In a world where time is money, contracts stand as the bedrock of every transaction, sealing deals that shape the destiny of organizations. Picture a scenario where every contract is expertly managed, every negotiation streamlined, and every legal hurdle deftly overcome. Envision a future where you never miss a renewal deadline, avoid costly disputes, and confidently navigate through complexities with ease. In this episode of the Contract Heroes Podcast, we are thrilled to be joined by Roma Khan. Roma is the CEO of CrushContracts, a trailblazer in contract management, dedicated to democratizing law. As the Contracts Queen, Inventor of Global NDA and Zoey, Attorney, Fashionista & Connector, she brings over a decade of in-house counsel and fractional GC experience, serving Fortune 500 companies and startups.
During our conversation, Roma shares her journey from law school to becoming a contracts manager and eventually a general counsel. She explains how she started her own contracts tech company, CrushContracts, and developed tools like the Global NDA, ICE, and Zoey to address contract management pain points. Roma emphasizes the importance of solving problems and adapting to changing times. We also discuss the challenges of getting buy-in from team members and ensuring adoption of contract management tools.
WHAT WE DISCUSS:
Intro [00:00:05] You're listening to the Contract Heroes podcast. Your one-stop shop for all things contract management. And now here are your hosts, Marc and Pepe.
Marc Doucette [00:00:14] Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Contract Heroes. Today joining us is the CEO of Crush Contracts Roma Khan. During our conversation today, we're going to be reviewing some of Roma's application functionality, such as Zoey Global, NDA and ICE. We'll also be discussing some best practices based on Roma's experience as a general counsel in previous life. So without further ado, let's jump into the episode. Well, Roma, thanks so much for joining us. Before we flip things over to Pepe to give us an understanding of what we're going to be discussing today, I was hoping you can give us a little bit more information on your background and how you came to be known as the Contracts Queen.
Roma Khan [00:00:52] So nice to be on this, you guys. I appreciate and I'm honored. I have a very simple story. I went to law school to be a prosecutor, post-9-11, and I wanted to learn the law to protect myself and my family and also put bad guys in jail. I graduated in 2009 and the economy was not what I expected and I ended up taking a job as a contracts manager at a Fortune 500 company. And I thought, well, you know, I'm not a sellout. I'm just going to do this for a little bit and get health insurance and go from there. But as soon as I took the job, I loved it. I just was naturally good at business. I had sort of a business background, but I didn't realize how much I liked it and it was a high tech company and I'm a tech nerd, so I got in and I never looked back. From there, I eventually moved down in-house and eventually became a GC. And in that process, people would appreciate the work I've done and started calling me the Contracts. Queen eventually started my own contracts tech company, contract solutions company. Overall, I just tied in together and here I am, the Contracts Queen. I'm not the only contracts queen, but I am the contracts queen.
Pepe Toriello [00:02:01] That's awesome, Roma. And like I tell you, I love your name. Like Roma Khan is so powerful, so it's going to be like a good headline for our episode where we publish I love it and I think is there are a lot of things that we want to cover right now, especially with all your background. Of course, we want to talk about the global media, but one of the things that we want to talk about it, it's of course what we're like. The main issues you were you face during your time as general counsel and some of the recommendation and of course, adoption with CLM tools, because we're going back to the basics with the Contract Heroes podcast. So we love contracts here, contract nerds and contract geeks because contract nerds, it's already a trademark.
Roma Khan [00:02:44] Yeah.
Pepe Toriello [00:02:45] Sorry about that.
Roma Khan [00:02:46] I need a shot of that.
Pepe Toriello [00:02:49] Shout out to Neda. Let's kick off with Global NDA and tell us a little bit about it and how you start out with that pro.
Roma Khan [00:02:57] You know, actually I'm going to summarize it very in a simple way in my journey in becoming the contracts mean I recognized that there was a need for contracts host to contract management solutions in corporate America. And so I started at the company in 2017. And in that journey I recognized that there were several different areas where contracts needed help. So we came up with different products and services to solve contracts problems. Global NDA is one of the most recent products we launched in April. It's out of my personal pet peeve of the amount of useless mutual ends that are constantly being sent back and forth, and most of the time they're not being read because they're mutual. They don't get signed, don't get started. It's stupid, it's nonsense. You have to create workflows and sell. And just to sign an NDA, just to start a conversation. So I had enough of that and I built a global registry called Global NDA, where we sat down with several of their attorneys and created a universally acceptable mutual idea. And it's online now, and people can just opt in and start talking to the active members. So instead of signing a mutual NDA 100 times a year, you just opt in once and then you start talking to the people in the registry, as Lucy basically calls it. It's like a pledge to do the right thing. It's like a network of NDAs. So we just join and we start talking and we start executing redundant, useless NDA. So that's low NDA.
Pepe Toriello [00:04:23] That's awesome, because I got to tell you, like even any vertical, you can't imagine. Like NDA’s of course, is the highest volume one and it doesn't make any sense. Like when I talk to some general counsel or legal teams and then they are like, Yeah, we're procurement team always got to send us the NDA so we can review it and approve it, and then we do some negotiation process like, yeah, I like it's not even they don't even have a contract. It's just like maybe they're going to start a bidding process for a, you know, any kind of private.
Roma Khan [00:04:54] You know, what's the shameful part about an NDA is it's a contract that says we promise not to steal information that is clearly marked confidential, if it's clearly. Marc Confidential. Then that's it. Why do you need a contract to then say we still won't like, It's like there law exist not to steal, but we're still going to sign a contract to say we're not going to steal, but it's already there. My goal with Global NDA. Yeah, we do charge a little bit right now because we need to sustain ourselves, but our hope is that there's global adoption and there is a GDPR style Global NDA Act where it's just general universal knowledge. These mutual NDA terms just become global regulation, so nobody has to sign them anymore. We just abide by them. And we're talking about, you know, simple mutual ideas, the ones that you constantly see. I'm not talking about, you know, complex ones, the employment ones or the M&A ones. I'm just trying to reduce the redundant useless NDA, so that's Global NDA. But we also have other services as well as ICE, which is a contract management services in Zoey, which is contract management for SMB. Again, my overall goal is to make law accessible and reduce contracts. So I may just continue to build more products and just put the solutions out there and whoever can use it, use it, you know.
Marc Doucette [00:06:07] Then that was going to be my next question, right, is about of contracts and some of the other more tools that you're building over there. So, I mean, I know that we touched on a little bit, you know, how you got into this and how you started the organization. But let's jump into, you know, talk about ICE and Zoey a little bit. How did were those just other pain points that you saw out there while you were on the other side of the fence as a GC and decided to continue to build out different types of tools?
Roma Khan [00:06:33] Yes, correct. I mean, I learned a long time ago don't come up with solutions and think that they're the best, you know, solve problems that exist and solve problems that are active problems. So as I was in my journey of, you know, hey, I should build a software to solve this contracts problem, I recognized that more than the larger corporations, it's the mid-sized companies and the small businesses that needed instant contract help. So we built Zoey for SMB small startups, and I said midsize companies, Yes, they sign contracts, store them in a very simple way. It's not complicated. It's very simple. Get inside your contract. I created an algorithm to do a risk score. It's called Z-score. So if you're a small business and you just needed to quickly understand, is this risky, you can run it through the Z score and get your answer and move on. Now, if anything is more complex, then go to a lawyer. I'm a very pro a lawyer contracts tech CEO, but ICE was another solution we came up with 2017. I recognize that a lot of companies, a lot of these, needed a little bit of help from time to time. But the only solution was to either do the work themselves and work 80 hours a week or go out there and hire someone either on a temp basis and then still get them for 40 hours bagging, tagging all the other extra costs that come with it, or just hire somebody full time. And the solution was simple. I said, You know what? If we just did remote services, not staffing and it's fixed price, you just by the number of hours and whenever you need the help, just, you know, call us and we'll help you. And it was interesting at that time how everyone liked it except for the remote part. And it took me a whole year to try to convince people like remote is just remote. I mean, this is 2017. Why should anybody have to come in the office to do, you know, lawyers work. And it was it’s funny how like times have changed and now everybody understands the remote work part. So, you know, I will say it's been good for business because people get it now and they understand our services better. So, you know, everything that we build and will build is to solve a pain point, an existing problem, or potentially an upcoming problem that the legal department will see.
Pepe Toriello [00:08:32] Right. That was actually going to be, again, our next question my way. When you were working as a general counsel right now, you told me some of the main issues about their contract management over the counter lifecycle management. Right. Because it's a methodology. Sometimes people think it's just technology, but it's actually a methodology, Right. So what do you think were like those main issues were like the blockers during that year that you try to convince maybe in any other commercial teams that these was going to be useful in? How did you solve that?
Roma Khan [00:09:06] So before I started my company, I wanted to understand the full landscape of contracts and contract management, both from big companies and small companies. So I consulted quite a bit in different companies and learned what the type of, you know, industry and the size of the legal department, how they manage contracts. And some were very open to suggestions, some didn't care. But consistently I would go in, help with the contracts, organize their contracts, repositories and look at the system. I found one, many of them had contract management software but weren't using it. Two, there wasn't a consistent storage location for all the contracts, so people were working and then leaving a lot of contracts stayed on the hard drives of the laptops or in emails. That was very hard to get to those contracts. And three, and the most important was there was a major lack of information between inter departments of legal and sales or legal or business teams did not understand what each other did and what the demands were. Therefore, there was a lack of trust. The first thing I would do at any time I consulted or when I was GC, was to set up a meeting with the department heads and openly tell them I'm here to serve you. Tell me what your roles are, Tell me what your expectations are and tell me why do you need a contract sometimes done very quickly? Because sometimes our bonuses depend on it. Sometimes somebody's mortgage depends on it. So when they're anxious to get a contract signed, I want to understand why. And then on the other hand, I explain to them, Now here's why I would be objecting to certain things. Right? And my overall process and ideology and contracts comes from the core belief that contracts are not legal documents. They are business documents. They have to be lawful and legally and legally binding. But with anything, you can start any business, and it has to be for a lawful purpose, right? It has to be for legally binding. So when you start understanding it as a business document, then the process then has to adapt to the business and the business individuals. So that's when we started working backwards and improving the process, improving the storage situation, and then creating playbooks that were easy to understand. So a lot of times legal department will create instruction manuals that look like novels. They look like law school briefs. They have too many bullet points, and it's like everything I can add to it. I will add, I work the other way around. I look at it as the most, you know, simplest user in the company. And if they have to execute this contract, I want them to understand the process. I want them to understand the risks and I want them to negotiate most of this on their own. So they come to legal for the last thing to this final approval. And so that worked quite a bit in education, empowerment and then centralizing access to knowledge.
Pepe Toriello [00:11:48] Right. That's something that Lucy vastly again likes to call it, their legal review policy. Like not everything has to go to legal, you know, as you got to know. But of course there are some risks that you get to take. And of course, last lawyers, we are risk adverse, we don't like it. We know that most of the time we're not that most of the time because they're there. They're business class. Right. And as and especially like when you work with procurement, they don't want to go in over their budget because those are their bonuses and there's a lot of, you know, incentives that at work there. But it's very important to understand what our like you said, they're not legal documents, they're business documents. They want to close it because they want to get their raw materials in there into the factory or whatever, or if there's the sales team, they want to close the deal. And if they can close it, that turn of turnover time is reduced by 50% than, well, you get 50% faster than income cash. So that's, that's the whole thing.
Roma Khan [00:12:50] Yeah. And, and you know, we have to look at when we look at the contract, the contract is the agreement, right. You've got an offer, acceptance and consideration. Legal review is the shortest period of that contract's lifecycle. There's this tendency to now think that contracts are legal documents and the entire contract starts and ends in the legal department. It does not. It makes its way through legal to make sure that it is legally binding. And if something goes wrong, that they have rights in it. But other than that, it passes through legal and it moves on to execution. So then you have to fulfill that contract. And in everybody else's hands, lawyers play a very small part in executing a contract. Most of the time lawyers won't even come involved. If a company smaller if it's an old school company and the CEO is pretty well-educated in the subject matter, they'll negotiate their own contracts. So understanding the business is at the core. Understanding the purpose of the contract is at the core. When I first started, I came from a world where even if you were a business lawyer, you really didn't know the business. You just acted like a lawyer. You're only stuck to the legal part of the contract. The world has evolved quite a bit and I'm very impressed with the, you know, their new attitude in lawyers and the new generation of lawyers. They are not as risk averse and they are thinking like business people because they're, you know, a GC, a solo lawyer department you have to do everything and you're sitting with the business owners and talking to them and how to increase revenue. You've now become part of the discussion. So you play a bigger part in that contract besides just looking at a clause and saying, is it legally binding or not. So you're right. You know, a contract has different implications if it's a vendor contract versus is a sales contract, a supply chain contract, there are all these elements attached to it. So what happens is I think when I would come in and I would look at somebody's contract, old storage, it's just one folder that says contracts and then one says leases, and then it's like a hodgepodge of folders with, you know, different labeling. And then sometimes a contract will be shared by H.R. will also be shared by Finance. And if they don't have a procurement department, then everybody's hands are in that folder. So it's like a mess. And then people will rename files based on their need because they needed to find a contract and then when legal goes in to look for a contract. Then they can't find it. So there's all these, like, inconsistencies then in naming the contract where you're storing it. Who has access to it? And these are things that most companies don't think about when they start out. Like they're just busy creating a company, growing the company, and they're focused on sales and they don't think about all of this on the back end. And then eventually the company gets big enough and you have so many contracts that this becomes a problem. And now everybody's implementing technology. So even though there is a basic on the core understanding of CLM like this story or contracts, but every CLM has its own way of structuring the contract hierarchy. So if you have no system at all and everything is just kind of going whatever you want, then it will be very difficult to transform your contracts folder. It will be very difficult to train the people in the company to use that new technology, and it will be very difficult to predict what type of contracts and volume and help you'll need with your contracts in the future. So organizing contracts is a big part of solving the contract process and being part of that business chain.
Marc Doucette [00:16:13] Yeah. And I mean, I think, you know, we talk about this a lot, but, I mean, that's definitely phase one, right? Is getting a handle on the contracts that your legacy contracts. And that doesn't mean, you know, all of your legacy contracts. You know, it's great to start with just the active ones, right? That's that's where you really want to focus. I think there are insights and stuff that might no longer be in rotation, but that's a great place to start. You know, I think our next question was going to be around the workflow around these documents, right? And we've already said you've already said that legal only plays a part in these workflow processes. So I think my question is, you know, for an organization that's going out there and maybe reevaluating their processes or bringing in a piece of technology that they think is going to help them do these processes better, how should they go about making sure that the workflows that they have in place are the best way to do things and doing that internal audit of their processes?
Roma Khan [00:17:05] Frankly, at this point, Hire an expert. Hire some. Hire you, hire be, you know, like five people who do this on a daily basis and will do it in a short amount of time. That's the best way of going about it. If you have high volume contracts that your in-house counsel is already working 50 hours a week, it's better to spend a little bit of money to bring an expert in who has seen so many of these and immediately look at your workflow and give you audit your workflow and give you feedback. If you don't have the budget for you, you can then plan out 2 hours every week or an hour a week to sit down and only focus on this specific project. And I'd start with creating flowcharts. And if you don't know how to use an app to sit down with a piece of paper and create your workflow first and see if it makes sense, is it logical? Right? Then, you know, look at the end goal and see why do you have to move? You know, my goal is to do things in as fewer steps as possible. If you have too many layers, too many steps, too many approvals, too many hands in the pot. Then that's when you start to recognize the problem. So visualize your workflow first and then look at where the issues are. But more importantly, hire experts. You know, we're not that expensive. We save time. And more importantly, you know, as you're getting ready to implement this new technology, you actually save a lot of time in the implementation part when you've already brought in someone to take a look at what you had. And most of these experts already know what the other column is like, so they can also save you time in connecting the dots at that time.
Marc Doucette [00:18:37] And how do you know, we're talking about this kind of this pre-implementation work and CRM readiness, whatever you want to call it. How do you get buy in from other members of the team that might say, Oh, now we've got this, we know how to do this internally, right? We don't need help with mapping out our own process, as we work these processes every day. So, you know, if there's somebody on the team that is trying to run this project, they know they need help, but they can't get other buy in from either, you know, stakeholders or some of their colleagues. How would you suggest they go about that?
Roma Khan [00:19:05] Well, you know, there are a few ways about it, right? See, I look at productivity and I look at the money that spend on the resource. So if you are a salary person and you are paid a certain amount of money to do certain tasks, then is it worth it for the company to pay this much per hour for you to run this project? You know, I'm big on using what you have. If you have people in the company are good project managers for sure, you know, utilize them and then bring people from other departments to help you with this project. So oftentimes, you know, again, a good example would be independent contractor agreements, right? If a company uses freelancers, the contract will go through legal. But H.R. has a hand in it because they're trying to figure out, is this person covered under workman's comp or not? So if you're trying to get a contract management tool and create a workflow just for independent contractors, bring somebody from H.R. Specifically the person who is responsible to then pulling up the contract and getting the workman's comp information in to see does this flow work? Right. So the way I've always done things in my company and have empowered my department is for any reason I'm not available can you someone else do the job. So training them to an extent in doing what what you're supposed to do or what the functionality is helps. So yeah, bring those other individuals in to sit down and look at all the time you've spent creating reports and you know, index for other departments or for board presentations. So oftentimes, again, finance will come in and say, hey, I want to know all the renewals and I want to know how many, you know, did we or we weren't able to cancel because we didn't hit the in the notice period. And so look at all the projects that you've done for finance, right? And the amount of time you spend. And again, if finance could just do this themselves and do it very quickly, then why shouldn't they have access to this tool? Right? So if you have help as a lawyer or the contracts' person, any department with their work on contracts, then bring those individuals in and show them the value of getting this preparedness and using the tool.
Marc Doucette [00:21:12] Right. Then let's say we get all the processes right. We add the CLM readiness, you got all the processes you brought, all the stakeholders. You do the implementation according to their needs. But now the next challenge is the adoption and the change management, which I think it's something that you get to tackle from the beginning, from the point when you start bringing the stakeholders into the discussion. Any tip or recommendation that you can give companies
Roma Khan [00:21:44] This is where I have a lot of feedback on. So, you know, one of the like the points that I noticed right when I used to help companies and I still consult is that the adoption and the abandonment of that technology because it just wasn't good enough. It wasn't easy enough, it wasn't explained well, and people just don't use it as much as they should have. The companies paying for a software for a solution, spend all this time implementing it and it still doesn't get used. People are still emailing contracts or sending it through Slack instead of using the CLM. So it is a very big problem in the industry. A big part of the reason for that is the vendors over selling the product or not understanding the user's needs. So they have sold something that may be really great, but it doesn't fit the user's problems and their needs. So that's one big starting point. Two, I recommend that legal teams and not hiring an expert to then sit down and become not an expert, but become very good at using the tool and then training the teams internally on this and allow an open door policy with the internal stakeholders and internal users to come to you if they have any questions. Oftentimes, you know, if somebody is in marketing, their job isn't to learn the CLM, their job is to get marketing done. And if they have a vendor contract, they just want to send it to you. What I found was most internal business people are very eager to help the contracts process. They come to the training calls, they listen to all the instructions, they forget the process often, but that's more of a generic office process that they forget. But they are very eager to support this tool. And the tool doesn't work all the time. If it has bugs, if it's not conducive to the company's process, then you know, it just doesn't get used as much. What I recommend again, is creating these very user-friendly, simple playbooks, instructions like notecards where you have one, two, three, and I like to limit everything to three steps, so you know how to submit a contract, 1 to 3, how to approve a contract, one, two, three steps like that and create them and put them somewhere where anyone can access them. So if somebody is submitting a contract and they forgot how to do it, they can just go to this guideline, use the 1 to 3 steps and submit it to designate a person in your legal department to answer questions on that technology. So your general counsel, you may have another deputy counsel and a paralegal, maybe assign a paralegal the responsibility to always answer the questions, turn on a ticketing system. If somebody has a problem with the CLM, don't send it to the vendor, try to resolve it internally because you understand the business better and host the initial trainings and then a month later say, we're going to do another round of training. You know, for anybody who wants to join and ask questions and share your problems with the software, then we can take it back to the vendor. So have an internal project manager basically to run, maintain and keep an eye on the product. And then most of the CLMs have their usage data on the back end ask the vendor to provide it if you can access it directly and see which department is using it the most, which user is using it the most, and those who are not using it, then reach out to them and ask why they're not using it. What's their big issue with it.
Marc Doucette [00:24:56] You make it sound so easy.
Roma Khan [00:24:59] Yeah. I would say that even with the easiest of CLMs, it's a 3 to 6 month implementation and another six months of getting familiarized and getting onboarded. So it's a 12-month commitment, just like with anything, any big software. So going in with eyes wide open, knowing that it's going to take a little bit of time and being if you're in the department that wanted the software, whether it's accounting or legal, then you have to commit to it and you have to be open to answering questions and you cannot get frustrated when people come to you and say, I'm trying to submit this contract and I'm running into issues you brought this to upon them. So you have to then walk them through every single time.
Marc Doucette [00:25:39] Yeah, I think the other thing that we're seeing more of now too, is as this the space matures and organizations maybe are going through their second iteration of a contract management application that they're understanding that, hey, maybe we do need to outsource this admin functionality to the organization. So I think that's becoming more prevalent. I think that's helping with user adoption and overall just satisfaction with whatever application the team does decide to move forward with.
Roma Khan [00:26:03] Right And we live in a world where almost everything is app dependent, right? You can't get away with not doing things in an analog manual way for too long. So the users also understand whether I like it or not, I'm going to have to use it at some point, so I might as well get on board, but then make it easier for them to stay on board. Rightly, they can do it. I'm doing it, but I don't like it, it shouldn't be the answer. It's like I'm doing it and I don't mind. It is actually okay. You know, we're not looking for a B where I've been looking for a B plus as long as, you know, we get a B review and access to things that should be good.
Marc Doucette [00:26:37] Yeah. I think we totally agree. We're definitely on the same page.
Roma Khan [00:26:42] Yes, we are.
Marc Doucette [00:26:44] This has been a fantastic conversation. Really, appreciate you giving some actionable tips I think that people can actually use right away and have some takeaways to to implement to help with wherever they are in their processes, whether they're using manual methods, looking for a CLM tool or using a CLM tool. So we really appreciate you joining us. And if folks want to learn more about you or Crush contracts where's the best place to connect?
Roma Khan [00:27:11] You can find me on LinkedIn. Just look up contracts queen and go to crush contract.com. It's one word.
Marc Doucette [00:27:19] Awesome. Well thanks so much Roma, and thanks everybody for listening to another episode of Contract Heroes.
Roma Khan [00:27:24] Thank you, guys. It's a pleasure talking to you. Bye.