Housing New Zealand’s in-house legal team has been recognised for a pilot project which has cut the time needed to compile building contracts by an average 75%.
The Janders Dean & NexisLexis APAC Innovation Index recognises the most innovative law teams in the Asia Pacific region, and in 2018 Housing New Zealand has been named as one of seven outstanding organisations in the region.
Housing New Zealand General Counsel Bruce Riden says the pilot project involved working with a specialist document automation company, LawHawk, to take the hours-long manual process of compiling contracts for building projects and automate as many aspects as possible.
"The process of drafting and approving a contract went from marking changes into a Word template document into a process closer to an online questionnaire.
"It made some time-consuming adjustments extremely simple. For instance, clauses in the standard contract template which were not relevant were automatically deleted, while changes were applied wherever they were needed across the entire contact."
The results were spectacular, Bruce says:
"For example, ordinarily it would take around 4 hours to produce a development contract from a standardised templates – it now takes one hour. Similarly, with short form standardised consultancy contracts, the production time falls from around 50 minutes to 15 minutes. With a long form standardised consultancy agreement production time falls from around two hours to 40 minutes."
This means Housing New Zealand does not need to as dramatically expand the in-house legal team, to keep pace with the many fold increase in the number of houses being built. "The time savings that we have seen are very pleasing and very real. For example, we compiled 250 construction related contracts in May. On average the time saving per contract was 1.3 hours. That means that had we not had the automation system, we would have needed to expend another 325 hours of legal time in putting the contracts together (over 2 FTE). That is just for the month of May.
There are many benefits in addition to the time efficiencies. For example, the job of compiling a contract is more pleasant for staff using automation. Human errors are eliminated from the process, meaning less time is needed reviewing the finished product. ADG Managers get their contracts back sooner. The automation process captures key data digitally, such that the data can help the contract managers with things like milestone dates, and Finance with data on payment dates. Housing New Zealand is now going through a procurement process to embed document automation into its in-house legal processes.