Innovation delivers 75% time saving to standard construction contracts

Steve LawHawk

Contracting is document-intensive and can often be tedious and time-consuming. The manual preparation of contracts and legal documents is an essential, but repetitive, task that takes up thousands of staff hours at organisations around the world.

As the International Association of Commercial Contract Managers has noted, many procurement groups are under pressure to 'transform'. Frequently, this is seen as increasing speed, ensuring compliance and expanding activities into supplier relationship management. Technology is playing a big role in achieving these goals.

Recognising this trend, New Zealand company LawHawk is spearheading a move towards custom document automation to help relieve the grunt work that goes into legal documents and processes in the banking, commercial, construction, employment and property sectors.

Founders, Gene Turner and Allen Li, say their company’s goal is to ‘prepare great legal and procurement documents as fast as possible’. This will help lawyers and contract specialists spend more time thinking, building relationships, and delivering contract outcomes.

Adding value through innovative technologies

That’s why, when Standards New Zealand put out a Request for Information (RFI) to enable easier access to standards in digital formats, LawHawk jumped at the opportunity. The call was for third parties to add value to standards content using innovative content models and technologies. This is a brief which the LawHawk team had successfully met with the provision of a multi-award winning document automation process for Housing New Zealand.

‘Housing New Zealand was processing a substantial volume of documents that used NZS 3910 as a base,’ Gene explains. ‘They needed a more efficient way of generating these housing construction contracts, as they were forecasting five-fold growth and weren’t able to add more people to their workforce.

‘They were looking for an automated solution, so we took their templates and developed a tool with all the customised terms and conditions they used with their suppliers,’ he adds. ‘We went live within three weeks, including with versions of the industry standard ACENZ/Engineering New Zealand consultancy agreements.’

The solution has been well received, both within Housing New Zealand and externally. It recently attracted international attention by winning a LexisNexis/Janders Dean Legal Innovation Index Award in 2018, and the IACCM Asia Pacific Award for Operational Improvement in 2019.

This approach has now been adopted in developing a ‘value-added’ approach in conjunction with Standards New Zealand. ‘Housing New Zealand was taking four hours to draft a contract and we’ve been able to reduce this process to under an hour,’ says Allen. ‘The opportunity now exists for all users of NZS 3910 to benefit from these – and even greater – time savings.’

Saves time and improves standard of construction contracts

Gene adds that while the opportunity is clear for high volume users of NZS 3910, low volume users can also benefit from the added guidance and features which LawHawk can build into any legal document. ‘Knowing which options to choose will save time and improve the standard of construction contracts,’ he says.

While NZS 3910 is the form of contract most commonly used for building and civil engineering construction in New Zealand, it is well overdue for an update. This has led to the extensive and onerous use of Special Conditions over recent years, which is consequently attracting a lot of industry debate.

Gene and Allen are confident their firm’s innovative digital pilot will help reduce the time and effort required in drafting and negotiating future construction contracts, and allowing more flexible risk allocation that is tailored to the project.  New technology will open up opportunities for the next update of NZS 3910 that have not been possible previously.

Standards New Zealand’s Senior Advisor Digital Platforms, Frank Till, explains that he and the Standards NZ team are impressed by LawHawk’s legal innovation project that injects NZS 3910 into a digital document assembly tool to automate the delivery of building contracts.

‘It meets the goals of our digital innovation programme, which wants to invest in market-driven initiatives so Standards New Zealand can make our copyright content more useful and accessible to consumers,’ he says. ‘LawHawk’s process adds value to standards content by making it available in new ways that fulfil real-life market appetites.’

LawHawk’s product is currently in development pilot, allowing it to be market tested and developed into a commercially viable tool. It will be ready for full commercial release in September this year.

Can you see the future?

If you are a user of NZS 3910 and would like to be part of the pilot test group, get in touch with Gene at lawhawk@lawhawk.nz or on (04) 889-0376.

If you are interested in delivering standards content in new and innovative ways find out more on the Standards New Zealand website, or email us valueadd@standards.govt.nz.

Published in business and ICT.