A recent advertisement pointed out the simple truth that people are consistently wanting Nordstrom service at JC Penny prices. They note that lowering your rate to perform your services is not a good idea. Rather, you need to find ways to increase your speed and thus your productivity. This has the effect of lowering your cost to performing the service.
The same issue applies to contracts professionals. Even in a down economy, we’re still seeing a steady stream of contracts to review – a result of discounts and other incentives to complete acquisition projects. But we’re an overhead expense, so we’re not getting added help to get the deals done.
Here are a few suggestions on how to increase your productivity:
1. Templates, templates, templates. I obviously can’t say this enough. Draft templates for any document you’re going to use more than 3x/year. Software Licenses, Services Agreements, NDAs, and Statements of Work are all ripe for template creation. Don’t have a template or don’t feel you have the time to write one from scratch? No worries, visit the forum to get templates from Stephen Guth. He’s giving away some of his best work, so I would take advantage of it if I were you. Oh, and if you have a template you’re willing to share, create a post for it, send the template to me and I’ll make it available to everyone.
2. Convince the other side to use your templates. Yeah, so this is a corollary to #1, but having the template isn’t enough. You need to actually get the other side to review it to make it worth while. As a procurement person, my goal was to have 80% of all deals start with my paper. I would say almost anything to get the other side to use my template (but it was all true stuff): I would review their review of my template faster than I would review their templates; I couldn’t get to their templates for several weeks (and deals wouldn’t get done on their deadlines as a result); I could be much more flexible if they started from my templates (which is very true, since my templates are my absolute BEST case scenario); and in some cases, like for NDA’s, I wasn’t allowed to use anything BUT our templates (I actually have had policies changed to make sure I’m not stretching the truth when I say this). Do NOT lie… but don’t cave easily. If you have to use their template, treat it as a negotiation point in and of itself and get something in return for it.
3. Get your business folks to include you in the process MUCH earlier than we normally are (which is somehow always just 2 days from the end-of-the-quarter deal that HAS to be done). Just knowing what is coming down the pipeline can allow you to plan with much greater accuracy and efficiency. Convince the business person of the benefits to including you earlier and they’ll do it out of self-preservation needs alone. In other words, make it all about them and you’ll have no resistance to your request.
4. Contracts drafted by lawyers tend to be in two columns and incredibly small fonts (I dunno’ why that is… we didn’t learn it in law school). But make the darn thing readable to help your eyes and actual review process. Either use MS-Word’s View option to increase the percentage (125-150% is usually pretty good); or increase the entire font of the document to something 12pt or higher during the review and reduce it back when you’re done. Learn how to use Track Changes, and if your organization uses forms plus amendments rather than changing documents inline, get them to change their procedure to allow inline changes.
5. If you have a little bit of budget, there are a few tools that will also help you work more efficiently. I’ve listed some of my personal favorites in the Products/Other Recommended Purchases area. But there are two things I didn’t list. First, you need a large monitor (again, see #4 about size). Twenty-four inch or more are fairly cheap these days. And at that size, you can have 2 pages on screen side-by-side at 100%, perfect for document comparisons or large copy/paste jobs. Second, you need a software product called DeltaView (it’s now called WorkShare Professional). MS-Word has a “document compare” feature, but WorkShare is better for larger documents with more random changes (where there are large quantities of text that have been moved around). However, make sure you learn how to use document compare, as it can insert changes with Track Changes, which really helps.