GCs Face Contract ‘Chaos’ + Knowable Wants to Help

Contract intelligence company, Knowable – which is in a joint venture with LexisNexis – has launched a two-level emergency offering to help corporates understand their contractual positions during the unfolding crisis.

Mark Harris, CEO, told Artificial Lawyer: ‘There will be a tidal wave of questions for companies about their commercial relationships, and this will expose a huge problem for law departments.’

Harris highlighted that despite some companies adopting CLM systems, many had not, and even among those that had adopted them a significant percentage had not been able to make meaningful use of such systems. In short, many companies have no idea what the sum total of their commercial commitments really say or mean for them.

This meant ‘chaos’ for inhouse legal teams, he stressed, as they struggled to get on top of the situation.

After the initial shock of the Covid-19 lockdown, companies were now starting to deal with mounting questions about their commercial relationships, but in many cases with few tools to help them, he continued. For very large companies, some with commercial contracts numbering in 100,000s, this would in effect become an emergency for inhouse legal teams and their GCs.

Knowable, which had previously spun out of Axiom, uses a mix of human experts and NLP with machine learning to analyse large volumes of contracts to provide companies with a dashboard of immediate and ongoing contractual obligations across their doc stack.

Now, in the wake of the lockdown’s impact they are providing two offerings. The first is Portfolio Visibility, which will be available at no cost until 31 December, 2020. This helps companies to consolidate their contracts, including OCR, and then deliver a searchable database of contracts that includes an automatic force majeure identification feature.

The idea here is that before you can get into more fancy NLP-driven clause analysis and build dashboards showing obligations, you have to get one’s often messy collection of contracts into a digital library that is searchable. And that is no small task.

Dashboard showing an overview of a company’s contracts.

The next offering is up a level, called Critical Insights. This offers full contract analytics, with a focus on the issues companies are grappling with now, such as supply chain risk, and the many obligations that will be coming into effect as the economy is disrupted, potentially for several months to come.

‘Critical Insights will allow companies to look across their entire contract portfolio and allow them to get answers to 40 to 50 of the most common questions that will come up over the next few months,’ Knowable stated.

Harris explained that what they are trying to do is help corporates with a crisis that has, or soon will, turn GCs away from the immediate firefighting of Covid-19’s initial impact and focus them on the reality that they may simply not know what is in the bulk of their contracts. They may also not know where those contracts are deposited across the organisation, or have an effective means of finding out in a short time what is hidden in them once they have managed to bring them together.

You need to turn contracts into answers. And companies have all the answers, but the bad news is they are all buried in legalese,’ Harris continued.

He added that some documents were scanned PDFs that were unsearchable, and that some companies’ collection of databases were so disparate that some key contracts were in effect ‘lost’ as there was no effective way to find them when needed.

The reality, Harris concluded, is that companies are ‘in a real bind’ and this is what he wants Knowable to help them with.

Of course, a number of other legal AI doc review/analysis companies are also trying to do the same thing. They may not operate quite in the same way, i.e. with a large staff of human reviewers, or have the long-term dashboard focus that Knowable has developed, but when it comes to event-driven analysis, such as: ‘Help! What do all the force majeure clauses in all our contracts mean for the company?’ then there is plenty of competition out there, both freemium and fully paid for.

That said, Knowable is joining in at a time when there is potentially a hugely expanded demand for such review work, namely because nearly every large company on the planet faces these challenges. And now is a time when such challenges have truly come into focus for GCs.

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