I’ve recently been focused on the wealth of new contract management tools that have been released since January 2009. We started with a tool to help you manage the finished product, then a tool to help you redline your documents. The missing product for this trinity is one for document assembly. WhichDraft makes a huge step to closing this gaping hole.
The WhichDraft tool is based on the concept that templates, while useful as a starting point, need to be modified based on a situational analysis of the deal. They have created several forms (almost 80 of them!) to start from, and then use the wizard concept to guide the end-user through the customization of the form for the particular deal at issue. If they don’t have the form you need or want, you can even create a free account and develop your own forms and wizard-ize them, too. If you’re familiar with the old DealManager tool from CMSI and/or Procuri, WhichDraft will be 100% intuitive – but this isn’t your parent’s DealManager too, either.
The simple elegance (combined with its $0.00 cost) of this solution makes it an obviously useful tool to add to your contract management aresenal, especially for those folks who don’t have easy access to someone skilled in contract drafting. I also see great potential for a contract or legal department’s creation of their own repository of custom templates with options built-in for the various legal-language swap-outs that are already legal-department approved.
Of course there are some weaknesses – the most important (and one common to any document assembly tool) being that templates used with this system have to be written in a way that makes language-swap possible. The limitation of the current WhichDraft wizard process appears to be that a single question is tied only to a single paragraph/section of the contract. So if you want to pull out ALL of the services-related language in the deal, you’d actually have to create a services-less template because a single question in the wizard couldn’t remove all of the associated language throughout the contract. This isn’t a tool-killer, as some people love having clean templates in a variety of formats – and WhichDraft’s templates are already built in this manner. But this could limit people intending to upload their own templates into the tool.
I also advise caution in using WhichDraft’s template language as a default starting point for any deal. They’ve structured dozens of basic templates, but again, your contracts or legal department might have drastically different language interpretations, desires or phrasing. So if you already have template documents, make sure that you log-in to the system to create your own WhichDraft templates. Additionally, in talking with WhichDraft’s co-founder, Jason Mark Anderman, he fully supports WhichDraft’s use as a productivity enhancer, not as lawyer-replacement, recognizing the inherent risk of using any template as a one-size-fits-all solution (even with wizard capabilities).
Overall, WhichDraft makes a great leap forward in terms of usability, availability and flexibility. I expect future versions of this tool will simply add onto its existing strengths and gradually wear down its weaknesses, too. Thanks to WhichDraft for providing the contracting community with such a wonderful tool!