As seen in Above the Law: Experience AI-powered contract negotiation with Ontra

August 30, 2023

Tired of negotiating and managing routine contracts? Ontra makes the most of human expertise and proprietary AI assistance to automate contracts like never before.

By Ethan Beberness

In private investing, contract negotiation makes the world go ‘round. The downside, however, is an endless, time-consuming process of hashing out routine contracts, including NDAs, by attorneys and dealmaking professionals.

Ontra offers a solution to the slow, outdated methods of traditional contract negotiation. Its Contract Automation product pairs a network of experienced legal professionals with Ontra Synapse, an AI tool trained exclusively on private capital contracts to deliver high-quality contract resolution for private equity firms and investment banks at an unbelievable pace. This human in the loop combination has two benefits – increasing lawyer efficiency and consistency, while also validating AI model outputs to avoid common AI pitfalls.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to provide our customers and our legal network with the best available technology in the industry to streamline these processes and drive consistent, high-quality outcomes,” Frank Giovinazzo, GM of Contract Automation at Ontra, tells Above the Law.

Endlessly Customizable, Incredibly Specific Implementation

Developed with input from attorneys and private markets professionals on the company’s two advisory boards, Ontra’s software helps customers streamline a highly customizable contract negotiation process.

This process begins with a detailed, customer-specific negotiation “playbook” created through a collaboration between an Ontra customer and their account manager.

“We help our customers develop a preferred position and a fallback position based on our knowledge of the market. Our team of account managers then works with the customer to understand their unique business needs and document their preferred process for going about a negotiation — everything from the definition of confidential information to positions on restrictive covenants,” Giovinazzo says.

According to Giovinazzo, the implementation process takes two weeks on average. Still, he adds, Ontra account managers have successfully established and executed playbooks for new customers in as little as a single day to make sure upcoming deals benefit from the Ontra service.

“The account management team is best in class and available to jump on any of this to meet a customer’s needs,” Giovinazzo says, adding that Ontra account managers are typically BigLaw veterans with “insight into industry trends and market data across the financial services industry.”

Once the playbook is in place, Ontra’s legal network team will pair the customer with a team of lawyers “based on the customer’s preferences for price point, experience, specialization, availability, and region,” Giovinazzo says.

Combining AI Speed with Attorney Expertise

While AI is the key behind Ontra’s ability to offer high quality contract negotiation services at a rapid speed and competitive price point, what really sets the company apart from other players in the AI-powered legal tech space is its legal network.

The professionals that make up Ontra’s legal network stick with their customers over time, learning customers’ preferences and building “a tight-knit working relationship,” as Giovinazzo puts it.

The legal network works in tandem with Ontra Synapse, the company’s AI technology built from a proprietary large language model (LLM) trained on, according to the company, aggregated and anonymized data derived from over 800,000 private capital contracts.

With the support of Ontra Synapse, Ontra’s attorneys are able to turn reviews of routine contracts, such as NDAs, within 24 hours, according to Giovinazzo.

Ontra Synapse uses its vast, industry-specific LLM for a variety of tasks — including using language and context clues to spot high-priority contracts as they come in from the customer.

Ontra’s Markup Builder technology, which also utilizes the AI power of Ontra Synapse, evaluates the text of a contract, suggests revisions based on previous similar documents for the same customer, and even generates comparisons of the new and old documents to show the sources for its suggestions.

Markup Builder plays a huge role in accelerating the contract review process, and it is also exceptionally helpful when it comes to unifying markups from different legal parties representing one client.

“If there are multiple lawyers representing a client, [Ontra Synapse supports lawyers in] taking consistent positions when marking up a document,” Giovinazzo says.

An Emphasis on Speed and Transparency

Thanks to this speedy review process and the thorough negotiation framework established in the customer’s playbook — which eliminates ambiguity and, along with it, wasted time — Ontra’s customers can expect the contract negotiation process as a whole to be completed in record time.

After using Synapse to guide and accelerate their review, Ontra’s legal network members can send the contract directly to the counterparty and, upon receiving the next turn of the contract, use the customer’s playbook to determine whether the customer needs to sign off on anything proposed by the counterparty.

The goal, however, is to take the negotiation process “completely off [the customer’s] desk,” Giovinazzo says, and the playbook is designed to clearly indicate who the Ontra legal network member should contact at the customer’s company and under what specific circumstances it is necessary to do so.

Still, taking the burden of contract negotiation off of the customer doesn’t cloud the customer’s ability to monitor the process. Ontra places a great deal of emphasis on transparency between its legal network members and their clients, using automations to keep customers consistently updated on the status of the contracts they have under review.

At any time, customers can also visit the Ontra Contract Automation platform to see when their documents were last actioned upon and where those documents are in the negotiation process.

Ontra’s efforts regarding speed and transparency don’t stop with the end of the contract negotiation process, however.

Once a contract has been negotiated and signed (Ontra’s Contract Automation platform conveniently integrates with DocuSign), the customer receives a summary generated by AI that shows the terms of the contract at a glance.

This allows the customer’s in-house lawyers and dealmaking professionals to quickly retrieve information and respond to questions about specific contracts without having to wade through a sea of legalese.

These summaries are a key source for a series of reports that Ontra can provide customers, revealing trends in contract terms and highlighting deviations that might warrant further review.


Read the original article published at Above the Law on August 21, 2023. 

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