The energy sector is in a state of upheaval and financial pressure has been increasing for years. The German subsidiary of the French group Framatome, which specialises in the safe operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants, is feeling this too. Florian Cahn is General Counsel at Framatome in Germany, where he is driving the digital transformation of the legal department. Recently, the central legal department gave the green light for the introduction of Legartis for automated contract review.
What role does digitalisation play in your legal department?
Florian Cahn: We’re part of a global department that has seen a great reduction in staff over the last few years. At first, we continued to work as before, just simply with fewer team members. But that wasn’t going to work in the long run.
It was clear to us that we had to find ways to organise our processes more efficiently and to apply our knowledge independent from personnel. As a result, we started looking for digital solutions to increase our efficiency. Today, digital transformation in the legal department is more important than ever to be competitive and provide value-added advice and support to the company.
What were the first steps needed to move towards a sustainable legal department?
We were the first to introduce a digital file (Matter-Management Software). Instead of storing documents in directories and contextual information in personal email inboxes, we can now find all the information needed to assess a case in one place digitally. This was the first step towards streamlining our processes.
However, this alone wasn’t enough. The annual, internal survey on satisfaction with the legal department revealed that our strategic advisory services were greatly lacking, as was our support in expanding the business. In addition, it was criticised that we were only processing contracts, and much too slowly at that. The legal department was turning into the bottleneck of the business. That was not acceptable. For this reason, we looked for solutions to automate the whole contract review process.
Who took the initiative to automate contract review?
I had heard about the possibility of checking contracts automatically using artificial intelligence. That appealed to me, not only because I saw the potential to save time, but because such an application returns some of the responsibility for contracts back to the operational units and thus relieves us in the legal department.
What do you mean? How does automated contract review relieve your team?
We have a very experienced sales team. Up to now, however, sales staff have often forwarded draft contracts to us first, because that is what the existing processes dictate. They know the planned cooperation much better than we lawyers do. We can only give general valid assessments of whether agreed processes or legal risk allocations are problematic. But project staff know the context; they know the likelihood of a certain scenario and can make a better risk assessment. We need to request such information from them. This leads to feedback loops that are detrimental to efficiency.
With Legartis, departmental staff will be able to check certain contracts timely and independently in the future without involving the legal department. This accelerates business transactions and thus boosts company productivity. The legal department experiences a noticeable relief, as significantly less time has to be invested in routine contract review. And we can concentrate more on proactively looking around legal corners.
Why did you choose Legartis as your provider?
There were several factors that convinced us. We feel fully supported by Legartis in our specific requirements. As a co-development partner, we have a say in the shaping and influencing of further developments of the software.
One strong point is the possibility to integrate automated contract review as a Word add-in into our existing workflow. With all the innovations and changes, this is an invaluable advantage. If we had to convince the staff to use a completely different software than before for their reviews, possibly one with complicated user interfacing, this would slow down the introduction considerably. The fact that you can open Word and immediately see and follow up on which points of the contract need to be improved – that's just a great feature.
How difficult was it to convince management of the idea of automated contract review and working with Legartis?
What counts in the end is the return on investment. That's why scepticism prevailed at first as to whether these innovations would actually have a measurable benefit. But I was able to gradually dispel these concerns.
For example, as a team we compiled how long we would need for various contract reviews. We could then, via median calculation and well-founded estimates, determine what time and cost savings an automated contract review would deliver. These calculations were persuasive. Another argument that worked in favour of adopting this new technology was risk minimisation. With the Legartis solution, we can ensure high quality standards in the contract review process and thus reduce corporate risks.
Technology is fundamentally changing the tasks of lawyers in companies and law firms. What will lawyers of the future still have to do?
I think the concerns that the work of lawyers will be replaced by artificial intelligence are greatly exaggerated, to say the least. It’s more likely that we as lawyers will be paid less and less for our knowledge, but more and more for our way of thinking. Lawyers are strong analysts. We can dissect problems and put them back together in such a way that new, tailor-made solutions can emerge. Especially in an increasingly dynamic regulatory environment, this skill set is needed more urgently than ever.
Digital systems will be able to perform simple or recurring legal risk assessments better, and faster. As a result, in-house lawyers at all hierarchical levels will evolve from suppliers of liability clauses into consultants whose solutions directly shape the success of a company. This also means that many soft skills must become new hard skills: I no longer need to have all the relevant court rulings, standards and commentaries for a given issue at hand (or even in my head). Instead, successful lawyers in the future will also need negotiation skills, team leadership and, above all else, the ability to make decisions.
Florian Cahn has been General Counsel and VP Legal Patents Insurance at Framatome GmbH since 2017. The company is part of the French nuclear energy provider Framatome. Prior to the spin-off of the nuclear energy division as Framatome, Florian Cahn worked for the Areva Group in various functions from 2006 onwards. He has also been a board member of the German Institution of Arbitration since 2021.
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