Chris Young – Ironclad Inc.
Between the endless hours of contract review, keeping an eye on the ever-changing regulatory landscape and advising the C-suite and board of directors, the burdens shouldered by today’s corporate counsel can be as daunting as they are dynamic.
But with the typical in-house workload having increased by more than 90 percent—at a time when resources to meet them have grown by just 3—there’s a real risk of things getting lost in the shuffle, not to mention professional burnout.
It’s a calculus that Chris Young is fully able to solve, thanks to a suite of digital tools designed to simplify the contracting process.
Best of all, he didn’t even have to pay for them. His company, Ironclad, is leading the way in the development of high-tech for legal.
“What we do, on a fundamental level, is legal for legal,” says Young, general counsel for contracting platform provider Ironclad. “We’re helping in-house counsel and legal operators automate contracting processes and leverage agreement data to become more efficient and drive business growth.”
If you build it
Clearly, the company’s business model is working: Headquartered in San Francisco, Ironclad recently opened satellite offices in New York City and London, and just completed a $50 million Series-C investor fundraise. Since launching in 2014, the company’s clientele has grown to include the likes of L’Oréal, Staples, Glassdoor and Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers.
Ironclad’s digital contracting platform optimizes time-intensive contracting processes by streamlining the steps required for a legal agreement: from generation and negotiations to approvals, signature and storage.
Users can also create custom workflows—via Ironclad’s Workflow Designer—around specific agreement types. These workflows feature drag and drop data tagging, a best-in-class e-signature function and customizable access controls.
According to Young, these workflows serve as “guardrails” within which teams may create contracts without bringing in legal until the final approval stages. Once completed, tagged contract data is dynamically searchable through a library, making contract management much easier.
What’s more, the platform is compatible with third-party programs including Salesforce, Dropbox and Google Drive. By nature, Ironclad integrates with these legacy systems across business-essential units, turning legal into the hub of all business contracting.
“Before Ironclad, your legal team would get 40-page agreements to review in their entirety, which required a lot of time and money,” Young explains. “Now, before a contract even gets to legal, Ironclad has a whole baked-in approval chain that must be completed. The result is a collaborative contract process wherein business users can drive their agreements and legal can become a business partner instead of a bottleneck—providing strategic guidance instead of simply pushing paper.”
All hands on deck
Today, Ironclad’s Workflow Designer represents one of the platform’s biggest selling points.
Say a company wants to create a basic non-disclosure or master service agreement. Once the contract creator fills in a few blanks—e.g., effective date, counterparty name, term length—that information is automatically placed in the contract, after which Ironclad generates the agreement.
Once the agreement is created, it can be sent to all relevant parties for review as a Microsoft Word document directly from Ironclad. All redlines, revisions and comments are tracked within Ironclad, and agreements automatically version as they are edited and comments are lodged.
Finally, the approved contract is returned and stored in any cloud storage platform a customer may be using—ready to be downloaded, searched and disseminated in a matter of seconds.
“What makes the platform unique is that, unlike most contract management systems, anyone can initiate a contract—not just lawyers,” Young explains. “And anyone can derive the data as well. The goal isn’t to take lawyers out of the equation, but rather to make the contracting process more collaborative—and faster.”
How quick, you ask? His department recently reviewed and closed 22 contracts in 48 hours.
“There’s no world in which we could have done this without a digital contracting platform like Ironclad,” Young says.
Not that the company is resting on its laurels. According to Young, Ironclad recently enhanced its best-in-class repository to make it easier for customers to search for past contracts using keywords and individual data points.
The ability to dynamically search for a particular contract is about more than just convenience, however. For example, in-house legal teams can use the Ironclad repository to identify renewal dates for business software to assist in budget planning. This data empowers businesses to proactively address contract-related tasks.
“Contracts can, and should, be strategic business drivers,” adds Young. “Paper contracts or messy digital files only cause more challenges and bottlenecks because sifting through paper takes so long. With the Ironclad repository, any business user can enter a term and find all applicable contracts. The process takes seconds instead of weeks and is a gamechanger for our customers.”
But the post-execution isn’t Ironclad’s sole area of focus. The company is also looking for ways to further streamline more time-intensive aspects of contract negotiation. Specifically, Ironclad’s next focus will be enhancing in-app negotiation—making it possible for all parties to edit inline in real time.
Preach the platform
Young and his team aren’t merely users of Ironclad’s tools; they’re full-on brand evangelists. So much so that Young has taken to traveling at least once a quarter to corporate law conferences and other events—both to spread the Ironclad gospel and gain more insight into the pain points his colleagues are experiencing.
But it’s the work his team is doing inside the company—partnering with internal stakeholders to inform the company’s product development efforts—that Young believes will always have the biggest impact.
“We treat our own legal department like Ironclad customers. That’s how product-focused the company is,” Young says. “We want to be as efficient as a sales and marketing department in terms of how we generate and report on data. Legal is seen no longer as a goalie or blocker or obstructer; it’s a business enabler.”
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