are hundreds of contract management tools available, from cheap & simple to expensive & complex.
Also, contract management is usually not the responsibility of legal experts. Law firms almost never take care of it for their clients, and even in large corporations inhouse legal counsels are generally only involved in the drafting, negotiation and (to a lesser extent) signing phase of contracts. As soon as a contracts is signed, the responsibility typically shifts to contract managers or project owners.
Even so, we offer many options to integrate with contract management software, e.g. through our so-called "API". In fact, customers typically see ClauseBase as complimentary to their contract management software, because even though many contract management software packages offer contract drafting tools, even the most advanced ones offer only limited drafting features. This is not unexpected, given the fact that those contract management packages tend to be developed by business experts instead of legal experts.
How will the software help me during contract negotiations?
ClauseBase is contract drafting software that produces either the final version of a contract (when used by most business users), or a first or final draft (when used by most legal experts).
While we generally do not focus on contract negotiation, there are several situations where ClauseBase can be of great help:
- If businesses allow only limited deviations from their standard contracts, ClauseBase can be used to quickly produce a new version of a contract that takes into account the comments of the counterparty. The software's power will be particularly visible in situations where small changes can have repercussions among many different paragraphs of the contract.
- Law firms can use their clause libraries as inspiration during negotiations. Many different variations of a same clause can be stored, and easily searched on — allowing a lawyer to find, in less than 30 seconds, an "extensive confidentiality clause, written in French, with distribution agreements in mind, that is highly protective for the distributor".
Do you integrate with Microsoft Word?
ClauseBase produces DOCX files that can be opened by Microsoft Word, and follow all best practices (automatic multi-level numbering, style-based formatting, correct cross-references, an optional table of contents, etc).
However, ClauseBase's main workflow is focused on interacting with our platform through your web browser. This platform is the gateway to dealing with intelligent clauses. Microsoft Word simply does not offer this option because Microsoft Word treats documents as a bunch of letters organised in paragraphs, without being aware of the actual structure of the text, let alone the legal reasoning, within these paragraphs.