Those who need to understand a dense contract should consider special software to create a hyperlinked version. I recently spoke with the founders of Affinitext, a service that converts mega-contracts into easy-to-navigate, on-screen documents. 

Founders Ed Adams and Graham Thomson have extensive experience – law and business – dealing with contracts for major project such as dam or highway construction. Their service converts multi-volume, cross-referenced contracts into a set of hyperlinked documents. Delivery is on CD to serve managers and lawyers on-the-go or in remote locations without connectivity.

Many users will take comfort in the Affinitext interface, which is the same format as Windows on-screen help. Converted contracts have many links – from document to document and back to definitions – as well as “mouse over” pop-ups with explanations.

Dense and deeply cross-referenced contracts create barriers to reading, much less understanding. Affinitext appears to lower significantly these barriers. This is especially useful for anyone just coming up to speed on a project. For projects in dispute, the side using the tool might gain a significant advantage.

My previous posts about improving contract management focused on managing high-volume contracts. Affinitext, in contrast, targets complex documents and may also be effective on simpler ones as well. The only arguably similar product I know is Thomson-Elite’s DealProof.

A forward-thinking law firm that works on dense contracts might consider giving clients an Affinitext version. Absorbing the cost might pay back in client satisfaction. Moreover, clients who regularly consult contracts might call firms more often for follow-on advice – at the usual billable rate.