Contract Family Dynamics

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious … and often a tangled mess. They’re contract families!

Claire Williams | May 27, 2020

Rishi Khullar // October 25, 2021

♫ They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious ♫ … and often a tangled mess. They’re contract families!

When we say “contract families”, we mean groups of related documents that need to be thought of as a bundle, not only individually. For example, let’s say you are a large company that employs thousands of people and you need to review those employment agreements to extract compensation amounts for key executives.

For any single employee, you may have an employment agreement that has been amended four times and the compensation section may have changed each time the document was amended! Now you’re looking at five documents total (for that singular employee) that are now a contract family. On top of that, there may have been other key terms that have changed with each new amendment that you need to be aware of as well. 

To make matters even more complicated, it’s not just amendments that may be included in the family; there could also be additional related documents like stock agreements or other financial schedules/exhibits. In this example, if we multiply that same scenario across all the executives’ employment agreements, you can see how managing, let alone reviewing, dozens of contract families could get pretty scary.

Regardless of the type of contract review project, the most common challenges when reviewing contract families are:

  • Identifying contract families – It may not be obvious which documents should belong in which families. You’d hope that your client has organized the documents in folders and named or tagged them appropriately to make this easier, but that’s not always the case! If there is any platform for the job, it’s one like Relativity that is a document review system purpose-built for the collection, processing, and organizing of messy data sets.
  • Summarizing contract families’ data – Once you do have all the contract families properly organized, it’s a hard problem to extract data into fields at the FAMILY-level, as opposed to only at the individual document level. How do you roll everything up to the family?
  • Visualizing contract family data – If you’ve managed to solve that problem, it’s also hard to visualize and report on key data at the FAMILY-level so that you can proudly hand over to your client an easy-to-understand dashboard of the data they actually care about.

To solve this problem, many of our clients use Relativity Dynamic Objects (RDOs) which are object types that you can create and manage from within your Relativity workspaces. You can create custom objects and add whatever fields you want to those objects to store information at the object level. You can also attach external applications such as event handlers and rules to extend the functionality of the custom objects you create.

A smart way to approach the problem

To approach the challenges of reviewing contract families, we are seeing Heretik customers creating “Contract Family” custom objects in Relativity. They will then create a new object for each contract family and add a field to that object for the documents comprising that family, along with other fields to store key data at the family level.

Here is a family, here are the documents in that family, and here are the key data points that my client cares about at the family-level.

In the employment agreement example, a Heretik user would create a contract family object for the employment agreement family, and a field for “Compensation” on the family object, and then code that field with the latest source of truth for the family. 

Limitations to this approach in Relativity

When you use Relativity for long enough, you learn that custom objects don’t enjoy the same benefits as the document object. Exhibit A (no pun intended) is that the Relativity Viewer is completely centered around the document. There is no concept of a viewer for objects you create.

If you want to extract information into fields at the object level, you have two options if you were only using Relativity only without Heretik:

  • You could add a single/multiple object field to a document layout and then individually, at the document level in the Relativity viewer, you could fill out information within that object list. This is a terrible coding experience because you are forced within a very small area of real estate on a layout in the viewer and the viewer experience, as mentioned above, is really centered around the document and not the object. But as we now know, the whole crux of the challenge is how to organize data at the object level, not at the document level. It’s a second-class experience for objects that deserve to be first class citizens.
  • You could edit the object from the Relativity list page and then on layouts for that object, fill in the fields. This is also a terrible coding experience because you can’t view the documents alongside your fields. You’re on a Relativity form page and there is no viewer for documents in there which is absolutely necessary so you know how you should fill out the fields! It’s not as if you could fill out the latest source of truth for compensation information from memory! You need to put eyes on the documents in a fully-featured viewer.

How Heretik fills this gap

With Heretik’s latest and greatest release, Pythagoras, you can now configure this Contract Family object (or any custom object), to open in the Heretik Viewer when clicking the edit button from the Relativity object list page. Once in the Heretik Viewer, you are now in ‘Object Coding Mode’ where, hallelujah, the viewer is completely centered around your custom object and NOT the document object. Woohoo!

This means that the queue of items in the viewer is for your object. If you have ten contract families, the queue of items will be ten. The layouts on the right-hand side of the viewer are layouts on your contract family object. The field you added to your object’s layout for documents shows up as a list so you can see and navigate to all of the documents within each family.

What’s really next-level is that you can send to field on the contract family layout across documents within the family and when you click on the field, it will auto-navigate you to the correct document and the correct location within that document. For example, you could have sent the original effective date to field on the original contract, and the latest effective date to field on the latest amendment, and both locations will be hyperlinked to each separate field as you’d hope. 

We’ve really put a lot of thought into this solution because all our customers have told us time and time again that contract families in review projects present hard problems that the market hasn’t yet developed great solutions for. If you’re interested in learning more about our recent Pythagoras release, or want to talk through the problem of reviewing contract families, let’s chat!


Rishi Blog Photo


Rishi is the Director of Product at Heretik. Prior to Heretik, he worked as a product manager at Relativity. Rishi began his career as a lawyer and worked as a judicial clerk for the Virgin Islands.