In a previous startup business, six other shareholders and I needed to sign a shareholder agreement when we raised new capital – what a process! Unbelievably, it took three months and tens of thousands of dollars to reach consensus and finally sign it.
So why did it take so long?
The main issue was the difficulty for everyone to fully understanding the agreement. While all shareholders were pretty smart people, some were unaccustomed to reading large legal documents. The one in this case was over 50 pages (and are often far larger), and like many of its type, highly convoluted by umpteen cross-references, and contained over one hundred defined terms.
It would have been easier if the definitions were all in one place, but typically they were scattered over the document (do lawyers think we enjoy treasure hunts?).
The result? Instead of everyone beginning to negotiate with a good understanding of the agreement, their knowledge evolved bit by bit over several weeks of negotiations and consultations with lawyers. By the end of the process the combined legal bill was over $40,000.
I was sure there must be an easier way – perhaps some software that could help readers understand contracts more easily. Alas, there was none – until I created Pagemap, a software tool that makes understand a contract far easier, and therefore speeds up the whole process, saving lots of money on the way.
How does it does this?
Firstly, it identifies and marks up all the defined terms, and whenever you see a defined term in the text, you can click on it and its definition pops-up right there in context.
Next, it finds all the cross-references and creates hyperlinks where they’ve been lost (when you save a Word document as a PDF, cross-reference hyperlinks are lost). In a similar way to define terms, Pagemap will pop-up the destination text for a cross-reference so you can see it in contest.
On top of that you can search for many keywords ad phrases simultaneously, and save frequently used ones to use later. Dates are easy to find with an automatic date search feature. And of course it’s easy to share all of this by inviting colleagues to view your document (either Word or PDF) in Pagemap.