Your company has well-organized lease templates and a pretty thorough catalog of standard “gives” (the provisions that you use for the most typical tenant lease modification requests through a round or two of negotiation). You have shared these forms with the leasing professionals and attorneys who assist with your leasing negotiation and documentation.

So why is it taking so long to get leases drafted and signed?

Among other factors, the persistent use of “cut and paste” drafting of commercial lease documents may be causing drafting delays. This traditional method of marking up form documents, having administrative assistants make changes then reviewing those changes, is too slow and is extremely dependent upon folks being familiar with the intricacies of your forms. Even in the hands of experienced users, cut-and-paste assembly of a form lease can mean it takes days to get document into the hands of business decision makers.

Handcrafted documents also expose your company to the risks of human error. In the past, a mistake in a final lease, or a mismatch between two lease-related documents, could be resolved by a conversation. In today's more economically tense environment, tenants are likely to latch onto an error and not let go.

Benefits of automation

Good document automation can speed the process, making drafts and final leases more accurate while eliminating delays associated with more cumbersome drafting processes.

Intelligent document automation is not limited to merely filling in blanks. It should fully automate sentence structure word-by-word, taking into account all potential variables, including logic-driven interaction among multiple variables as needed to permit “first-time-final” drafting. Document automation should also perform necessary calculations, flag areas of concern and warn against error.

Sophisticated document automation works through multiple rounds of negotiation, automating not only the first draft, but subsequent “punches and counterpunches.” It also integrates all standard templates and document modifications so that virtually anyone can assemble the documents when they have the right data, at any stage of negotiation.

You may be thinking that your company's transactions are extremely complicated or highly-negotiated, so document automation cannot work for those transactions. But by committing your business rules and documents to an automated process, you're actually assuring that your best language is used without exception, rather than hoping you can avoid human error.

Admittedly, document automation is initially only as good as your standard playbook of templates and document modifications. If you don't have tightly crafted templates and a well-organized catalog of gives, it may take some time to fully automate your documents — but document automation systems help to encourage a well-organized process.

Given the uncertainties associated with an ever-changing business environment and the practical realities of most negotiations, a good system must permit continuing automation to address changes to the transaction after documents are first drafted, but before they are signed. It is also important for the automation to be “portable,” in the sense that the user can create and send automated documents or spreadsheets to third parties for mark-up.

Building a strong document automation system requires an up-front investment of time by your most thoughtful professionals, as well as technological resources, but the return on investment can be tremendous.

Commercial lenders have used document automation for years. The time for sophisticated document automation has come for commercial leasing. Make sure that your company doesn't get left behind.