Start-ups or small businesses are geared towards growth – and anything that doesn’t immediately influence revenue and add to these goals is often sidelined. This can make work for the first legal hire challenging, as they have many plates to spin; from establishing legal infrastructure, to firefighting, to mitigating risk in the business.
So, how can the first lawyer at a small business enable the company to succeed against its ambitious growth targets? Contracts are a great place to start. Every business runs on contracts; from the non-disclosure agreements parties send to discuss confidential information, to the employment offer letters HR teams send to successful candidates.
Creating, negotiating, and signing these documents, however, can be painful and time-consuming, especially for legal teams, who want anything other than to be buried in this low-value admin work. And when signatures on dotted lines is a clear indicator of success, the last thing legal wants to do is block other teams in the business and slow down the process.
Making changes to this contract process, especially in the drafting stages, doesn’t have to be challenging. At Juro, we regularly speak to visionary legal teams at small businesses looking to improve their contract workflow – here are five simple steps to help legal draft contracts people actually want to sign.
1. Prioritise the counterparty
Most contracts aren’t user-friendly. To ensure the process of negotiation and signing goes as smoothly as possible, legal teams should draft a contract with the end user in mind. Information design is a good example – most contracts cram detailed information into a single document, overloading the counterparty and slowing down the reviewing process.
Instead, make sure you link to external documents, so the information is available, accessible and organised without being overwhelming. This small change will lead to more closed deals in less time. Contract management software can also help – layering and hyperlinking these documents in your contracts platform can make it easier for counterparties to access and understand key information in a unified workspace.
2. Remember: less is more
The main challenge with contract drafting is including all the key information without compromising on brevity. Legal teams at startups can influence the company’s time-to-sign metrics by drafting a shorter contract that contains key information up front. A longer, more complex document will only take longer to understand, and therefore longer to sign – so make sure your contract doesn’t bury important details in the page.
3. Add visuals
Key documents, like fundraising decks, or customer emails, are branded consistently to reflect the business and its values – why should contracts be any different? Legal teams can collaborate with marketing and design to align on visual direction, and ensure that contracts also capture the character of the business. This can be as simple as adding the company logo to your contracts, but you could also consider adding visuals, like images, tables, and even GIFs, to make the contract more engaging.
4. Mind your language
The contract is one of the key touchpoints between the business and the counterparty – it defines a long-term relationship, so make sure your business starts off that relationship with a strong, positive first impression. Contracts that are difficult to read and understand may alienate the counterparty, delaying the time it takes for them to sign. Switching the complex legalese for readable, friendly language can make a huge difference.
5. Use templates
Templating can save legal teams time drafting and editing individual contracts. They’re also useful for the wider business; templates stored in an accessible location, such as a shared drive or on a contracts platform, can enable teams to self-serve on contracts. This allows the business to carry out the contract process, on up-to-date, pre-defined terms, with minimal input from the legal team.
For a lean legal team at a small business, making small, yet impactful changes to the way they work can influence the growth of the business. Implementing these changes ensures that the company scales with good habits in place, and thrives on the value legal has added.
Find out how you can supercharge your contract process – visit Juro.com.