Managed services + integrated tech: What Thomson Reuters commercial contracts collaboration with eBrevia means

At the start of March Thomson Reuters announced that it has teamed up with leading machine-learning contract analytics platform eBrevia to help commercial enterprises tackle large and complex contract remediation projects, as complex global events such as GDPR and Brexit come to the fore. We caught up with Rebecca Thorkildsen (pictured), global director for legal solutions within the TR legal managed service (LMS) division – which you’ll recall has evolved from Pangea3 legal outsourcing services – to find more about the appointment and the cradle to grave repapering service TR is offering commercial clients in tandem with Contract Express, in a noteworthy managed services + integrated tech offering.
The eBrevia appointment comes after an extensive market review (and we do mean extensive), which sees eBrevia become the LMS commercial contracts team’s go-to machine learning contract analytics platform – a decision based largely on its accuracy rate.
eBrevia’s AI engine powers Thomson Reuters contract remediation services by identifying three critical data points based on the client’s remediation plan: clauses needing revision, the absence of clauses required by the regulation, and the components required to generate a contract amendment. Thomson Reuters then leverages this intelligence to generate amendments in Thomson Reuters Contract Express, offering clients a “seamless workflow” for securing approval and digital signature.
Thorkildsen says: “Partnering with eBrevia helps us with the due diligence of contracts but what makes the whole deal unique is bringing Contract Express into the offering.
“It’s been around a long time and the industry understands it as contract generation and workflow tool but within the first stage of a project eBrevia decides what needs to be remediated and we’ll use Contract Express to generate an amendment contract.
“You can then dig in and say ‘if you require an e-signature we have digital signature capability in Contract Express. Our experts have really fine-tuned both products so that we can get through these remediation projects very quickly. We’re really excited about being able to bring both of those technologies together.”
This solution is said by Thomson Reuters to speed up the remediation process by a whopping 30%.
The TR commercial contracts team – which perform services of remediation driven traditionally by M&A but more recently regulatory change and the likes of Brexit have come to the fore – has used a number of extraction tools for many years and was one of the pioneers in the area, which makes the selection of eBrevia more, not less significant.
Thorkildsen says: “We decided to do a refresh and look at how the various AI and machine learning tools have come on. We spent a substantial amount of time testing a wide variety of tools in this space and, given we’ve worked with these tools for a long time, we had a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
“We put together a comprehensive test plan across a range of tools and eBrevia met our needs in terms of accuracy going through large volumes of contract and things like how it dealt with finding data in tables – a lot of the old technology struggles in finding that data.”
While the LMS commercial contracts division will work with a client’s own technology as required, it will otherwise use eBrevia.
Thorkildsen says: “The most important factor for our clients is the accuracy and consistency and that was our top related criteria. Precision and recall – we tested along those lines to make sure it was hitting those angles. We tested sample sets that had known problems, duplicates etc.
“The second factor was really the way the tool could support us as a dispersed team of professionals who need to work with clients and outside counsel, who need a tool that supports really good project management to show status across a large number of projects. eBrevia really supports the way we handle projects including the transparency and metrics our clients need.
“The third factor is that for all of these tools to perform at their maximum capability you need the human expertise to teach the system what it’s looking for. Most of the systems have out of the box capability but we need to provide the client with specific context and were really looking for a tool where the machine learning capability was spot on and eBrevia picked up the context quickly and turned out those accuracy results we were looking for.”
Thomson Reuters inevitably also looked closely at data security and privacy.
The commercial contracts team predominantly work with in-house legal teams and this sort of tech collaboration is becoming even more interesting in the run up to GDPR and Brexit, as organisations face repapering exercises that are unprecedented in scale.
Remediation has historically been labour-intensive, requiring large teams and manual effort – all of which equal extraordinary cost for clients. As we reported last week, Axiom has launched a new managed service + tech offering called BrexitBridge to help financial services organisations address the Brexit repapering exercise. It builds on Axiom’s tech-led derivatives offering to help banks with changes to OTC margin variation rules, where Axiom is working with leading financial services companies – including the top 12 global banks – on major, large scale contracting changes ahead of regulations like Margin Reform for Uncleared Derivatives, GDPR and MiFID II.
What do these developments mean for law firms? Thorkildsen says: “We don’t like to think of ourselves as competition to law firms: we partner and have helped them to close business and be successful in closing that work and being responsive to clients. The whole concept of disaggregating work is still alive and well.
“Law firms could try to start their own thing and many have and been successful but many find it easier to turn to us and, particularly with boutique law firms, we’ve had success in providing the technology and efficiency.”
For the many law firms developing their own lower cost and tech-focussed offerings it undoubtedly presents serious competition. But as GDPR and Brexit near and clients demand solutions, innovative partnerships can or at least should be expected to grow. At the end of 2016 Clifford Chance and Thomson Reuters was unveiled a partnership to help their financial institution clients adapt to the new OTC derivatives regulation. Thomson Reuters leveraged Contract Express and abstraction technology built specifically for OTC documentation, working in tandem with Clifford Chance, which is a world leader in the derivatives sector. In the same year Allen & Overy launched MarginMatrix, a digital derivatives compliance system delivered in conjunction with Deloitte’s managed services team. Unless there is an unexpected Brexit political u-turn, watch this space.