As many newly minted lawyers come to learn when they first set foot in a law firm, the reality of the modern corporate business deal isn’t something that’s taught in law school.
Whether for a small family-run business or a multi-billion-dollar corporation, the process of closing a deal is a painstaking, time-consuming and manual process that requires numerous documents and sometimes tens of thousands of printed papers — all sorted and assembled in manila folders by a junior lawyer at 4 a.m.
It’s a reality Sahil Zaman, JD’12, and Gordon Cassie, JD’12, weren’t prepared for when they landed as articling students at respective Toronto Bay Street law firms.
“Law firms are great at giving advice on how to structure a transaction; what they’re not great at is actually managing the workflow of those transactions,” Zaman said. “It’s not just that the process is inefficient and tedious — although that’s one thing — it also leads to a lot of errors.”
Trading notes over drinks one night, Zaman and Cassie determined there had to be a more efficient way to close a deal.
And so, with Cassie’s tech background on their side, the friends set out to build a better way. The result is Closing Folders, a web-based software that centralizes and automates the corporate legal transaction process.
Since its launch in 2013, Closing Folders has been purchased by some of the country’s largest corporate law firms. Thanks to a $500,000 gift-in-kind of licenses from the company, Western Law students are now getting a taste of the reality of a corporate business deal. They’re also getting first-hand training on software that, according to Western Law lecturer Russel Drew, is becoming more and more prevalent at corporate law firms.
“There’s a need to find more efficient ways to serve clients. This product saves so much time,” said Drew, who is using Closing Folders as a hands-on learning opportunity in his class, The Art of the Deal. “I try to keep the course practical and show them how a deal works. For students to be able to take advantage of a product like Closing Folders is a huge plus. It really does give them a leg up when they start out — even just to understand the processes and what they are getting into. It’s significant.”
Students will be using Closing Folders throughout the 2016-17 term to go through the process of negotiating a contract and seeing it through to closing. It’s Zaman’s hope this experience and opportunity will open students’ eyes to the reality of corporate law and give them an advantage when they enter the workforce.
“I didn’t even know what a closing agenda was, or what was contained in signing packages. Our primary goal in making this gift is to help prepare Western Law students with practical transactional training,” Zaman said. “I had a feeling when I was at Western that there was something special there. I knew I wanted to give back. I always thought I’d be a lawyer and would give back once I became partner. It’s a great feeling to be able to do this now. I only wish I could do more.”
Closing Folders will soon launch in the United States with several top tier law firms. Zaman said there’s worldwide potential for the product since the software doesn’t depend on the legal system of a country.
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