Koncision Breaks New Ground in Contract Drafting
Koncision is a relatively new service by contracts expert Ken Adams (@KonciseD). It offers clear, concise, and quickly drafted contracts via an interactive web service. I comment here on why this is a notable development and briefly review my experience using it.
Koncision is notable for two reasons. First, it is a web-based, transaction- or subscription-priced, document assembly service. For now, confidentiality agreements are the only contract type available. Ken is breaking new ground in the business-to-business market: this is the first new, non-law-firm interactive legal service I can recall in years. See my now-outdated list of online legal services, which I stopped updating five years ago because there were so few new developments occurring. I hope Koncision paves the way for other entrepreneurs to develop online systems.
And second, Koncision aims to standardize contracts around considered and carefully constructed language. Ken is the author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. He has spent years promoting clear language and eliminating ambiguity. Moreover, Ken has assembled what appears to be an all-star contract-expert advisory board for the confidentiality agreements. So beyond the structured thinking Ken brings to any contract, the finished, standardized product reflects the editorial judgment of several experts.
In my view, the legal market sorely needs more standards. I suspect that a very high percentage of the huge wording variation across similar agreements reflects lawyer taste rather than fundamental need. This virtual Babel of similar contracts benefits only lawyers, who are paid to draft or to litigate. Business people who fully understood the risk of custom-crafted language in every situation would, I think, demand standards.
Ken provided access to the system so that I could evaluate it. I am impressed. It is built with ContractExpress by Business Integrity. The web interface is clean and easy-to-use. To see how it works, I simulated an employee confidentiality agreement. The system presents several pages of questions. Each page has three columns: the question, answer choices (radio buttons, check boxes, or free-form text), and an explanation of the question or the issue behind it. In some instances, explanations have a link for more details. Selecting certain answers has the effect of interactively and immediately changing the subsequent question(s), a cool feature.
While I am not a confidentiality agreement expert, I have signed quite a few over the years. My impression is that this product is complete and thorough. In fact, for some purposes and some drafters, it may feel like overkill because of the number of questions you have to answer to generate the final document. Ken likely would argue that the real problem is most confidentiality agreements are silent on too many important points. And I suspect he is right though that may not change market perception.
I have two other quibbles, one technical and one business. On the tech front, I found one instance of questionnaire guidance that wasn’t dynamic. In other words, the guidance provided for alternative scenarios that were addressed in a previous question, rather than just whichever guidance was pertinent, given how the user had answered that earlier question. But the questionnaire is otherwise comprehensively dynamic in various ways. For example, the questions use the party-name defined terms specified by the user, rather than generic alternatives. Regarding the non-dynamic question explanation, Ken attributes that to human oversight—the human in question being him!—and said that it will be a simple matter to make the necessary adjustments.
On the business front, the license terms prohibit copying contracts: “You’ll be allowed to use just once any contract you create during your subscription. Copying any part of it for purposes of any other contracts you create, during your subscription and afterwards, would constitute breach of Koncision’s copyright.” I can see circumstances where an inhouse lawyer would need to replicate the same contract for multiple parties and lean toward editing in Word rather than modifying the Koncision / ContractExpress answer file. Ken tells me he would be open to annual subscribers making copies in Word while under license (though he would advise not risking this and re-launching a questionnaire and changing one answer).
Overall, I recommend that any lawyer – inhouse or outside counsel – who regularly drafts confidentiality agreements sign up to try the Koncision demo. For another favorable review that covers additional points, see Koncision: One Giant Leap by The Contracts Guy, a practicing lawyer.
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