Although e-discovery and contract analysis have a lot of similar elements, rarely are they discussed in the same space. As staffing group Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA) has moved into the contract advisory space, however, it’s found that the two go together increasingly well.
MLA’s Smart-Look Analytics offering aims to pull technology from the e-discovery world into the contract analysis space. The service uses technology adapted from e-discovery group Planet Data’s Exego Select platform to conduct clause-level analysis for M&A and compliance work.
The platform can take a set of agreements and produce a “flash report” of a company’s risk profile, pointing to things like potential change of control clauses or rebates that can cause problems during due diligence or other M&A exercises.
Mark Yacano, global practice leader for MLA’s managed legal services team, explained that the technology was designed to showcase the organization’s highly skilled staff.
“I like to call it a tech-enabled staffing solution, because we didn’t want this to be about the technology by itself. We wanted it to be about pairing high-quality experts with technology,” Yacano said.
Yacano comes from an e-discovery background, which perhaps enabled him to see the potential application of e-discovery’s document parsing technology. When MLA began looking for an appropriate technology partner for this project, Yacano found that technology designed for e-discovery might give reviewers a more granular way to examine document language.
Ultimately, Yacano settled on Planet Data’s technology to undergird this offering. “When I looked at Exego Select, they’d developed some really unique functionality. It breaks documents apart logically clustered by paragraph,” something, Yacano added, that gives reviewers the ability to “to be able to look at contracts at the clause and paragraph level for things like signability and requirements for signability.”
Most document review engines are designed to capitalize on the amount of content present in contracts, using machine learning and other new technologies to suggest potential trouble areas by training algorithms on the data present in the contracts themselves. The Smart-Look Analytics platform, however, is specifically designed to analyze smaller sets of contracts just as effectively as large sets.
“We have a deep search algorithm that works just as well with 50 contracts as 50,000 contracts, so we didn’t need to have a certain amount of baseline documents to be effective,” Yacano explained.
Ultimately, Yacano hopes that the offering, though technology-enabled, is more about helping a smaller group of effective leaders do their jobs with better precision. “It’s an alchemy of mixing smaller levels of high-level people who know the area with the right technology,” he said.
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