The US arm of Eversheds Sutherland has adopted signing and closing technology SimplyAgree to support its transactional practices, with plans to roll out the tool across multiple practice groups including M&A, private equity, venture capital, banking and finance, and real estate. Conversations are also informally already underway internally regarding using the closing technology in the UK.
With broader transaction management platforms very much in focus on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s interesting to note that SimplyAgree’s remit is niche and very much focussed on the last stages of a deal, enabling professionals to automate the administrative tasks of closing transactions, including signature packets (it incorporates DocuSign’s eSignature technology) and closing binders.
Niche it may be, but Eversheds Sutherland M&A and private equity practice head Wade Stribling told us that SimplyAgree solves one of the transactional practices’ biggest pain points and on a small transaction saves around eight hours of pre-closing billable hours and 12-15 hours post-closing – that figure is “at least double” on a large transaction.
“No clients want to pay for post-closing time,” Stribling told us. “You could say this is niche but what the client sees is that they get a binder one minute after closing, rather than waiting for three months and then calling to see where the binder is. When we push the button we can literally send binders to everyone in the group. I’m solving the one problem that I have to solve hundreds of times a year.”
He adds: “The other benefit is that you can move this to an electronic filing system and the index is hyperlinked so when you click on it you can find the document. We’ve done around 20-30 closings at least using this technology and the lawyers on the other side say ‘how did you do that?'”
Use of eSignatures is optional with SimplyAgree and Stribling says: “Adoption of eSignatures is way overstated, many clients still want a PDF.” But he adds: “Our thought is that this makes us efficient when we need to be: we know this is where the client judges us; on how smooth the closing was and this was a real point of pain for us. So much software is not tangible to the client, but this is tangible.
While SimplyAgree is currently being used in the US, Stribling said: “It could be used anywhere; any multinational could use it and we are already talking about doing this on the other side.” Eversheds Sutherland was formed from the merger of UK headquartered firm Eversheds and US-headquartered firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, which went live in 2017.
Referring to the trend among law firms to want to be seen to be engaging in cutting-edge technology projects, Stribling said: “This is not AI, but I do tons of this and the real ubiquitous value of this software wave is that all processes are going to get more efficient.”
SimplyAgree is headquartered in Tennessee and was founded in 2016 by former Baker Donelson associate William Norton.