When talking about contract management, we often think about the role attorneys play in drafting, reviewing, negotiating, and managing contracts. But what about the other players? Like the paralegals who play a key role in supporting the contract management process and related contract lifecycle management (CLM) systems.
According to recent studies, about half of law departments process more than 1,000 agreements every month. That’s a lot of contracts! Arguably, too many for a legal department to handle without sufficient support staff or a proper technology solution.
Paralegals, like lawyers, can specialize in different areas of law. The newest of which is contracts and contract management. Their diverse skill set lends them to be strong allies of modern legal departments looking to provide best-in-class legal services and quick turn-around times for contracts.
History Of Paralegals
The use of specifically educated paralegals to assist lawyers in delivering legal services is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of American law, dating back to the 1960s. Rapidly rising costs of legal services, combined with lack of access to legal services for low- and middle-income Americans, caused the government, consumer groups, and the organized bar to take a closer look at the way legal services were being delivered. The paralegal profession was born as a solution.
Although paralegals are not allowed by law to give legal advice, an experienced paralegal can work alongside an attorney on a variety of complex substantive legal assignments.
Modern Day Paralegals
These days, skilled paralegals are responsible for duties once only handled by attorneys. As the practice of law continues to evolve, so does the demand for paralegals. Not surprisingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 10.5% employment growth for paralegals between 2019 and 2029.
The increased pressure to deliver more affordable legal services has paved the way for legal technology and Alternative Legal Services Providers (ALSP) to play a more significant role in providing these services. In August 2020, Utah became the first state to allow individuals and entities to explore creative ways to safely allow lawyers and non-lawyers to practice law and reduce constraints on how lawyers market and promote their services. This is a sign of significant change on the horizon.
The Contract Management Paralegal
As technology continues to play a bigger role in the day-to-day practice of law, those who work in the legal profession are finding the need to become increasingly more tech-savvy. Lawyers are seeking experienced paralegals who not only possess legal knowledge and administrative ability, but those who are also technologically proficient.
For those working in a corporate setting, their position more closely resembles a legal technology manager than a traditional paralegal who fills out forms and calendars hearing dates. More than ever, lawyers are relying on paralegals to manage and administer the organization’s CLM system as the designated subject matter expert.
Skilled paralegals can support the CLM process by:
- Overseeing the complete lifecycle of the contracts: from initial request to final signature and contract distribution;
- Assigning contracts to contract reviewers, whether manually, via email, or through a CLM system;
- Upgrading and managing contract repositories and templates;
- Inspecting and drafting a variety of complex legal agreements;
- Obtaining contract signatures and approvals; and
- Assisting in the implementation and training of the CLM systems used by the organization.
Paralegals interested in this legal field must continue to hone their project management and system management skills to stay competitive in this market. This includes acquiring certifications, developing specializations, attending continuing education courses, and staying current with legal and non-legal technology.
With the vast amount of CLM trainings available to paralegals these days, it is a natural progression for paralegals interested in technology to gain specialization in contract management and oversee all stages of the contract lifecycle.
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Legal departments inundated with a high volume of contracts and considering revamping your contract management process or adopting a new CLM should consider having a skilled contract management paralegal on your team. Not only will it streamline your processes and increase your department’s efficiencies, but it will also improve your bottom line; and forever transform the future of the way you deliver legal services.
Author: Julie Enez
In today's work force, it is almost certain that you will engage subcontractors and consultants to help manage your IT operations, including its third-party SaaS applications. Today's tip - make sure that any use and access rights granted in a SaaS contract are broad enough to include such augmented staff so that you can carry on operations without breaching your contract. For more information and to join the discussion, check out my LinkedIn post.