Rebekah Mintzer writing for Corporate Counsel in her article “Tough Times for Lawyers on Campus”*, describes how working as a corporate counsel in the education industry is becoming increasingly difficult these days. She explains the range of issues that a in-house counsel in this space has to deal with, coupled with the fact that an education organization may have only a few lawyers on staff, which can make the task extremely challenging. Those legal issues can include labor and employment law, intellectual property, environmental law, tax law, real estate and regulatory compliance.
What’s more, according to Professor Peter Lake, a professor and director of Stetson’s Center for Higher Education Law and Policy, there has been a “hyper acceleration” of the growth of legal issues in higher. Some of these issues include those to do with university sports and the duties of care an education institution owes to students to protect them from becoming victims of sexually assault. According to Professor Lake, "The college attorney of the future, the next generation, will be very, very compliance law skilled, will understand budget issues that they never did before, and will speak the language of risk management as a second language".
In addition to addressing the myriad of legal issues that may land on your desk as well as facing the ones that are increasing every day, you may have to draft, negotiate, coordinate sign and administer the execution of many, if not all, of the following types of contracts or documents on a regular basis:
- Workplace health and safety policies and insurance contracts
- Partnership agreements with other education providers
- Construction and real estate contracts
- Employment contracts
- Copyright and other intellectual property matters
- Insurance Contracts
- IT contracts
- Contracts for the purchase of various goods and services
So how do you keep on top of all these contracts while also dealing with all the things you need to do? Youndy Cook, Deputy Counsel at the University of Central Florida, says in order to be effective in your duties as Legal Counsel in education, it’s essential to establish strong working relationships with your colleagues, such as HR professionals at the institution. She provides several tips for doing so in her article published in The Higher Education Workplace, “HR and Legal Counsel - Partnering to Navigate Complex Legal Issues on Campus”, which include establishing the expectations of each office and parameters of your working relationships. More detail can be found in her article here: http://ow.ly/105ZBb . These same tips can be applied to relationships with other colleagues, such as those in business and operations roles.
Educate yourself on the benefits of using a contract management system
An advanced contract management system with the following features will also go a long way to ensuring you can keep track of your contracts and have time to spare for all of your other responsibilities:
- Holds a dynamic repository for all of these different types of contracts that can be easily tweaked to cater for each unique situation;
- Guided workflow that automates the process for who has to approve what at appropriate times in the process
- Captures all communication, back-and-forth and negotiation during the contracting process
- Allows for either e-Signature or wet-signature
- Captures data that can be leveraged for future use - Predicitive AgreementTM
- Provides a sophisticated full-text search engine to find contracts easily
All of these features will save you time in the contract management process. A dynamic repository will stop you from repeating work already done while allowing you to set up documents in the shortest amount of time possible. A guided workflow means that you no longer have to waste time contacting and following up with colleagues when requiring input, sign-offs or approvals. Having all communication and negotiation captured in the one system gives you peace of mind that these can be easily and quickly accessed in the future if a dispute arises and clarification is required or if your organization becomes involved in litigation.
Digital signature functionality allows contracts and documents requiring sign-offs by multiple parties to be signed by everyone from wherever they are in the world. The wet-signature option means you won’t lose time when for whatever reason someone prefers to sign in the traditional manner. Being able to leverage your past data for future agreement allows you to make swifter and smarter decisions in the future - Predictive AgreementTM. This is because you have information at your fingertips that you can use about how similar agreements have been made in the past. For example, you will know what price has been agreed upon for similar agreements and even how many amendments were made to a particular clause and how much time it took to be negotiated before it was agreed upon.
A sophisticated contract management software system with these features will give you more time to focus on other aspects of your role!