Interview with Thibaut Caoudal, co-founder of Leeway, a contract management solution for legal teams, created with Antoine Fabre and Sébastien Decrême.
It was during his last job as Sales Director that Thibault Caoudal realized the key role played by contracts; it was also at this time that he met his first partner Antoine Fabre. After discussing at length their shared desire to embark on an entrepreneurial project, the Leeway adventure began.
"Antoine and I were mainly driven by a desire to get out there and be enterprising, so we decided to create a solution to these issues, even though we didn't have any specific legal training.
Having been confronted with contract management in my last position, I realized how complex and slow some contract negotiations can be. It's often difficult to make negotiations effective, with many people involved on both sides of the contract, which doesn't make it easy to work together. The company as a whole often lacks control over contracts. It is often complicated to identify the risks and opportunities present."
Once launched, the two co-founders took the time to go through a market research phase, meeting with over a hundred legal departments to identify the best ways of optimizing their day-to-day operations.
"This enabled us to "design" the product that we subsequently built in a relevant way. In November 2019, we started development with the arrival of our third partner and CTO, Sébastien Decrême.
Our roles within Leeway are well defined: Sébastien is in charge of Tech, Antoine is in charge of product, strategy and financing. I take care of the business side. The roles are clearly defined. Naturally, when we launched the company, we had a wide variety of subjects to deal with. That's what I find so interesting about this entrepreneurial path, with its constant skills upgrading.
When we launched in March, we had beta testers, who later became our customers. Inevitably, this feedback has enabled us to be even more in tune with how the product is used in real-life situations."
In line with this strategy of identifying the issues they are responding to, they have launched a podcast, " Le Legal Sandwich Club ", which enables them to pursue exchanges with legal departments. They have also carried out a study on the involvement of legal departments in decision-making in the Tech sector.
"It's important for us, beyond the product, to be able to highlight trends, particularly when it comes to digitalization among legal professionals. As a Legal Tech player, it's our role to help legal departments understand what's going on in the sector, how the profession is evolving, and how digital technology will enable them to go further, faster, which is one of the challenges of these studies.
This digitalization of the sector is a second step compared to the business and marketing departments, which are already well equipped with tools.
"Digitization in companies began with the business teams, which are the ones that generate sales first and foremost. Next came the support functions, led by HR and fintech. We are now seeing the emergence of legaltechs, whose aim is to digitalize their sector of activity. A company necessarily starts by focusing on what directly generates sales, so the contribution of legal professionals may initially have seemed more indirect.
Some structures have paved the way, but they don't yet provide the whole answer. There are things that happen before and after the signature, particularly in the process and life cycle of a classic contract, and the signature is only a fraction of the whole. Naturally, having dematerialized the signature, legal teams are now devoting themselves to other areas of their activity, such as contracts, legal intelligence, corporate affairs, etc. It is these different problems that Leeway is seeking to solve.
The ambition is obviously to reconnect the legal departments with the company's other business lines, a reconnection that Thibaut breaks down into 3 angles:
"The first is to reduce the time spent by teams on negotiation, enabling them to reconnect with the operational side of business teams.
The second point is more control over what can happen before signature, such as validation procedures, or post-signature, with automatic reminders of contract deadlines, for example.
The third is to bring the data in contracts to life.
These three elements will enable legal departments to position themselves within the company as business partners alongside the business teams, and thus to touch on strategic aspects. Technology will help to position lawyers: there's a lot of talk about the role of trusted advisor in the English-speaking world, which has a real head start when it comes to the consideration and importance of lawyers.
We are convinced that technology will enable lawyers to reconnect with the entire decision-making and strategic process."
In addition to this reconnection, Leeway represents a real business decision. With Leeway, the entire contract negotiation process is managed online, contract versions are automatically saved, and document modification tracking is foolproof.
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