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The contract hasn’t seen much formatting change in recent history, but advancements in automation, natural language processing and data handling technology are driving an evolution to the way it’s handled. Here are four ways technology has entered traditional contract work that could change its basic structure:

1. Document Creation

Because of their highly technical, boilerplate nature, contracts are very well suited for document generation tools. Startups have looked to provide automated contract creation tools that both benefit attorneys, who can then add and review specific legal features to a contract outline, and consumers, who typically don’t need contracts of the same complexity.

Ironclad, one such startup, looks to the consumer side of contract generation by helping those looking to establish new businesses and startups quickly create and manage their contracts. The company uses basic automation software to help consumers actually draft contracts they may need for vendors, clients, sales or employees.

2. AI–Enabled Document Review

While it’s exciting to think about a time when contract review can be handled entirely through machine learning and artificial intelligence, experts largely agree that the technology isn’t quite developed enough for that to date. That said, contract review generally remains a manual task relegated to younger attorneys, and is subject to a reasonable amount of human error.

However, some startups are trying to bring intelligent review platforms to contracts as comprehensively as possible. Lawgeex, for example, boasts a platform that compares contracts to its database to flag any key points or discrepancies. Lawgeex CEO Noory Bechor previously told Legaltech News that the company’s use of AI is helping close the gap between machine reading and human review.

“AI is really understanding the same way a lawyer’s brain works. The technology can understand, ‘What does this text actually mean?’ and, ‘What is the meaning behind this text?’ This, for us, is where AI and machine learning has proven itself the right tool,” Bechor said.

3. Dynamic Contracts

Contracts written in machine language, what University of Colorado Law School professor Harry Surden calls ” computable contracts,” are still a ways off from popular use, but a few startups have begun to tinker with the fundamental building blocks of contracts. Clause, one such company, embeds data streams directly into their contracts to update them in real time, giving companies the ability to account for shifting conditions in the contracts themselves.

As new data streams work their way into contractual arrangements, especially with the increasing reliance on web APIs, internet of things (IoT)-enabled technology and GIS mapping among other data sources, entrepreneurs may feel some added incentive to work toward contracts optimized for machines, not attorneys.

4. Compliance Management

Contracts, for the time being, are written almost exclusively in natural language, but startups are increasingly finding ways to parse data from contracts to make compliance management easier. Startups like Silicon Valley-based SirionLabs bring their tech to the other side of the equation—whether a contract’s promises are actually being met—to help buyers track compliance before due diligence.

SirionLabs chief marketing officer Indus Khaitan explained that SirionLabs’ platform can extract obligations from a contract using natural language processing; calculate compliance with automated data stream management tools; and display a schedule of events around a contract in a dashboard.

“Data is still post-facto,” Khaitan noted, adding that while data-driven contracts may be the way of the future, they’re still four to five years away from regular use.

The contract hasn’t seen much formatting change in recent history, but advancements in automation, natural language processing and data handling technology are driving an evolution to the way it’s handled. Here are four ways technology has entered traditional contract work that could change its basic structure:

1. Document Creation

Because of their highly technical, boilerplate nature, contracts are very well suited for document generation tools. Startups have looked to provide automated contract creation tools that both benefit attorneys, who can then add and review specific legal features to a contract outline, and consumers, who typically don’t need contracts of the same complexity.

Ironclad, one such startup, looks to the consumer side of contract generation by helping those looking to establish new businesses and startups quickly create and manage their contracts. The company uses basic automation software to help consumers actually draft contracts they may need for vendors, clients, sales or employees.

2. AI–Enabled Document Review

While it’s exciting to think about a time when contract review can be handled entirely through machine learning and artificial intelligence, experts largely agree that the technology isn’t quite developed enough for that to date. That said, contract review generally remains a manual task relegated to younger attorneys, and is subject to a reasonable amount of human error.

However, some startups are trying to bring intelligent review platforms to contracts as comprehensively as possible. Lawgeex, for example, boasts a platform that compares contracts to its database to flag any key points or discrepancies. Lawgeex CEO Noory Bechor previously told Legaltech News that the company’s use of AI is helping close the gap between machine reading and human review.

“AI is really understanding the same way a lawyer’s brain works. The technology can understand, ‘What does this text actually mean?’ and, ‘What is the meaning behind this text?’ This, for us, is where AI and machine learning has proven itself the right tool,” Bechor said.

3. Dynamic Contracts

Contracts written in machine language, what University of Colorado Law School professor Harry Surden calls ” computable contracts,” are still a ways off from popular use, but a few startups have begun to tinker with the fundamental building blocks of contracts. Clause, one such company, embeds data streams directly into their contracts to update them in real time, giving companies the ability to account for shifting conditions in the contracts themselves.

As new data streams work their way into contractual arrangements, especially with the increasing reliance on web APIs, internet of things (IoT)-enabled technology and GIS mapping among other data sources, entrepreneurs may feel some added incentive to work toward contracts optimized for machines, not attorneys.

4. Compliance Management

Contracts, for the time being, are written almost exclusively in natural language, but startups are increasingly finding ways to parse data from contracts to make compliance management easier. Startups like Silicon Valley-based SirionLabs bring their tech to the other side of the equation—whether a contract’s promises are actually being met—to help buyers track compliance before due diligence.

SirionLabs chief marketing officer Indus Khaitan explained that SirionLabs’ platform can extract obligations from a contract using natural language processing; calculate compliance with automated data stream management tools; and display a schedule of events around a contract in a dashboard.

“Data is still post-facto,” Khaitan noted, adding that while data-driven contracts may be the way of the future, they’re still four to five years away from regular use.