Legal innovation: Bringing the CI/CD experience to contracts

Implementing the CI/CD experience for legal can make the team more agile and position it for greater innovation

CI - CD for Legal Blog

Continuous integration/continuous deployment (or CI/CD) is all the rage in modern development practices.  In a consumer driven, “first to market gets the market” economy, speed is one of the primary differentiators. The most advanced product teams utilize this process, and it allows them to move quickly with little to no customer intervention. While CI/CD is most often used for product and sometimes sales, you should consider making your own version of CI/CD for legal teams.

What is CI/CD?

CI (continuous integration) and CD (continuous deployment or development) are centered on the practice of automating as much of the testing and deployment process as possible. This allows organizations to limit the amount of human intervention required to release updates to their customers.

In a CI/CD cycle, you could enable your team to push updates daily. The only time human intervention is required is when a test fails, triggering an alert (and likely some level of panic) resulting in a scramble outside of customer view.   

Sales also has their own version of CI/CD: continuous inquiry, continuous deals (trademark pending because I made this up).  Your sales team is likely sending out NDAs to kickoff potential customer discussions, and trying to turn signed agreements around in time to make the quarter numbers. They are concerned with speed and capitalizing on consumer momentum. Managing the back and forth, as well as the demand, can take its toll on your legal department. 

While this pace of evolution and updates suits your customer, and even your DevOps team, it can pose a challenge for legal departments.  Pushing updates to an application, in particular, can often require a new version of Terms that the user has to accept. In a world where those updates could occur daily, your legal team needs to be able to make those updates just as fast so you aren’t exposed to unnecessary periods of risk. 

CI/CD for legal means more agile legal teams

How can you meet the need for speed while maintaining compliance? The answer is in the problem: rather than asking your development team or your sales team to slow their roll, enable your legal team to increase velocity and streamline their process. Make your own version of CI/CD for legal. 

Think of the sheer number of contracts that could be, virtually, “automated” in their creation and delivery.  Repeatable agreements, like your NDAs or Terms and Conditions, don’t really need someone to look them over prior to delivery every single time: they are standard documents. These types of agreements can easily be hosted or embedded, facilitating easy distribution and self service, digital, signing experiences.  When it comes to negotiations or variable terms, think how much more efficient your team could be if there were templates of agreements and a library of pre-approved, authorized, alterations that have been drafted by legal ahead of time.

Having peace of mind that agreements are being executed, can be easily updated, and are being stored in a centralized database by version history are the top priorities for managing these types of agreements.  All those tasks can be easily automated with the proper solution, resulting in a more agile legal team. 

What does it look like for legal to embrace a CI/CD experience?

Instead of making edits to Terms, submitting a ticket, and waiting two weeks to see those changes implemented, imagine simply making the required changes and clicking “send” to populate embedded acceptance points.  Even better, imagine being able to make the changes and text, email, or link them to the new contract instead of relying on your customer being in front of a computer for a few rounds of red-line, PDF edit exchanges. When it comes to tracking acceptance, imagine logging into a single, central platform and seeing a log of contract acceptance history, organized by version, and simply downloading a record in seconds. 

If your organization’s primary contracting needs are not prime candidates for this type of solution, that doesn’t entirely exclude you from adopting this practice.  Depending on the nature of the contract, it may not be suited for high volume, high speed, pure clickwrap. However, the delivery, signing experience, and record generation are all elements of the contracting process that can likely be retooled to gain efficiency. 

Empower your legal teams

Automation and quick delivery may come more naturally to development or sales, but that mentality can be translated into other departments.  Empowering legal teams to expedite repeatable, high volume contracts without compromising enforceability allows them to spend their time on the lower volume, high touch agreements.  The result is a streamlined organization where every department is poised to capitalize on consumer momentum.      

Legal innovation begins with learning from other departments. As a business unit with its own goals, legal's long-term success depends on how well it works with and learns from other business functions. Download our guide to building cross-functional business relationships to learn how to set your legal team up for success!

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