The Not-Quite-Right Tool For the Job

drill photoLatham & Watkins is a large law firm with a significant outsourcing practice. They realized that, like most firms, they hadn’t been preparing deal documents as efficiently as they could. In last month’s issue of Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, partner, Alexander Hamilton, described the situation:

“The problem at the beginning of a deal is that the client is still trying to work out what direction it wants the deal to take, and often struggles to articulate what its requirements are. Up to now, lawyers and consultants usually ended up by pulling out a previous similar deal and through much anguish and pain for both client and counsel marking-up the prototype to suit the deal.

This struck me as absurd – there had to be a better way to get these deals underway faster by extracting from our clients in as painless a way as possible what their requirements are so that we can actually draft documents that had some bearing on what they really wanted in the deal.”

Breaking down the above, Latham needed a data capture component and a document creation component. Another objective was to be able to give the client a competitive fixed price for that upfront part of the deal.

Kudos to Latham for acknowledging that the traditional approach to preparing draft documents is broken, and for deciding to tackle it.

So, how did they solve the problem?

The answer is… they half solved it. They created something called ‘Capture’, which appears to be a set of dynamic Adobe PDF forms. Hamilton describes it as “an interactive set of forms that are completed by the client’s team. As the client answers a question, other relevant questions automatically follow.”

Simplifying the data capture aspect is a step in the right direction. But, given that Latham is fixed pricing the work, neglecting to automate the document creation part is a massive lost opportunity.

I can only conclude they weren’t aware that the right tool for this job is a document assembly platform. As Wikipedia explains, document assembly is a template-based system “where the user answers software-driven interview questions… The information collected then populates the document to form a good first draft.” Just what Latham’s client’s need.

Couldn’t your law firm benefit from preparing deal documents more cost effectively?

[Note: While this post focuses on the legal practice area of outsourcing, it has equal application to other practice areas that do large, complex transactions, such as M&A, project finance and capital raisings.]

Photo credit: Cayusa


Alex Hamilton says:

Thanks for writing about our outsourcing tool, Capture. When we created Capture we were well aware of the tools available for document automation. The problem we faced was that some parts of outsourcing contracts (such as the service descriptions) are sufficiently bespoke that automating them was not practical – the law of diminishing returns applied. The front-end terms and conditions on the

Andrew Davis says:

Hi Alex, Thanks for your feedback. I completely agree that aspects of document production are less amenable to automation; service descriptions and other unstructured schedule items being prime examples. Without having used Capture, some of my comments may have been wide of the mark. Accordingly, I’d love to understand more about how you’ve managed to

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