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Many marketplaces are living with the struggle of having their terms scattered all over the place. As online business ramps up and it becomes more complex to meet demanding compliance needs, the agreements that govern the relationships between marketplaces, vendors, and consumers are becoming more complex.
The danger comes in when these various agreements are scattered all across the business and not organized in any easily retrievable way. This makes eDiscovery far more difficult than it needs to be and takes up more time and energy than your teams have to give.
A great solution for this pain is a legal center.
A legal center (or a legal content management system) is a centralized location that powers your terms and other various user agreements that need to be tracked and managed.
Image: Upwork's Legal Center
With one glance, users of your online marketplace will be able to access the terms that are applicable to them and affirmatively agree to your terms. Because there will be a centralized system specifically dedicated to your terms, it will be easy to put users on notice, manage their acceptance, and track version control updates all from one place, without requiring technical assistance.
Automating and ensuring the proper distribution and tracking of these key agreements is a necessary part of defending your terms in court, as the courts ask for granular, individual records of acceptance.
Specifically, a legal center needs to have legal’s unique needs in mind. Repurposing a standard web content management platform for legal’s dynamic, sophisticated needs is not sustainable and doesn’t provide the full benefit a legal center can have. (Our final chapter talks more about the difference between a standard CMS and Legal CMS and why they are not interchangeable.)
The main benefit of having a legal center is the risk mitigation it provides. Your fast-growing marketplace can significantly lower its risk profile by storing your important agreements in one place that is owned by legal. This has the consequence of streamlining internal processes, giving legal control over its own affairs, improved recordkeeping, and streamlined internal processes.
Unfortunately, given the number of legal agreements in the marketplace and the ways they are often managed, it’s very easy for legal to rescind control of their agreements.
Terms of Service are arguably some of the most important agreements in a marketplace, which means legal should have total control over them. Instead, Legal depends largely on the technical or dev team to manage the terms and updates made to them, or even marketing teams when terms are managed using a web CMS. This makes it impossible for legal to keep track of whether or not the correct version of an agreement is correctly hyperlinked in the correct location, leaving you open to all sorts of litigation risks.
But having a legal center or legal content management system allows the control to be totally and completely in legal’s hands, without impacting the integrity of digital experiences created by your company. This means it’s done when legal needs and not when dev teams have time in their sprint. It also means legal has control over the updates of agreements and how it’s presented to the user.
In order for terms to be enforceable in court, companies need to keep excellent records of who accepted their terms, when they accepted them, and what versions of the terms were live at the time of acceptance. When terms are scattered all over the marketplace, it is incredibly difficult to keep track of which versions are live where on the site.
Also, if the terms aren’t standardized across the business, then you run into the potential problem of a single version not containing the same terms. This causes trouble for enforceability.
With a legal center, all the terms are kept in a single place, so it is easier to ensure that users are all signing the same thing. It is also easier to push and manage updates and keep track of the different versions. This way, when you need to enforce your terms in court, you have individual back-end records of acceptance to prove who specifically accepted your terms.
Contract law requires users to be put on notice of the existence of the terms they are agreeing to. But if the terms can’t be found, then the users can’t be put on notice and the terms won’t be enforceable in court. When terms are in a single, easily accessible location that isn’t difficult to navigate, users can easily be put on notice of your terms.
Businesses hoping to take advantage of and maintain market momentum need a legal center so that your terms, arguably the most important agreements in your business, are well taken care of.
White Paper Download: Clickthrough Litigation Trends: 2020 Report
Common metrics for product teams include progress on roadmap objectives, throughput of tickets, and stories delivered. If the team is continuously called upon to make updates on Legal’s behalf, which can often fall into “unplanned work” when they have their own work to do, it can be cumbersome.
Not to mention, having to build homegrown ways to deliver on legal’s needs is a major lift. Terms management becomes a pain and seemingly incompatible with great user experience design for the marketplace app. Terms also then become an afterthought, creating tension in the relationship between the two teams.
A legal center gives legal control over its own affairs, and seamlessly integrates into the existing marketplace platform while being compliant. A great legal center also integrates will with your existing systems, making it no hassle at all for your Product team.
Learn more about the benefits of a legal content managements system and how it helps meet compliance needs in our eBook: Guide to Legal Content Management Systems for Online Marketplace.