Customer story

“We’ve reduced our contract review time by five days.”

Scott Millea – Associate Counsel at Northern Tool

Managing contracts and matters together

Based in Burnsville Minnesota, the family-owned nationwide retailer and $1B year corporation, Northern Tool, has been supplying and manufacturing power tools for over 40 years. Northern Tool has 120 stores spread across 20 states which means the company’s Associate Counsel, Scott Millea, and the legal team are kept busy reviewing and preparing contracts and documents often related to the manufacturing arm of the business and the retail properties, as well as human resources and litigation.

One source of truth means better visibility

Though small in size, the legal team is mighty in the volume of work they manage. Missing however, was their ability to manage contracts and matters together. Millea explains: “Before LawVu there were a couple of ways in which we handled contracts specifically, one of them was using folders on a shared drive and the other was legacy software that was very outdated; it was just another folder system. It meant that not only were we having to save a contract in two places, but there was a high volume of duplicates. Extracting information from them was also inconvenient.”

When the team assessed what was available in the market, there was no shortage of contract lifecycle management tools. There was one standout however, and that was LawVu. “What set LawVu apart, and what we were looking for from day one and what our previous solution didn’t address, was the matter management part of it – and that was huge for us,” says Millea. “We wanted a tool that could store contracts and also allow us to triage and manage legal matters as they come up within the organization in a centralized way.”

By being able to manage contracts and matters together in one place, a legal workspace, they gained better visibility across the team, which equipped them to manage their daily gamut and better support the business.

“What ends up happening if you’re just using Outlook, or if you don’t have a centralized approach, is there’s no visibility across the team as in who is working on what, what’s going on, and how much time you’re spending on particular issues. LawVu has genuinely allowed us to have more visibility across the team and to manage the steady flood of issues that pop up in a corporation in an organized way.”

Millea also says that managing all their work in a legal workspace has given them better insight into where their time is best spent and that it helps them to manage expectations with the wider business:

“LawVu helped us recognize how much time we’re actually spending on things and where our time is best spent moving forward. We can look back and say, well, we spent a lot of time on contract reviews. How could we reduce that amount of time? What process improvements could we put in place? Whereas if I’m in Outlook and I’m trying to determine that, I’m searching for email history. When did we first get this contract? How many emails have been exchanged? LawVu has given us that visibility.”

Efficiency gains with Workspace Essentials

It was also paramount to Northern Tool that they looked at ways of optimizing efficiency in their day-to-day work. After considering their objectives, it was decided that LawVu’s Workspace Essentials plan would provide Millea and his team with everything they needed to maximize the value of the legal workspace, including contract automation and AI. “We’re not a very large legal team and budgets are always a concern, so anything that allows us to extract information through our normal processes is a win,” says Millea.

“In paying attention to the usage data in LawVu, we’ve reduced our contract review response time by five days. We were at 15 to 20 days from sending it to me to resolution. Now we’re telling people it’s 10 to 15 business days to get a contract through the lifecycle. That’s awesome.”

These days, the team has a proactive approach to upcoming renewals that may have previously been missed. “We were seeing a lot of renewals happen, getting us into contracts we couldn’t terminate because the renewal was missed. Some of those could have varying degrees of impact on the business, but now we’re able to catch them on the front end as we know exactly when a renewal is coming up.”

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Showcasing the value of legal

Implementing a legal workspace has also given Millea and the wider business better insight into the value of the legal function. “It was really important for us, especially coming up on this fiscal year, that we showed the executive team what our value actually is,” states Millea.

“LawVu allowed us to look at the total number of tasks we were doing as a legal team and how much time we were spending, and then extrapolate that with the average hourly rate for corporate attorneys in our market. We then multiplied the amount of time we’re spending in LawVu on tasks we would normally go to outside counsel with if we didn’t have an internal legal team. It really signaled to the executive team that we really are a value center. We’re saving the company money. By being members of the company, by being employees, we’re able to reduce their costs overall and that’s really important.”

Wins for the wider business too

Millea is adamant that LawVu is also a win for the wider business. “LawVu allows the teams to get their requests into legal, allowing us to triage, organize and assign them within our team so we can manage our time better. There is a link in there for the knowledge base, which is where business users can go to access our legal Service Level Agreement. They can look and see what kind of response times they can expect from legal, and they can also look at our binding authority policy and determine what approvals they need once the contract is executed,” he explains.

“People have commented on the ease of use and how LawVu reduces the amount of communication they need to have with the legal team. We’re not sending emails back and forth, they’re able to stay up to date and can see action items that we attach to a contract.”

Looking ahead, Millea says the focus is on increasing the uptake of LawVu across the business. “From our retail employees, anyone with a Northern Tool email address can now contact legal through LawVu, which makes us more accessible. I’m really excited to see where that goes next year. We plan on doing a couple more training sessions internally to really get the word out that LawVu is the preferred way to contact legal and where to create legal matters.”

Meanwhile, Millea and the team will strive to showcase the value of their legal function, optimize efficiency and celebrate the wins. “We’re continuing to build our background data and the metrics that allow us to show our value to the business as a whole, and to also identify areas where we can be better, and areas where we’re doing a great job already. To give ourselves a pat on the back is what we’re looking forward to.”

“The matter management and the contract piece working together is really for me, what set LawVu apart and what's been the great value-add for us. That was what we wanted from day one, and LawVu has exactly delivered on that.”

Scott Millea – Associate Counsel at Northern Tool

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