You would be hard-pressed to find a legal expert who ascribes no value to templates. In-house counsel lawyers in particular consider the supply, maintenance, and updating of template business contracts as a core feature of their task description. Even law firms, where the billable hour is still king and efficiency therefore not a priority, often have abstract template documents. That said, most traditional templates have a lot of inherent problems.
The problem with traditional templates
Essentially, templates are static documents. From a practical point of view, this means:
- They age quickly. Templates are created once, usually in Microsoft Word. Some may feature a certain level of automation through so-called “macros” (instead of the traditional “[insert placeholder here]”), but even with such macros, the content is fixed once it starts being spread out into the organisation. If updates need to occur, they need to be distributed manually and it may take some time before the updated version percolates through all levels of the organisation.
- They are costly to edit. Companies often have slightly different templates for different purposes — e.g., a light version, an extensive version and a unilateral version, and all potentially in different languages. Even small updates to the text can become costly when all those documents must be manually opened and edited.
- They are decentralised. Each copy being spread from one person to another is a potentially altered version of the template. This greatly increases the risk of non-approved content flying under the radar.
- They have limited interactivity. Microsoft Word offers some features to facilitate filling out forms. Few legal experts know where to find them, and they are about the only interactivity you can get without diving into “macro” programming. Forget about warning users for missing or incomplete answers, hiding paragraphs automatically when they have become irrelevant, or adapting the grammar of the text to the answers that were given before.
- They offer limited assistance. As a legal expert you can insert some internal comments to help your users fill out the template, but in practice you have probably already been burned by such comments. Anyone active in the legal field knows that users tend to forget to remove those internal comments before sending out the document...
To solve the problem with traditional templates, they must become dynamic, intelligent and centralised. This means they must feature:
- Interactive content. Business users tend to consider contract creation to be a pain. Users should therefore be offered all the help and facilities possible to create contracts as quickly and with as limited errors as possible. Documents should automatically adapt to the interactive answers, and some assistance should be offered along the way.
- Easy updating. Templates should be stored in a central location. This way, users can be sure to have the latest version, while document owners do not have to expend unnecessary energy in updating the document or policing proper use.
- Flexibility. Templates need to be flexible. They need to provide a tailored approach to different situations, without having to maintain a dozen documents for what essentially amounts to a single template.
ClauseBase checks all of the boxes for the above mentioned solutions.
It offers a central location where business users can find templates. It treats templates as collections of interactive clauses that respond to predefined questions. Certain clauses can be made subject to certain conditions and can have alternatives and fall-backs linked to them to fit any situation. Newly inserted clauses will adjust themselves in terms of grammar, styling, terminology, cross-referencing, definitions and legal nuance to fit in with the surrounding clauses. These clauses are all stored in a central clause library so that if an adjustment is made to a clause, that adjustment flows through every document where that clause is used.
As a result, templates become incredibly easy to create and fill in, and can offer so much certainty as to their compliance and correctness, that users will not be tempted to create new documents on the basis of some document found in an old transaction.