By Paul Dansey November 30, 2021

What is the power of a question?

How can a single question in a Clarilis questionnaire spark thousands of changes across a suite of legal documentation?

What is the power of a question?

Good questions focus thinking and drive change.  And in the world of legal document automation a single question can drive a whole lot of changes. Let’s put this into perspective. A single question in a Clarilis automation questionnaire could easily spark thousands of changes across the suite of legal documents produced as the matter progressesThat’s hours and hours of drafting time saved when a lawyer takes second to input a single answer. 

Carefully framed, tightly focused questions empower lawyers to unlock the full potential of document automation which is why such questions are always a fundamental part of every automation we design and build.  

Don't ask, don't get

At Clarilis, we never hold back when it comes to asking questions. The important ones! We ask the questions that lay strong foundations and enable fundamental changes to document structure to make the best possible complex automations deliver the most impact.  To explain, let’s look at their role in our intelligent drafting solutionBefore any automated drafting begins for a new matterClarilis requests some key data about the transaction. Who is the buyer? What type of legal entity is it? In what jurisdiction is it incorporated?  What forms of consideration will be paid?  What are the  mechanisms for adjusting that consideration 

The system takes a lawyer’s answers to a series of dynamic, intelligent, and carefully worded questions and uses them to populate a bespoke knowledge base for that transaction. Clarilis then uses this data to draft all documentation connected to the matter in a highly efficient way – from engagement to bible index.

A common reason why some automation toolkits deliver disappointing results is because they don’t ask enough questions. Or alternatively, they fail to translate the answers into a deeply automated output. As the depth of the questions increases, so does the value. However, the logic behind them then spirals exponentially too.  

The art

Much of a lawyers day is spent asking others for information. Whether it’s ironing out the details of a deal or questioning the opposing party in a heated negotiation. And the more complex the matter, the more a lawyer’s ability to frame questions is valued. This is a similar story when we are automating the drafting process 

While a simple NDA automation can work from a few generic questions, to generate a suite of M&A documents, the automation needs to ramp up its inquisitiveness. This is exactly why Clarilis allocates a professional support lawyer to every project. In effect, every automation is trained and maintained by a lawyer to ask the right questions. 

At Clarilis, we love complex stuff. With FromCounsel for example, we automated their complete M&A transaction suite – that’s over 40 documents. When you answer questions such as “are we acting for the buyer or the seller?”, or “how many sellers are involved?”, the answers make thousands of changes to the main agreement and the ancillary documents.

If you tried to build this automation yourself, the complexity would spiral as you got deeper into it. You’ll find yourself left with two choices – you either go with a very shallow automation which doesn’t provide much value or alternatively creating the automation takes so long that by the time you’ve finished the implementation, there is already a huge backlog of maintenance to perform.  

What does this mean for lawyers?

Automating drafting is all about reducing the mundane elements of drafting  and keeping legal processes moving. The employment automation we're undertaking with TLT and its clients is a good example of how far-reaching the impact of a question can beWith specific reference to a section of the Clarilis questionnaire asking for the prospective employee’s grade, role and working hours, you can see how this single area of questioning drives 20,000 permutations of terms and benefits. 

Plus, if you look at the LMA* based Leveraged Facility Agreement we have automated on behalf of many customers,” one question – “how many borrowers are there?" – drives over 1,000 changes across the core document. 

It’s easy to see how automations reduce the admin burden of drafting legal documents. And these changes go way deeper than a shallow find 'borrower is’ and replace with ‘borrowers are’ type of automation. Armed with the logic gained from the answers input, Clarilis can autonomously draft the vast majority of the content required, including handling the structural elements of the transaction and collating a suite of relevant documents. 

As a result, the depth of our automations mitigates the risk for law firms of delegating drafting to less experienced lawyers. Alternatively, it sometimes means business users can operate the automation themselves, without the supervision or involvement of in-house legal.  

The real power of a question is the opportunity it creates

When we talk about the power of questions on the effectiveness of legal document automation, it’s easy to focus on the number of changes it generates. But the value of the questions is in the business benefits an automation delivers. This could be a 90% reduction in the time it takes to draft a suite of documents. How much additional billable time would this give back to your senior lawyers to focus on higher-value strategic work? Would a faster document turnaround augment a client’s perception of the value they receive from you? Would this help drive fee-earner wellbeing and with the recruitment and retention of talent? And if you’re working on a fixed fee, every hour saved improves recovery rates! 

For our customers, the value comes from doing things quicker so they can win more business and spend less delivering it. When you consider the power of a question, it isn’t what it changes within a document, it’s the business benefits that law firms and in-house legal teams receive. 

And finally, a question from us to close – are you curious about the opportunities an automation powered by Clarilis questioning could deliver for you? Contact us to find out more.  


* Clarilis is a member of the LMA and automates LMA documentation exclusively for and provided by member firms. Clarilis automations are not endorsed by the LMA.

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