Is a tool like JIRA the solution for tracking the contracting process?

Peter Thomson


by Peter Thomson


Most of us have used, or in some way been exposed to the cloud-based project management tools, like JIRA, over the past five years. It was developed by an Australian company called Atlassian and has become one of the gold standards for dynamic project management. Anecdotally, “JIRA”, was named after the Japanese pronunciation of the 1960’s horror movie “Godzilla” (Read: ‘God-jira’). The JIRA suite features a customizable workflow which allows users to move cards or “user stories” between states, tracking time spent against tasks as well as task completion.  Another wonderful solution by Trello has recently emerged featuring a cloud based customizable board which users can use to move cards into customized columns.  

While both are excellent products in their ability to effectively manage projects, there have been examples of companies using a project management platform for their legal contract workflow process as well.  And while it can work in limited scope, it cannot effectively scale to include more sophisticated approval routing and workflow management for the end-to-end contracting  and negotiating process.

What many managers, including those running law firms or leading inside counsel for corporations, need to realize is that while JIRA provides a flexible and customizable work tool that can be applied in different ways, it was not built for task and commitment management related to legal contracts and the full contract lifecycle management (CLM) process. Instead of helping add workflow value to the business, JIRA actually can tie up your processes further by duplicating work, and making a simple workflow and tracking mechanism needlessly more complex than need be. The bottom line is that it and others, such as Trello, are excellent cloud-based project management platforms but a gap-free automated contracting process requires a whole set of different features than what is required to properly manage a project.

To further explain, JIRA has a product type called “Agile” which is specifically for project management of software development. Its core task type is the user story. A user story can essentially contain anything, any description of a task which then becomes the definition, and is moved across a board as the story moves through the process.  A user story, which is essentially a use case for a software system user in Agile methodology, is only as good as the person writing it, and often details, specifics, attachments, clauses, etc. can be left out.  What’s more, inputting a user story into JIRA takes time, and can sometimes duplicate work that’s already done, specifically in the case of legal drafting, review, routing, executing and commitment tracking. Moreover, the system use is primarily for project tracking of an internal team; whereas, a sophisticated CLM system should be able to streamline a multi-party collaboration.

Rather than try to fit a square peg in a round hole as some businesses are trying to do these days by jumping on the cloud software bandwagon (“my buddy told me about JIRA at a happy hour, and so I think it would be good for our law firm” I’ve heard several times), businesses should look to more specific and customized software solutions which incorporate their need for a flexible workflow with the ability to analyze and manage documentation, interaction and communication.  In this type of scenario with a different type of software solution, workflow and documentation can be managed in one package, down to the clause and term level. Tracking of the amount of time and effort spent on reviewing a clause as well as the ability to track a document through a customized workflow would eliminate the effort of having to cross reference JIRA stories with documentation and drafting tools, freeing up time and creating a more accurate, timely, and streamlined workflow.  Better still, the best of these more specific and customized systems can also learn as it guides and tracks all the negotiation and capture contract data so that it can make recommendations and even predictions to improve future decision making.

Rather than assuming that a project management tool like JIRA will help your law firm or business the same way as it has for your management of your various internal projects, take a good look at your workflow requirements for multi-party collaboration (engaging directly with your counterparties).  Chances are, you will be better served with a full-featured system that can manage all your mission critical documentation processes.

ContractRoom,, is one such such full-featured system that can manage your mission critical documentation.  To learn more about how you too can “negotiate less, agree more” schedule a live demo by clicking here: Let's Talk

About the author

Peter Thomson

Peter Thomson

Peter has been involved in technology since he developed his 1st product for the legal industry in 1987 - a case management system called CaseTrack. But didn't stop there, and has continued to push for innovation and disruption to make processes more efficient and just plain happier!

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