“How has legal technology affected you?” This is the third perspective in a three part series.
A few days into my articling term I received my first contract to draft - a commercial lease agreement. I had only seen this type of agreement a few times before. But I was full of ambition to learn the ins and outs of the agreement, so I began by doing what every lawyer does first and began to look at previous commercial lease precedents that my firm had, and within half hour I had my whole desk covered in different leases, it didn’t look pretty!
[caption id=“attachment_822” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”] The stacks of precedents I had to read through![/caption]
I started looking at the different language between the agreements and the different clauses that existed. I learned pretty quickly that commercial leases can be vastly different from one another, and some of the leases were as long as forty-five pages. The task in front of me was to dig through these agreements and find the most suitable language and clauses that I could use and tailor to meet our clients’ requests. However, finding the differences by manually looking through all the leases and reading hundreds of pages was incredibly time consuming. I worked diligently the next couple days and eventually provided my principal with my draft of the commercial lease; however it was only minutes before his deadline. In my first week of articling I realized very quickly how much work goes into drafting an agreement.
As my articling term went on my drafting skills became faster and more efficient. This was due in large part by using **legal technology software** to help speed up the drafting process. The days of having my desk covered in leases and trembling to avoid a paper cut were almost extinct. I was able to save a significant amount of time with the following tasks:
- Locating precedent documents
- Extracting clause language
- Explanation of clauses
- Variant language for each clause
- Gaps/differences between agreements
If you’re an articling student or a lawyer your eyes probably opened wide after seeing this list. One of the legal tools I used to do this was a beta-testing tool called Clausehound. Clausehound stores thousands of clauses within its database and provides comments on core concepts. As an articling student at the beginning of my legal career I did not understand the meaning and function of each clause, and it was difficult predicting the real impact it would have on an agreement. Clausehound saved me a lot of time, and saved my principal from a lot of (likely annoying) questions about the meaning of clauses. While other websites provide legal tools, Clausehound provided templates as well as case law examples for many clauses, and had dozens of additional variant language options as well. This was great as I could see the different ways the clause could be drafted, and this gave me more flexibility when I was drafting.
There are many cloud based options for firms to store their precedent documents. This reduces time spent searching through cabinets, boxes and folders to find what you need. To be able to find precedents from years ago with a click of a mouse is invaluable in our field. I found that Clausehound added additional value over a typical cloud based portal, because the secure Clausehound portal breaks down each uploaded agreement into clause categories and stores them for the firm’s easy access.
The best tool I found online, that doesn’t appear to exist anywhere else is Clausehound’s document comparison tool (currently in beta stage for NDA’s). The tool compares two documents against each other and allows you to quickly see the differences between the agreements. For every agreement I worked on, I could see the client’s agreement compared against another and see all the gaps/clauses it was missing!
[caption id=“attachment_823” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”] The Clausehound drafting interface with clearly laid out sections.[/caption]
Although I have much to learn and have just embarked in my legal career, Clausehound’s tool and other legal drafting tools are allowing me to understand agreements, and draft more efficiently.
As an articling student or a young lawyer, you are always trying to impress and get your work done on time, and cutting edge legal software definitely helps!
Stay tuned for further updates about cutting edge legal software!