Larry Lueck and Susan Roberts are part of the in-house legal team at Nsight, a leading telecommunications provider based in North-East America. Larry joined the team as In-House Counsel in 2001 before Susan joined the team in 2016.
The pair have extensive experience working with several CLM providers before becoming Summize customers in 2023. In this episode, we talk about how they chose the right CLM solution, what has gone wrong, and the benefits they have seen using Summize.
Hello. Welcome back to the Summize Legal Disrupters Podcast. I'm Johnny Jessop, Pre-Sales Engineer at Summize.
And today, I am delighted to be joined by Larry Lueck and Susan Roberts ... who, between them, formed the in-house legal team at Nsight. Nsight are a leading telecommunications provider based in the United States. And they've been operating successfully for over a hundred years.
So today, we're going to be talking about Larry and Susan's CLM journey, and how they chose the right solution for them, and things that they've learned along the way. Welcome, both of you, to our podcast.
Wonderful. Let's start with a little bit of getting to know you. If you tell us about yourselves, how did you get to where you are now, today? Susan, we'll go with you first.
Okay. I'm Susan Roberts, as you said. And I've been with Nsight for seven years now. My legal career started some 40 years ago in private practice, where I spent the majority of my career. Just worked through the system and had some different positions in the legal field.
And I've been a paralegal for probably 30 of those 40 years now. But I made my way to corporate law, and realized I should have done that 25, 30 years ago. But I'm really enjoying my position with Nsight.
Awesome. Larry, how about you?
Yeah. I've been with Nsight for 32 years now. First 8 or 10 years were spent in a couple of ... variety of roles. And then starting in about 2000, I went into government relations. And after about six years of doing that, I thought, "How much fun would it be to get a law degree?"
So, I went to law school part-time while I still worked at Nsight and obtained my law degree. And have been the company's first and only attorney for the last 12 years.
So, it's been quite a fantastic journey. And I'm so blessed to have Susan as our paralegal, because all of the experience she brings in has been fantastic for me to lean on.
Goodness me. I imagine your first years were incredibly busy if you were the only one.
Yeah. It was nice for us, because ... Well, it was nice for me, at least, because I could show value immediately. Because we were able to cut our outside counsel spending just like that. Instead of sending 100% of every legal matter outside, we were able to keep some of it in-house.
So, the low hanging fruit for me was the ... able to cut outside counsel expenses. And fortunately, we've been able to show value in other ways as well, to the company.
I see, I see. So, if we look at those outside counsel expenses, was that one of the challenges you were facing that led you towards looking at software solutions to be able to help you?
Yeah. It definitely was one of the pieces of it. One of the first tasks that I had was to analyze our outside counsel bills and categorize them. And say, "What are we actually spending our outside counsel fees on? Is it regulatory? Is it labor and employment?" Whatever the case may be. And a lot of it was contracts.
All our notices in our contracts were going to our outside counsel. So, as you can imagine, every time our attorney gets a notice of whatever ... It may be the most benign thing, but as soon as he gets the notice, we get billed for it. That was definitely one of the factors in looking at a contractual solution that we could use.
I see. I see. Susan, what about you? What areas of your work were you looking at and seeing as challenges before you started looking at software?
Well, when I joined the company, we had the first contract management program. And my first task was to bring in all the contracts that we had in the company and get them into the system. And start just organizing things and trying to figure out what we needed to do right away.
It was making sure we didn't miss deadlines for contract renewals, or terminations, that sort of thing. It was a challenge, because there were lots of sources. The contracts were kind of all over the place. They were stored here, there.
Some were stored electronically; some were paper contracts. There was a lot of scanning. And the first year, just getting everything into a program, and then trying to familiarize myself with that program enough to make it effective ... It was difficult.
And like I said, a challenge, and I redid it about three times. Because kept finding a better way to make it work for us. But we've kind of figured it out now, after a little bit of trial and error.
Yeah. How many contracts were you looking at ... well, trying to find, across the entire business then?
It ended up being, it was around ... up to 1800. It was a lot. There were a lot. And we don't even manage all the little contracts in the office. The sales contracts, we don't do that. We just do the service contracts. As you indicated, we are a wireless telecommunication company, so we have a lot of tower contracts and vendor contracts.
I see. You say you had the lucky job of trying to find them all.
And that definitely is the challenge, is we don't know what we don't know. And it is really hard for us, anybody ... is going to be very difficult if you don't get all the contracts. Because Susan and I, to this day, still get asked about a contract ... We'll go look in Summize for it, and it's not there.
And we have to tell the person asking us, "We never got that contract." Or we get an amendment, and we can't find the contract it goes with. And then you have to ... Part of Susan's job is to be a private investigator there, and search and hunt and figure out, "Where could this one possibly have been with?"
Because we probably have changed three different employees throughout the years for it, and then we have to go back somewhere and try and find it. So, yeah. That is a big challenge, not knowing what we don't know.
Right. And I misspoke when I said 1800, because I was thinking about tasks. But actually, contracts, we probably had between 12,000 and 15,000. It was a lot more than what I said. I was just thinking about my tasks.
Wow. That's quite the jump. My goodness.
It was. And I realized when I said it, I thought, "That's not ..." We had a lot more than that. That's why it was so challenging.
I see. Goodness me. Was the body of your day-to-day answering internal customer queries about these signed contracts before? And how long did it take you? What was the actual process you ... What did you have to do to find those answers before?
I think one of the big things that really led us to go to a CLM solution was ... Well, what happened was, a couple of our retail store leases came due for renewal. No one knew about it. They renewed, then they decided, "No, we don't want to be in that location anymore."
Somebody sent us the contract, and said, "Can you please look at this contract to tell us when we get out of this lease?" And we said, "Well, it was about three months ago. It just renewed for another multi-year lease."
And that really was a big spark for us to look at a CLM solution and say, "Having individuals manage their own contracts, then ask us to provide an opinion on the contract that we may not have ever seen before, really was inefficient." And it was costing the company money.
That was one of the big challenges and one of the big impetus for us to actually go to a solution. Which then led to, unfortunately ... Susan came on at the time where it was like, "Hey, guess what, Susan? Go find the 12,000 contracts that exist out there somewhere and bring them all into one spot."
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I imagine if there was that kind of revenue sacrifice because of the previous way of working, it was quite an easy business case for you to present for a CLM solution.
Yeah. No, I did not have to make a hard sell at all. I had to put in the budget, they approved the budget. And they said, "Just go do whatever it is you're going to do." And that was really nice for us. I didn't have a fight, or have to make a business case, or anything like that. And to your point, I came in after there was a bad problem, and it was really easy for me to get buy-in on the solution.
Amazing, amazing. That is the kind of ... finding contracts when people ask questions, and working with renewals, and making sure things don't
that you don't want them to. What other benefits have you seen that maybe you didn't expect from a CLM solution?
It took away a big responsibility for me, tracking things. We actually used to have just a spreadsheet that would tell us when ... We have all these cell tower leases that are on renewal terms.
And again, like Larry had said with retail stores, the same thing can happen with our tower contracts. Where, if you miss a deadline, it will renew for five more years. That's a lot of revenue. But the tracking, that was super, super important to me.
I see. I see.
And then, I think, too, making sure we were complying with certain terms and conditions. A lot of times, and rightfully so, the business people or business users don't really get too hung up on terms and conditions and ways they have to operate. They just proceed along.
And if our vendor or our contractual partner doesn't do things a certain way, business people tend to brush it off and go, "Ah, no big deal," or whatever. Whereas, from a legal perspective, we look at it and go, "No, we have to follow the contract. They have to follow the contract."
And if they don't, there are repercussions for those actions. Or maybe nothing happens out of it, but if we don't provide notice, then we've waived that right to do something. So, it makes it really important for us to have those contracts.
And to Susan's point about noticing deadlines and things, was also too, we need to be able to provide the business, "Here's what you have to do. Here's the bare minimum. Here's what you should expect from our partners, as well."
All of those things have become ... have evolved, I would say, from what we originally started our CLM project as.
More of just a ... "Let's make sure we track deadlines and due dates," to "Okay. Now we can monitor terms and conditions." And I would say then, the other surprise, probably, for us was, having a product like Summize allows us to do some benchmarking to say, "Well, what do we agree to?"
For example, in the United States, governing law ... One area we have been very adamant about is we will not accept California as governing law. Just because of, it's an odd state. Let's just put it that way. Their laws are ones that we don't want to have to worry about. We don't operate in California, so it's tough for us to agree for that.
A contract management system has allowed us to find anywhere that we previously would've agreed to California ... And if that contract comes due for renewal, we can say, "And by the way, we want to change governing law to a different state."
I see. It helps you more take action throughout the future contracting process, rather than just looking back at the past for due diligence and for renewals.
Yeah. And it helps us establish some benchmarks, too, as well, of saying, "Well, if they propose this state, have we ever agreed to it before?" We can quickly get a rundown of, "Here's all the governing law states that we've agreed to, or countries that we have agreed to."
And therefore, we know that if they say ... We're in Wisconsin, so obviously we accept that. But if they say New York, we know that, well, that's the second most common one. "Yep, that's acceptable," as well. If they say some other state that we have none in there, then we can evaluate at that time, and maybe give it a double look at it.
But otherwise, we'll just accept. As long as it's one of the common ones that we already have, we know we're okay with it. That's fine,
But you have access to that data now. So, I imagine those decisions take a lot less time than they did before.
And the business loves that. These contracts don't get turned around fast enough for anybody.
I see. I see. When you were going through this journey then, it sounds like you identified quite a lot of potential issues. But what a lot of businesses struggle with is how to start a software evaluation, and what to maybe write down as your technical requirements for a contract lifecycle management solution. So, how did you go about your initial search?
The very, very first one was, we didn't know ... I'll reiterate the phrase. We didn't know what we didn't know. So, we just started looking up different things. And we knew roughly a budget that we were going to operate within.
And unfortunately, our first searches started at, "Oops. This is way out of our price range, so there's just no reason to proceed any further," with some of those. And then we just kept narrowing it down to, really ...
I'm not saying it's a great way to go about it, but it's certainly one thing that companies all have to watch, is the bottom line. We had to start from there and say, "If it's above this price point, we're out. We can't evaluate it. Don't look at it."
So, we eventually just came up with lists of them, and started doing it. But I would say one of the big things that I would recommend to anybody, is figure out who's going to be your super user. Who's going to be your number one primary user of it, and make sure you involve them in that process.
We are on our third different contract management one now with SUMMIZE. And throughout this most recent evaluation process, I would not have made any decision without Susan's input and review, because she is our power user.
Compared to me, she'll be in there three, four times as often as I will. So, it was so important to me that Susan has to like it, first and foremost. Because, if it just doesn't work for her, then it's not going to work for me. Because she won't be happy, and then I won't be happy.
So, I think that's one of the biggest ones, is making sure. Because again, how I use it is different how, than Susan uses it. And if I were to go with a system that works for me but not Susan, then it wasn't the right system.
It had to make sure it worked for Susan first. And then, could I accept also how it worked, as well? And Susan, I'll let Susan talk to you about what she looked for.
Well, what I realized is that we have to be really clear about what we are looking for. What we need the program for, how we intend to use it. And also, to have a really solid understanding about what a company can and cannot do for us.
We probably learned in the process that we needed to ask a lot more really specific point blank questions so we could understand. And it wasn't so much ... If somebody can't do what we're asking them to do, at least we would understand that upfront.
But a lot of times companies will promise things that they can't deliver on. But I think we didn't know enough about the process, and what we really needed or expected it to do before. Where, our eyes were really wide open when we selected SUMMIZE.
Those were the things that I thought were really important to know upfront, just what we needed to use the program for.
I see. I see. And I think that's really valuable advice from both of you there, by anybody looking at a CLM and implementing one. But without naming any names, obviously, what went wrong in the past? You said that this is third time lucky, hopefully, with ourselves. But what scenarios arose in the past that you weren't happy with?
Our first one was, it was a very bare bones system. Actually, it wasn't terrible to start with, because it got our feet wet. We kind of jumped into it, and said, "Okay, now we're swimming, and we're just going to cruise along here." But we don't know any better; it seemed fine.
But after a year or two, we realized, "Well, could it do this? Could it do that?" No, it can't. "Oh, well. We really should find one that could do these things." And we really learned more in the first one with what we needed, what we really, really wanted it for. It wasn't necessarily what we thought at first.
The second one, as Susan said, the biggest takeaway we got, the biggest mistake that we got through was, we believed what the vendor told us about, that they could get this implemented by X date. And we believed it. We had no reason to doubt that. We had no reason to ask questions further than that.
They said, "Yes, we can." Well, they ended up not being able to do that. We ended up having to pay our current provider at that time, another year's license, just so we didn't lose our contracts. So that the new company could bring all of those contracts over, and migrate them into their system.
So, we ended up, like I said, paying for an extra year to have two different contract management platforms. And it still took six additional months after that. So, it took almost one year of implementation.
Which, when we went through the process this most recent time, as Susan said, we made very, very clear what must happen, that, "Implementation can't go that way, it can't go wrong. And I want you to put in writing what's going to happen if it does go wrong," because it just ...
Unfortunately, this other provider, all they kept telling us is, "We'll make it right. We'll make it right." And after three years, we never were made right. And when we had our exit interview with them, we told them that. We said, "You never made it right." And they're like, "Well, we offered you all these features and add-ons."
And I said, "None of those features or add-ons were valuable to us, so you never helped us. You were trying to just cram a product down our throat to check a box." So, to Susan's point, get it in writing, make sure you're clear with them, and say, "Do you understand what I'm saying? When I say I need it to do this, do you understand what that means?"
And to tie on to that, one of the other things that I would say to anybody looking at a solution, is ignore the bells and whistles that they want to highlight for you.
Because I will admit that when we went from our first one to our second one, a lot of the bells and whistles were like, "Oh, my God. That is so cool. That is so cool. Oh, my God, that's the greatest thing ever. I never thought of that." And we didn't use them in three years.
It was like I got suckered into the shiny object, when I really should have been focused on "Here's what we do, and here's what we need it to do." And this last time it was a much, much more thorough and intensive evaluation process we went through.
And I feel so good with the decision we made, because I feel it was completely an educated and well thought out and researched decision. And again, it checked all our boxes. We didn't have any of the problems that we had the last time.
And that's very much ... agrees with Susan's point of you knew what you wanted and you knew exactly what you're looking for. Susan, anything in particular to add to that at all?
Not a lot. Again, the first program was a good program. It was basic, and it served as more of a repository than a contract management program. Of course, they didn't have AI then. And now, a lot of the programs do.
It worked for what we needed; it was good. The reporting was difficult. I had very hard time getting the reports that I needed, and I had to call customer service every time. And they would just end up doing it, because it was so hard. I'm not a programmer, and I couldn't figure that out.
So, that was one thing that I knew we needed to work better. And then the next program, which was a nightmare for three years. The onboarding was horrible, the support was horrible, everything. Just, in three years, I could never find really anything good. Which is very unfortunate.
It kept our contracts in a spot, and I could find them. But when they integrated, we asked specifically if they could bring over my tasks, because I had set a couple thousand tasks. And they said yes, and then they didn't. So, I spent a lot of time ...
Thank goodness, we were able to get into our old program for another year, because I didn't miss deadlines then. But I ended up spending a lot of time having to read all the contracts and all the amendments, to figure out all the current renewal terms and termination terms.
It was so duplicitous and time-consuming. I had a really bad feeling the whole time about this company, because it made me do everything over again that I had already done once. But, anyway. So then we get to Summize, and we looked at quite a few other contract management programs.
We looked at a lot of them, and we were impressed with a lot of them. And we thought that ... We had actually settled on a couple of them, one or another. And then we had the demo with Summize, and it literally blew us out of the water.
And then we thought, "Well, this is too good to be true." So, we kept coming back, and we had more demos and more meetings. Anyway, it ended up being such a blessing to me and to Larry. And the onboarding system, the transition has been so smooth, and the people have been so helpful.
Just the fact that we had meetings for weeks, just to get us to the point of where they were ready to cut us loose into the program, and now we're in the next steps. But we've just been so pleased. We both have. But I've been so pleased with just having the support, and having the program do all the things and more, that we expected, or that we hoped for.
That's amazing, Susan. Thank you very much for those kind words. I think that's something for us all here to be very proud of. Yeah. I can see, just how I think about your scenario, with not having the tasks that you'd created in the previous platform.
For you, from a personal perspective, obviously, that's incredibly hard and stressful. But from a business perspective, that's your bottom line. And you're talking about thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, worth of revenue there. So, I can imagine that being an absolute nightmare.
But yeah, I think that's a really good summary from you both in that area. Obviously, you're involved in contracts day to day. And you're the ones who are most bought into this process. I recognize, and we at Summize recognize, that there are lots of other groups of people in Nsight that are also depending on you to turn around contracts quickly, all of your internal customers throughout the business.
How was it, throughout all three implementations of the three different products you've gone for, how was it engaging with those parts of the business? And how did you get their buy-in so they were really secure in that new process?
Yeah. It's a work in progress, and I don't know that we will ever be done. Because I think, while we have an aspirational goal of 100% of all contracts come to us, we also know that that's not realistic. And again, it doesn't even have to be intentional.
People just forget. "Oh, I didn't send this to you? I'm sorry. I thought I did." I think for other companies, too, it's really important that they evaluate it based on their processes. For example, we may be different than some other companies ... Legal doesn't really get into the negotiations of contracts.
We may go back and forth with the other party's attorneys on certain things, or whatever. But pretty much it is the internal customers, the one negotiating a deal with somebody else, they come to us with, "Hey, I need a contract for this."
So we create it, and we send it to them, and they send it to the other party. Or the other party sends their contract to our internal business customer, who sends it to us for review. Who, we send it back to the internal, and then it goes out.
So sometimes, we're not directly involved in it. I know that's different than how some other legal departments work, is where they always control the negotiations ... drafting, review, red line process, and all that.
I think it's important that, however your business operates, you try to make sure that that process works. For us, our challenge is, we can help the business through the process of it. But if they don't give us the information, we don't know any better.
Susan and I spend a lot of time chasing ... "Did you ever get this signed? Where is this at? We sent this to you three months ago. We haven't heard anything back." And it's, "Oh, yeah. You know what? We did forget about that. I'll follow up and find out where it's at."
And Susan and I are left going, "Well, was it really important then, that we did this? If it's been sitting out there for this long?"
Or we're like, "Oh, hey. Where are you at with this?" "Oh, yeah. We signed that months ago. Here, let me send it to you now." So, there's buy-in. They all feel the value of it. It's just a matter of, I think, like I said, it'll always be a work in progress to make sure the process gets followed.
And one thing I did again, is I have added a new signature to my email. That, whenever it's a contract one, I always click my contract signature block, and the line above my name is, "As a friendly reminder, please send the executed contract to us."
So, just to get it. Again, it's something different. Now people will notice it. I'm sure a year from now, people will be like, "Oh, whatever. There's that little signature block again. Whatever." I'll have to find a new way to get their attention.
But I think, really, again, just constant reminders to them of make sure we have the contracts. One of the things we're going to work on is possibly some sort of update to different people, to say, "Here's the contracts we have that are assigned to you," or something.
So that we always remind them of what we're tracking for them, just to try and keep ourselves front and center. Because, as a support staff, a lot of times you get forgotten if they don't need support. And when they need support, then we want to be there for them. But we always don't have the information that they need, so work in progress is definitely the summary of that.
Susan, how's your collaboration been throughout these processes with salespeople, ops people? Everybody else, basically?
Well, I have noticed that they definitely appreciate that somebody else is looking out for these deadlines for them. A lot of people were just tracking their own. And everybody gets busy, so things can slip through the cracks.
And I have found over the years that they have a real appreciation for the fact that the burden, maybe, is lifted from them. And that I send out reminders if I don't hear from them. And they appreciate that. I get a lot of comments from people saying, "Oh, thanks for reminding me. Can you reset this for three more months?" That sort of thing.
But there are the people that really love all the details, and then there are those that don't. But I have found that, for the most part, that our internal customers are pleased with the fact that we're providing this service.
Brilliant, brilliant. Yeah, it's always important to get them on board. And nobody wants to see legal like a hindrance in that deal and signing process, do they? I think the processes you've put in place ... Larry, I love the email signature idea. I think we're going to write off a Top Tips after this chat. And that's going to be on there, definitely.
But we look at, actually, other top tips. I think it'd be a good point to go there. Let's forget the research phase. Say, if you were talking to a business who have chosen the CLM, and are about to start an implementation ... a company similar size to yourselves. What would you say are absolute must-dos? What must they have ready before they start implementation?
I would say, again, know who your users are going to be. Know who your power user's going to be. Your biggest user, the person that's going to use it the most. And just make sure they are 100% involved in all times in that process.
Because, again, you may have the greatest CLM in the world. But if the person that uses it the most isn't happy with it, they're not going to use it as much as they could. And the product loses its value to the organization. I think one of the big ones is to make sure, again, that you have the power user, the person that is going to be using this the most, involved right away from the start ... as you're going through implementing and getting ready.
Because a CLM that has features that you love and are going to use all the time, is great. But if you don't use them, then it's really not of great value to the organization. So again, whatever feature it is, make sure that the person that's going to use it the most understands it and is ready to use it.
The other big one that I would say, too, is spend the time. Make sure you take time for the implementation. Make sure that, as you start looking at functions, that you spend the time to get it right from the start. Because once you've got it in, it's really hard to go backwards and try to do it again.
One of those things we found was trying to find 12,000 contracts and get it into the contract management , try to have that ahead of time, because as you go forward. Those are really the two big tips that I have for implementation.
Okay, great. Thank you, Larry. Susan, what would you say are your top tips?
Well, I mention this again. Just writing down everything that you need to do everything that you expect from it. And then, finding out and having the CLM company vendor show you that it can or cannot do something. Having a really good understanding of what you expect from it.
And like I said, there are things that no program can do. But to be told that upfront was just really helpful. Where you don't have expectations of something, and then you find out it can't do. So, demonstrations, that sort of thing.
We went through a lot of different companies and demonstrations, and we knew what we were looking for and what we needed this last time. So, it was really easy, if somebody just couldn't do the things that we expected it to do or that we needed it to do.
So, I think just having a really clear picture of what you need, is one of the most important things when you're looking for a vendor.
Brilliant. Brilliant. Thank you, Susan. I think that's absolutely right. It sounds like third time around you really detailed those, and probably put our sales team through its paces a little bit. That's really good, and I'm glad it's resulted in success.
If we look at Summize now, then, what are the particular benefits that you've seen through ... I know it's fairly early days for you, but through using Summize so far.
One of the things that I can say right away, that really were just so superior to the other programs we used, was the fact that it's very user-friendly. And I was looking for hidden ways to find things, or to have it do what I wanted it to do. And instead, they were right there. It was so obvious that I missed it.
Because I expected to have to go through 17 different little steps to get to where I wanted to go. And it was almost embarrassing, because I would find out from your team that it was, "Oh, it's just this? Right where it says this?"
You click on it, and that's what it does. So for me, it's so logical, the way it's set up. It's so logical. And that's been such a benefit.
Wonderful. Thank you, Susan. I think the only, really, thing to ask you, to finish off with, is really, what's next. What are the next big projects on the horizon? What are you looking to achieve?
Okay. Sure. I'm really excited about learning more about all the tools. And generating our contracts through Summize, and distributing them through Summize, and tracking them through Summize, with all of our internal users and external users.
So, I'm excited to participate in any training, user conferences that you might have, those sorts of things ... forums. Maybe community forums where other users can get together and talk about simpler ways to do things.
But again, we've only scratched the surface with what Summize can do for us, so I'm super excited to learn about all the rest. Just generating documents and having them flow through the system, that's what I'm looking forward to.
Wonderful. And we are looking forward to showing you, Susan, both in what we have now, and what's to come. It's a very exciting time here at Summize. Thank you very much, both of you. Both been fantastic.
There's some incredible tips there for what every business that is thinking about going for a CLM, or about to implement a CLM, should do. And I think that there's a lot of gold there for our listeners and various businesses ... anybody really, looking at legal software.
So, I'd like to thank you both very, very much for being involved, and being part of this podcast, and for the wonderful content you provide.
Wonderful. For everyone else, I hope you've enjoyed listening. This has been the Summize Legal Disrupters Podcast. I hope you enjoyed all the insight from Nsight, and we'll catch you on the next one.