What is a contract manager?

Juro knowledge team, 23 February 2021

Contract manager is an increasingly common role for companies looking to handle growing volumes of routine documents. But what do they actually do?

Contracts are essential to driving business growth - they are the means by which revenue is recognised at all, in many businesses. They affect every part of the company and stakeholders across multiple teams. But contract volumes can grow quickly, and disproportionately, in line with the headcount of the rest of the business. For some companies, it makes sense to have dedicated individuals to work across the affected teams to manage contracts. 

Read this page to find out more about the role of contract manager. Use the menu below to navigate this resource.

What is a contract manager? | What does a contract manager do? | Why hire one? | Are contract managers lawyers? | What makes a good contract manager? | Contract manager jobs | Contract manager salary | Contract manager responsibilities | Does your team need a contract manager?

 

 

What is a contract manager?

A contract manager is an individual in a company responsible for the management and administration of contracts, as well as the process by which they are created and agreed.

What does a contract manager do?

A contract manager works to ensure that legal documents move smoothly and quickly from creation, through collaboration and negotiation, to signature. Once the contract is signed, the contract manager is responsible for making sure contracts are stored securely, and organized in a way that makes them accessible and easy to search for stakeholders who need to do so.They may also be responsible for other pre- or post-signature concerns, like:

  • Analytics: what are the key metrics telling you about your contract workflow? How many documents are being signed a month, which stakeholders tend to slow them down, and which parts of the document are most frequently negotiated?
  • Integrations: forward-thinking businesses will often integrate their digital contracting workflow with other systems of record, like Salesforce or Workday. Contract managers will want those integrations to be working effectively.
  • Template review: contract managers will frequently review the automated templates that their colleagues use to generate contracts, to look for efficiencies and improvements that will decrease time-to-signature.

The role of contract manager is therefore fairly detail-oriented, but it’s also suitable for operations-minded individuals who know how to improve processes and strive for more efficient workflows.

Why would you hire a contract manager?

Contracts can sometimes be seen, simplistically, as a concern for legal. But the reality is that in a typical company, people from legal, finance, procurement, sales, HR and operations are all concerned with contracts, probably on a daily basis. Finance can’t forecast properly without robust contract management, and risk and compliance teams would struggle to evaluate company risk without a well organized and searchable contract repository.

This often compels companies to hire a specialist, separately to the in-house counsel, to take ownership of contracts pre- and particularly post-signature.

Manual processes still plague contract creation, collaboration and management, with companies often using a mixture of Word, email, shared drives and eSignature to agree and store contracts. Add on the job of integrating them with additional systems of record like CRM, and it seems sensible for some companies to employ someone full-time to handle it.

Instead of building out the manual, unscalable process, it would be better to use automation to remove manual work from the contracts process entirely, enabling business colleagues to self-serve their contract needs, rather than needing specialist headcount to support them. 

All too often we see companies that find themselves caught between a digital solution for one function (like sales) and a manual process for another (like legal). This often results in a contract specialist, originally hired for their expertise with legal terms and conditions, spending the majority of their time maintaining a Salesforce integration and never getting to do any high-value work.

Instead of building out the manual, unscalable process, it would be better to use automation to remove manual work from the contracts process entirely

Are contract managers always lawyers?

No - it’s not necessary to be a lawyer to be an effective contract manager. In some sales-led companies, particularly in sectors like B2B SaaS, the contract manager role is basically a revenue operations role. It’s about making sure sales teams are empowered to create and close contracts quickly, with operational support to take friction out of the contract process.

In that case, while it’s important that legal inputs into and defines the key legal terms, the day-to-day management of contracts is much more of a sales-adjacent role, focused on process, than a role requiring knowledge of black-letter law.

Of course, for some companies, the best fit for the contract manager role is a member of the legal team, if there’s someone happy to specialize and spend all their time in legal documents and process. The honest answer is that it depends on the company in question, as well as the complexity and volume of the contracts typically being handled.

What makes a good contract manager?

A good contract manager always has one eye on commercial outcomes. It’s important to mitigate risk in contractual terms, but contracts are there to create relationships and deliver on promises between partners - they’re a key growth lever for the company, so a contract manager should always be looking to ‘grease the wheels’ and make sure nothing blocks this growth.

In practice, this means striving for continual improvement in the contract process, as well as adjusting terms and contract design to optimise for signing. Automation is a key step in creating a contract management process; by creating a self-serve contract workflow, contract managers can focus on outcomes and worry less about each individual document. 

Here’s how the automated process for contract managers looks at each stage:

  • Create: users generate contracts from automated templates defined by legal. Contract managers might set up a conversational, natural language Q&A to make this process even easier
  • Collaborate: users collaborate internally on contract edits, in-browser, using features like @mentions to collaborate quickly with colleagues and get approvals
  • Negotiate: users and counterparties negotiate and redline their contracts in-browser in the sidebar, creating an easy-to-follow audit trail of who changed what, when
  • Sign: parties eSign securely on any device - even mobile. No more wet signatures. Upon signature, each party is emailed a PDF version of the contract

Once the contract is signed, post-signature features come into play:

  • Analytics: contract managers can see which contracts take longest to sign, which users are becoming bottlenecks, and how contract volumes are changing over time
  • Reminders: contract managers can set custom renewal reminders, to alert them (or anyone they choose) ahead of a contract renewing or expiring - no more surprises
  • Table views: contract managers can use custom table views to arrange, filter and browse their contracts. Kanban views like this one are popular for tracking progress:

juro-kanban-1

With an automated workflow, contract managers can balance speed and efficiency with risk mitigation, and achieve the best outcome for the business when it comes to legal documentation.

How to become a contract manager

There are various routes to take if you’re interested in becoming a contract manager. If you’ve studied law and gone down the paralegal or legal executive routes, then finding a role in a small legal team that’s struggling with contract volume shouldn’t be too hard - check out our curated jobs board to get started.

On the other hand, if you’re coming from a non-legal background, then a role in operations or procurement is probably the fastest route to working with contracts every day. You can also play around with a free Juro account to familiarize yourself with creating, organizing and managing contracts at scale.

Contract manager jobs

You can browse the latest contract manager roles on familiar sites like Indeed (UK/US), Glassdoor or LinkedIn

Contract manager salary

Salary.com suggests a typical salary range for contract managers to be $70,869 to $90,071, with variations depending on factors like the company in question, educational level and qualifications required, location, industry, and so on. You can benchmark contract manager salary figures further here.

Contract manager responsibilities 

Contract manager job descriptions typically detail responsibilities that include things like:

  • Reviewing customer contract terms and conditions to balance risk appetite with commercial objectives
  • Working on the preparation, submission and review of tenders
  • Drafting and reviewing terms for standard forms like NDAs, MOUs, partnership agreements, and so on
  • Managing or helping to manage subcontractor and vendor relationships
  • Assessing commercial aspects of new contractual activity to identify associated risks and benefits
  • Supporting contract negotiations
  • Analysing both new and existing contracts with customers, suppliers and partners to ensure that content is commercially and legally sound and maximises commercial benefits to the business
  • Obtaining approval for non-standard terms in accordance with agreed approval matrices
  • Developing, delivering, and maintaining effective commercial methods, processes, and operational procedures to ensure contracts are managed in line with internal and external compliance standards, including ISO and GDPR and other applicable laws

The specific responsibilities of the role will vary depending on the company in question and the contracts it usually manages.

Does my team need a contract manager?

Lean legal teams at small, but fast-growing companies often struggle to get approval for new headcount in the early stages. It can be hard to persuade CFOs to invest in another lawyer for the same cost as perhaps two salespeople or software engineers.

Contract managers can help in the short term, but if the company’s response to increasing contract volumes is to hire a person to manage them manually, this won’t scale when contract volumes keep growing - you’ll need to keep adding headcount to perform increasingly administrative work.

Instead, forward-thinking legal teams in high-growth businesses often look to contract automation to do the heavy lifting: the legal team invests time in creating self-serve templates, and then salespeople, HR teams or whoever is reliant on the contracts in question can self-serve on their key documents and move quickly, without the legal team becoming a blocker to growth.

If this problem sounds familiar, and you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve contract management processes through automation, hit the button below to get in touch and find out more.

Topics: Legal operations

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