Document Assembly Speeds Contract Process

Online Exclusive: Return on Investment from Document Assembly Systems

A few years ago when someone in Microsoft's global organization needed a contract, an attorney or paralegal typically searched for a form he or she had used in the past and modified it to suit the transaction. The finished documents often were inconsistent in style and substance, confusing people who had more than one Microsoft contract.

When non-lawyers use cut-and-paste on a word processing document, mistakes can happen. A sales rep rushing to close a deal could miss a closing date or forget to change a name, potentially exposing a company to operational and legal risk.

For example, a salesperson at a large insurance company changed the address in a contract's notice of termination clause without informing corporate management. As a result, the customer submitted a half million dollars in health claims after the insurance company thought it had terminated the contract. A document assembly system prevents that kind of change without the company's central database also being updated, Rowland says.

Since Cisco's legal department adopted a Business Integrity document assembly system in 2005, its lawyers usually don't get involved at all in drafting new memoranda of understanding and marketing development agreements, says Steve Harmon, Cisco's senior director of legal services. "The process from beginning to end is self-service."

Yet despite the apparent advantages of document assembly, legal departments have been slow to adopt the technology.

Michael Kozubek

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