How to File 10,000 Contracts in One Afternoon: Introducing Aerofiler

I have spent most of my career working as an in-house lawyer. One perennial problem that each legal team I’ve worked in has grappled with is: How do you deal with the ever-growing pile of signed contracts you receive? Where do you file them? How do you know what’s in them? How do you get them all organized?

But first things first. Is this really a burning problem worth solving?

Managing signed contracts is not about getting organized for the sake of being organized. The problems of losing track of contracts are obvious, especially to those who have experienced them:

  • Tangible costs, due to missed dates: a peer once recounted the story of how she had no visibility into the hundreds of active vendor contracts they had. A 5-figure contract they wanted to terminate was accidentally renewed because they forgot when they needed to terminate it by and missed the deadline. Then the business person who owned the relationship left the company, and when next year came around, they forgot to terminate it, again. Ouch.
  • Needless distraction and time wastage: hunting down a single lost contract once took me a week and required emailing five people in four countries. Unfortunately, that was far from the only time that happened, and it sometimes gets embarrassing.
  • Inefficiency: if you’ve ever needed to work out which contracts in a pile of 100 contain a change of control or assignment consent clause, you’ll probably have thought, “there must be a better way”.

But let’s shift the focus from the negative to the positive.

Contracts are a company’s official record of its business decisions. They are documentation for business transactions, backed by the authority of law. As such, contracts contain a lot of important information and are strategic assets.

However, even with that awareness, most people can’t do anything to leverage that asset, because the information is held in a relatively inaccessible format. In an increasingly data-driven world, unlocking the data in contracts allows legal departments to help the businesses they serve to make better, more timely decisions based on relevant, quantitative information.

What if you could easily answer questions like: What is the average deal value for contracts that aren’t on your paper versus those that are? Do the risk allocation positions in your contracts correlate to deal size? Which customers do you need to notify if there is a data security incident, and how quickly? Who needs to be named on your certificates of insurance? How many contracts were signed during the last 12 months?

From a former job: M&A closing sets containing thousands of pages of contracts

Ok, if it’s so important, why don’t people do a better job of managing their contracts?

Because getting organized is a chore. People with messy, disorganized desks often say they’d prefer to be tidier, but they don’t get around to it. It’s too difficult, or time consuming and they have other things they need to do. They might clean things up once a year, but are back to being messy a couple of weeks later.

It’s a similar story with contracts.

Legal teams that file into a mass of folders in Dropbox or Google Drive are doing a manual, unrewarding chore — saving down a contract attached to an email, renaming the file, navigating to the right folder (or creating one), moving the contract to the folder — it’s mind-numbing and, over time, things get messy. And as for tracking the information in those contracts? No one enjoys using unwieldy spreadsheets to do that.

Legal teams that use traditional contract management systems actually encounter the same problem. Sure, they help you to get more organized, but you still have to do a lot of mundane and repetitive work to get there — you still have to review contracts one-by-one and fill out metadata fields one-by-one. You may get more benefit, but you have to do much more work to get it. The result is poor user adoption because it turns out to be too much work.

I know this personally because I reviewed dozens of these systems in the course of trying, and failing, to find the right solution.

Storing contracts in a shared drive? Don’t settle for using the digital equivalent of a filing cabinet…

What’s the answer? To change a habit, find a new approach

Author Marie Kondo wrote a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizingabout how to tidy up homes. It became a best-seller and led to a popular TV series on Netflix because being tidy and organized holds universal appeal, and she showed people a system to doing it in a way that leads to lasting results and, in turn, happiness. No one wants to be untidy; people just need to find the right way to get organized, and turn it into a habit.

Similarly, everyone acknowledges that knowing where your contracts are and what’s in them is a best business practice. And it’s psychologically beneficial as well — lawyers hate loose ends. They just don’t know what to do about it, and when there are so many competing priorities in their day, they just go back to what they know best and let the clutter build up.

I’m part of a team building a product called Aerofiler because I want to help legal teams find a way to effortlessly and sustainably organize their signed contracts. There’s always some work involved in getting organized, but our ethos is that we want to take the chore out of the process and make it satisfying. We want to show people that there’s a solution to getting organized that doesn’t involve the drudgery they’ve come to expect, and enable them to reap the benefits of being organized. To free them from the mundane and let them focus on higher-value, strategic work.

This ethos guides every design decision we make at Aerofiler to focus on two things: saving time and reducing work. We’re building the fastest, easiest, fully-featured system for managing signed contracts on the market, and we’d be excited to show it to you.

Imagine being able to find any contract in your organization in under 20 seconds. Or to see at a glance all your contracts that are renewing next week. Or to review 10 contracts for change in control clauses in just a couple minutes. Or to file, OCR, de-duplicate, and tag 200 contracts from that small company you just acquired in under 10 minutes. Or 10,000 contracts in a single afternoon. Aerofiler can do all of those things.

To borrow a Kondo-ism, surely that has to “spark joy”.

To learn more about Aerofiler, contact us at info@aerofiler.com.


This post was written by Stuart Loh, a co-founder of Aerofiler.

How to Make the Right Decision, at the Right Time

One of the primary responsibilities of a manager in a company is to make important business decisions that hopefully result in a positive outcome for your company. While making a decision may be easy, your ability to make the correct decision with confidence is highly dependent on having all the relevant information available when you need it.

When simple questions suddenly become very complicated

To illustrate this point, let’s run a little experiment: how confidently could you answer each of the following questions, using only what you know or remember:

  • What side of the road would you drive on?
  • What side of the road would you drive on… in Sweden?
  • What side of the road would you drive on… in Sweden… back in August 1967?

I bet it wasn’t long before you started thinking, “It’s the right side, but if only I could Google it to check”. In each case, making a decision is quite easy, but your confidence would have dropped each time, and the consequences of making the wrong decision could have been very significant.

Now let’s translate those questions into a real-life situation I found myself in when I was tasked with improving our financial efficiency. As part of that process, I had to review our service subscriptions and decide whether to renew or cancel them:

  • What are my service contracts?
  • What are my service contracts… that renew this year?
  • What are my service contracts… that renew this year… and it’s currently the end of May?

I had just joined a new team, and the contracts in question had already been in place for many years and worked on by different employees, but I didn’t know where they all were. It took weeks of back-and-forth with other teams to find them all. Then it took several days to read them and record renewal and notice dates, which allowed me to decide on the correct priority order in which to address each of the contracts. Luckily we had not missed any notice deadlines, which could have resulted in very expensive auto-renewals for services that were no longer wanted. But now that I knew all this important information, I had no system in which to record it and make it available and accessible to colleagues in the future. If I wasn’t there to answer the question the next time it was asked, someone else would have to go through the same process, consuming weeks of valuable time to recreate my work.

Understand what you need, not what is being offered to you

The situation I just described will be very familiar for many professionals, yet my search for a solution in the market always ended in disappointment. The options normally created additional work rather than reducing it. Or implementation required a long and involved project to migrate and simply set up the system. To use the systems required changing how you work. They looked and behaved like programs from when Microsoft first introduced Windows. It shouldn’t have been that difficult.

I knew what I wanted from a solution — something that let me search through all the documents, highlighted the relevant clauses and provided a summary of the results. An ability to distribute the work of reviewing and recording important data to my team, but capturing the data in one centralised location. A solution that helped accelerate the incredibly important (but mundane) administrative tasks of filing documents and calendaring renewal dates, allowing the team to focus on more strategic projects to help grow the business.

My decision to help you making yours

This is where the story of Aerofiler begins, and we’re excited to share the journey with you. I left an incredible company, to build a solution that I hope will help many, many professionals keep track of what’s important, allowing them to make confident, timely decisions.

If you have experienced any of the challenges I’ve described, and you’d like to discover a better way to manage your signed contracts, please get in touch. We’d love to have you join us for the journey.

To learn more about Aerofiler, contact us at info@aerofiler.com.


This post was written by Andrew Prolov, a co-founder of Aerofiler.