Paul Sutton is a corporate and commercial lawyer with over 25 years or experience. He has used Documate in his own practice to build acclaimed expert systems for transfer pricing compliance. As a Documator, he works primarily for large law firms and corporations looking to build sophisticated and complex products.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a corporate and commercial lawyer by background, with over 25 years’ experience of working with large corporates and entrepreneurial businesses globally. I’ve held senior positions in various law firms, including a Director in KPMG’s law firm in the UK and a Corporate Partner in the London headquarters of Pinsent Masons, a global firm. I co-founded my own corporate law practice in 2013, and I’m a leading expert on corporate structuring for multinational groups and the legal implementation of transfer pricing compliance.
What is your document automation experience?
I’ve created a range of automation tools, both for my own firm’s internal use and for third party users (such as multinational corporates and professional advisers). These tools have included single agreements and engagement letters, as well as scoping tools and suites of inter-related documents and actions.
My first experience of applying document automation was a corporate partner leading certain aspects of a very large corporate simplification project. The tools and processes my colleagues and I created enabled the production of the legal documentation for certain legal actions up to and including the commencement of the liquidation of the relevant companies.
More recently, my colleagues and are focusing on Documate as the platform for creating user-friendly workflows for more complex arrangements and projects.
What areas of law or documents do you have experience in?
I have more than 25 years’ experience of corporate and commercial law, including M&A transactions, joint ventures, commercial contracts, group reorganisations, bond issuances and investment structures. I’ve lead Eurobond listing projects with a total value of more than US$ 14 billion, and have advised on the establishment of franchise structures for household name clients.
Can you describe your process for how you build a document automation workflow?
Our approach is to create a usable ‘minimum viable product’ as quickly as possible – one which provides immediate value in terms of efficiency and quality. Then we refine it and extend the functionality, based on user feedback.
In many ways, the hardest part is often ‘breaking the ice’ and creating the initial, working tool. However, in my experience, it’s the user input through ‘beta testing’ which enables us to develop the tool into something transformational.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a document automation specialist to have when working with a client to automate their templates and forms?
As with any area of professional assistance, it’s not enough to be an expert. The specialist must give guidance – and this means giving a view or a recommendation as to the way forward.
With contract drafting and document automation, there’s an infinite number of possible approaches. In order to achieve efficiency and quality benefits, it’s important to standardise processes, and this often requires narrowing down the options available to users. This in turn means making judgment calls about what functionality to include.
This is where my colleagues and I differentiate ourselves from other providers of document automation services – we bring deep experience of commercial structures and of managing teams within law firms. This enables us to bring a strategic and pragmatic view, in addition to purely technical know-how.
What is your proudest moment?
It’s hard to single out any particular professional moment. I’ve certainly enjoyed working on the big projects with multinational groups, including Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies, with clients including major airlines, well known telecoms providers and software groups. But the most satisfaction probably comes from enabling people to do things they didn’t expect to be able to achieve – such as raising funds for their business, meeting deadlines which appeared impossible, and creating new business models.
Aside from that, I’m proud of having written my book on ‘Intercompany Agreements for Transfer Pricing Compliance – A Practical Guide’. Anyone can write a book, but it does require discipline to free up time and actually write – and in my case it definitely required the support of my colleagues and my family.
What do you do for fun?
As a father of four, my most treasured moment is probably when all the children in bed (or at least not getting up to mischief), and I’m enjoying a glass of wine with my wife.
Paul can be contacted at email@example.com.