Luddites or Cutting-Edge Innovators: An In-House Practice Analysis

  • December 13, 2019
  • Theodore Dela Avle, CIC.C

Luddites or Cutting-Edge Innovators: An In-House Practice Analysis

A lot of my hardware at work is current: I have a new laptop with all the accessories required to work seamlessly from any location, participate in negotiations with parties located all over the world and execute agreements electronically.

However, other parts of my work seem stuck in the past. For instance, I still have a Blackberry of indeterminable age. I don’t keep it for its tactile feel (which I like), but rather, because I can only trade it in for an iPhone that is four generations behind the current version.

Similarly, on a larger scale, many departments in a company—and, indeed, many sectors of the corporate world in general—embrace technology and innovation quickly, while others, like legal, seem to get left behind.

In the law group here at Bruce Power, however, we strive to keep up and get ahead. We have sought out technology, tested a few products with varying results and adopted the useful ones. Automated contracts and proofreading software, the two I highlight here, have greatly reduced our pain points.

Automated Contracts

We recently acquired software that enables our business partners greater independence (within predetermined parameters) to create customized procurement contracts requiring minimal review or negotiation by in-house counsel. Clients answer a series of questions about the scope of work, such as whether the contractor will be working in an environment requiring specific regulation (e.g., in a radiological zone, which would trigger provisions related to radiation protection) and whose equipment the contractor will be using. They then have options of certain approved provisions, such as the extent of warranty obligations (repair, replace or refund). The software then generates a customized contract, to which any scope-specific provisions can be added, like whether the contractor is required to prepare a safety plan.

These automated contracts, which are principally used for high-volume lower-risk procurements, are typically leaner than what we would otherwise send out. As a result, clients and counterparties spend less time reviewing and marking up irrelevant provisions, and I spend less time approving them.

Proofreading Software

We have also successfully tested a legal proofreading software. In lieu of manually reviewing contracts and documents for common errors and inconsistencies, such as missing or incorrect section references, numbering problems, or undefined or inconsistently defined terms, which can take an inordinate amount of time and still remain error-likely, we use a third-party plugin for Microsoft Word that is designed to simplify and speed up the process of spotting and fixing these errors. It identifies potential errors and presents them in a dashboard that lets you quickly navigate to the relevant area in the document, simplifying the process of correcting them.

For example, when proofreading section references, the tool identifies each use of the term “section” and the relevant section it “thinks” is appropriate, automatically splitting the screen so you can confirm if it is correct and insert a hotlink between the sections with one click. It’s a simple concept but represents a significant improvement over manual proofreading, especially when you multiply it thousands of times for hundreds of contracts.

While neither of the preceding tools is revolutionary, each has been an incrementally beneficial advance, reducing the time my colleagues and I must spend on these low–value-add tasks.

There are other such areas we are interested in improving over the long term. For instance, I would like to automate risk mitigation through AI. I envision feeding the AI software a contract, pertinent legislation and other information about a supplier and/or our equipment, and it would determine where my company would likely be most at risk with different proponents for potential work. This would help me select the right partner and be aware of the risk pertinent to that particular partner. I welcome suggestions from readers on this front.

In the short term, I am simply hoping to get a better work phone!

Theodore Dela Avle is Senior Legal Counsel at Bruce Power, where he embraces new ideas and better ways of doing. Reach him at