You don't need software to create a contract database, or contract repository, to stop your legal documents getting out of control in the early stages. Here's a free template to get you set up.
Recently we created a contract healthcheck, to help companies and individuals take the temperature of their setup for creating and managing contracts. When we built it, we recognized that different levels of maturity are appropriate for different sizes of business.
For example, enterprise businesses might have a system of record implemented, that integrates with other key systems; they might have a style guide for contracts; they might have a legal front door and ticketing system for new queries. This is the kind of approach we see from our enterprise customers, like Reach plc or OLX group.
Scaleups might not have made it that far, but they should have a template-based system in place that enables people to self-serve, and regular training on contract process. Early-stage startups might have made it as far as eSignature, and that’s about it.
For a new joiner taking ownership of contracts in an earlier-stage business, a complex software deployment probably isn’t on the cards. Instead, for that person (usually the first lawyer, or perhaps an operations or finance lead), the question is pretty simple: where the hell are our contracts?
This is why establishing a basic contract repository, or contract database, is so important. The sooner an organization can start collecting and tracking the documents that are crucial to both revenue and risk, the better - and the longer you leave it, the worse it can get. If a startup gets to its next funding round with no idea about where its contracts are, whether they’re signed, or what they say, it will make those due diligence conversations pretty difficult.
The sooner an organization can start collecting and tracking the documents that are crucial to both revenue and risk, the better
Your contracts database: v1.0
Thankfully, to get to base camp when it comes to your contract repository, you can get to ‘good enough’ with a simple spreadsheet. Use a spreadsheet as the front end of your database and a shared drive as your back end, and you’ll at least be at square one.
Here’s a free spreadsheet template to do just that. Click the image below to download the free contract repository template:
Contract repository - key fields
Here are the key fields we recommend you track in version one of your contract repository:
- Business owner: who owns this contract commercially
- Legal owner: who owns this contract in the legal team
- Reference number
- Contract type
- Approval 1, 2, 3 (etc): this reflects each key stakeholder's sign-off
- Status: fully signed, approved, draft, and so on
- Buy-side or sell-side
- Total value
- Annualized value
- Duration (years)
- Termination date
- Give notice date
- Liability cap
- Personal data: yes/no as to whether the contract contains personal data
- Notes: for example, whether termination is planned at the end of the term
The full universe of fields you might want to include depends on the nature of your business - there might be additional markers that are useful to track in, say, the software industry, or in e-commerce. But getting to square one is already a huge step up from a workflow that doesn't include a contract repository.
There are advantages and disadvantages of taking this approach.
- It's free
- It requires almost no setup or technical knowledge
- If you use a Google sheet, then it's browser-based
- Access privileges for colleagues aren't a problem
- It will get you from nowhere to *somewhere* really quickly
- No actual functionality for managing contracts
- Search, collaboration, sharing, workflows and so on - all difficult if not impossible
- A spreadsheet is a static file - data contained within it can't trigger reminders, or handle eSignature, for example.
So while the free template above might help you to at least put out a fire, it's not a long-term solution to the creation, agreement and management of contracts - particularly at a business that's scaling.
Your contracts database: v2.0
If you're sold on the benefits of creating a system of record for contracts, and ready to move on from a basic spreadsheet, what should you do next?
We can share how businesses use a free Juro account to go from a basic contracts repository to an end-to-end contract automation platform. You can check it out for yourself by signing up here.
1. Create a contracts repository
The first thing many new users do when getting started in Juro is to migrate their legacy contracts database into the platform. that might sound painful but in fact it's a drag-and-drop process: simply drop your old PDF contracts into Juro's contract reader, and the platform uses AI to read your documents, tag key metadata and convert them into digital documents you can manage in the platform. Now they can be searched and handled in the same way as you would documents created natively in Juro.
2. Create templates and contracts
Juro helps to automate routine contracts at scale from templates you create. So let's create some templates! The next step for new users is to set up their most commonly used templates in Juro, to enable colleagues to self-serve. For a more detailed look at this process, read about how to automate an NDA, or hit the button in the top right to talk to one of our team.
Once templates are set up, users can handle contract creation, collaboration, negotiation and secure electronic signature, all without leaving the browser.
3. Set renewal reminders
One of the main drivers for creating a contract repository is to understand and easily access the risks and obligations your company faces. We often hear horror stories of in-house lawyers missing a renewal deadline and being locked into an onerous agreement at great cost for another year.
The advantage of having a a purpose-built system for your contracts database is that you can tag individual documents with renewal reminders. This will mean users receive an email reminder at a specific period before the renewal date, so they can take action if they need to.
4. Review your analytics stack
The insights to be gained from contracts doesn't stop when they're signed. You can use Juro's dedicated analytics functionality to get data insights on your contract workflow - which contracts move slowest, which teams sit on documents the longest, and where are your bottlenecks and pain points? Use data visualization to take your post-signature contract management to the next level.
Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.
- Comprehensive contracts functionality - create, collaborate, negotiate, agree, store, renew, track, and more
- Browser-based - colleagues don't need to be able to find a particular spreadsheet to access contracts
- Scaleable - it's hard to search through a spreadsheet with 10,000 lines in it
- Intuitive, secure SaaS solution
- Starts at free
- This approach favours browser-based documents - if you stick with static files, like Word and PDF, you'll miss out on certain functionality.
Having a good grip on your contracts is important for any business. But it's especially important for high-growth companies that might need to navigate due diligence ahead of a funding round or M&A activity.
Lawyers joining scaling businesses often get started with a basic spreadsheet to get a handle on what's been going on with legal documents - but they also quickly find this doesn't scale, and moving to browser-based contract automation is the best way to stay in control, whilst enabling commercial colleagues to self-serve on routine contracts.
If you want to solve not just post-signature management of contracts, but pre-signature creation, collaboration and automation, then click the button below and find out what Juro could do for you.