I really do enjoy the discussions about automation and robotics nowadays.  I was at a prospect last month and they asked me about this and I replied calmly:  “Robot lawyers, isn’t it obvious?”  Now my cavalier response aside, it is a fair question.  How can automation/robotics help in Contract Lifecycle Management? 

One of the experts at Capgemini told me that “if you can teach a 10 year old, you can teach a robot.”  Put another way:  There are really great tools out there today, but to be applied to this space you need a great teacher.  And I believe that to be true and have seen it in action.    So here are some ways automation is helping in this space:

  • Document Search

Many contract management processes are built upon metadata.  Basically the idea is that we take 40-50 topics in a contract and log those so we can report and search later.  But what happens if you guess wrong in your 40-60 terms and a new term suddenly becomes important, such as “cyber security”?   If you have not logged it in metadata then you need to search again.  Well, technology has helped us here.  There are tools or robots that will search documents for terms whether or not you have logged them in metadata.

  • Parsing

So if you remember your grammar studies from when you were 10, there was a concept of breaking a sentence down by noun, verb, object ( to over-simplify).  There are now tools or robots which understand this basic syntax and can breakdown sentences.  A little bit of training and then document search becomes a lot more intelligent.  Instead of just searching for every time it says “supplier” we can now search for when supplier has a deliverable or obligation.  This may not seem like a lot, but when you consider the alternative is humans sifting through hundreds of pages of contracts doing “control F” searches, this is a giant leap.

  •  Invoice Validation

So you have searched and you have parsed the language in contracts and we have key elements about contracts.  Imagine a world where we could take those calculations and run invoices through them and tag contracts to search for whether or not discounts were applied to invoices?  Not far off.  The right teacher and tool and this can happen. 

So, robot lawyers are not real.  Sorry.  But with the right processes and teachers (I know a few) the tools on the market can be used to solve a lot more problems than expected.  Maybe in a few years the robots can write blogs too.