Contract Heroes with Bernadette Bulacan

Contract Heroes with Bernadette Bulacan

In this installment of Contract Heroes, we had the chance to speak with a well-known figure in the CLM space, Bernadette Bulacan. Bernadette is the Chief Evangelist at Icertis and has been working in legal tech for over 2 decades. We were very excited to pick her brain about all things CLM, so read on to hear more about the current state of contract management and how the related technology continues to evolve every day.

Q: How have you seen the CLM space and legal departments change over the past 5+ years?

As we mentioned, Bernadette has been a veteran in legal tech for years. She recalled that when she asked legal departments 2 decades ago what their most transformative technologies were, they chose cell phones. However, she remembered one chief legal officer who reminded her of the multi-generational aspect of many legal teams, as he stated that the most transformative technology during his career was the introduction of IBM electric typewriters that wiped out an entire floor’s worth of human word processors.


For some, the movement of CLM might feel slow going, but there’s no avoiding the fact that the space has been on fire for the last 5 years. CLM isn’t new, by any means. Icertis alone has been around for 13 years, and it had its predecessors. But now, all eyes are on CLM in the same way they were on e-Billing 7 years ago and e-Discovery 5 years before that.


Bernadette explained that it’s important for the CLM market to have a lot of options at the moment. It’s quickly making both customers and users smarter as they learn what they want from their CLM by also seeing what they don’t want. It pushes vendors to be more competitive and make themselves stand out as well.


Overall, Bernadette sees a ton of potential in CLM and the future of legal professionals. The technology has the ability to transform individual careers and the profession as a whole, helping legal ops professionals in particular extend past the legal department to touch contracts throughout the entire organization.

Q: Why is CLM more than just a legal tech tool? How do you see other departments benefitting from CLM?

Bernadette stated that there is a tendency now to see contracts just as their 4 corners and the words locked within them. For this reason, contracts are often associated only with the legal department because they represent a collection of clauses that have to be negotiated by lawyers. While there are plenty of opportunities to create efficiencies in these areas, this hyperfocus on pre-execution actions like using the right clauses, redlining, and negotiation tactics needs to be eliminated.


All of the value related to a contract is realized after execution, when it reaches the hands of departments outside legal. These departments are not concerned about clauses and negotiations, but rather about the pieces of the contract that bring value: statements of worth, deliveries, acceptances, etc.


Bernadette encouraged legal professionals and those working with CLMs to think about what happens to the contract both before and after it comes to the legal department. Are there policies, processes, or technologies that enable other employees to take care of certain agreements so they never have to be reviewed by lawyers in the first place? Are you aware of what resources the business needs in order to make good on the intents and purposes of all agreements?


CLM technologies and processes are too caught up on the portion of the contract that occurs within the legal department. By considering the full contract lifecycle and taking an expansive view, you can find more efficiencies and data that can be used as a value multiplayer.

Q: What are some of the pitfalls to watch out for when starting CLM implementation?

Since CLM technology can accomplish a lot, many companies expect solutions to achieve everything they promise all at once. These employees fail to create phases around implementations, often causing the implementation to be unsuccessful. This is one of the major pitfalls Bernadette has noticed in her experience in the CLM space.


To overcome this pitfall, organizations need to have a large vision that can be carried out in smaller phases. Each of these phases brings more value to the next phase, tallying up in terms of the long-scale implementation. If you were able to accomplish “x” during the first phase, you can expect to accomplish something even bigger during the next phase of implementation. The key here is having a playbook and creating a team of champions who actually see and drive these successful outcomes from phase to phase.


The second pitfall Bernadette mentioned is a lack of strategy when it comes to integration. People often forget to consider how the CLM system will integrate with already existing enterprise systems. You should not let your CLM data exist in a silo. To make the most of that data, mix it with other enterprise-wide data systems like CRM, ERP, or human resources data. This will create much more impressive dividends.

Q: Why is CLM data important when it comes to contracts?

Laughing, Bernadette said this is the question every department needs to ask themselves. CLM systems can capture an immense amount of data, so you need to know which pieces of information will bring the most value to your company when tracked. Most organizations have no idea how much value is in all their agreements, where the agreements are from, which clients are using the most resources, etc. Collecting raw data from your CLM tool can help you figure out the answers to these questions and many more at the start of your CLM journey.


Then, as companies mature, they can begin looking at more complex data, such as turnaround time and deviations in standard language or workflows. You can answer questions like “Has the market changed to make this agreement no longer acceptable? Are there certain risks we’re willing to take during negotiations? Do I need to better train my team?” The answers may help you change employee behavior and remove friction from your contract processes.


CLM data is also an essential part of showing the value of the legal department within the business. It allows you to prove that legal is much more than a cost center. To express this fact, you need to be able to speak the language of the business with “numbers, pictures, and stories.” Using these quantitative measurements, you can paint a clear picture for executives of the legal department’s contributions to the company’s objectives, purpose, and mission.

Q: How do you know which consulting firm or implementer is good for an organization?

Although the CLM market is still quite new, Icertis has been around long enough to know who the most trusted partners are. On a qualitative level, these partners are the ones who listen to the challenges of not only the legal team, but also the pains of the other stakeholders. 


A good partner will also understand that, though there is a final goal to CLM implementation, it’s not really the end of the journey. In fact, the journey is basically never-ending, as you should constantly be striving to improve your contract processes whenever possible. For that reason, you need a CLM partner who will be there to hold your hand and answer your questions even after the last phase of implementation is complete. Thus, you will be able to continue along the path of constant improvement and easily traverse all the new roads you come across.


For more exclusive chats with expert guests in the contract lifecycle management sphere along with valuable legal-tech advice, check out past installments of Contract Heroes and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode! To find out more about Bernadette and Icertis, you can visit their website or check out Bernadette on Twitter, @InHouse_Bern.

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