I know it is not very common for law students to know exactly every law-related job, especially as some of them have not been created yet. That is why I thought it would be interesting to talk a little bit about contract management today.I hope it will give you an insight into contract management, based on my own – albeit small – experience.
Indeed, I did an internship in a legal department where I was the only one with a legal background : all my colleagues were contract managers, and for most of them, used to be engineers. It was very interesting since I did not know anything about this job before discovering the internship offer.
Contract management is a quite recent position, and is not available in all firms. It is more likely to find contract managers in a big firm where contracts involve millions of dollars/euros/pounds. However, contract management rarely exists on its own, since it is often attached to the financial or the legal department. As the name implies, the contract manager has three main missions.
- First, the contract manager is involved in the pre-contractual period. He is in charge of negotiating the contract, the prices, the clauses whether they are technical or legal. Of course, since the contract manager may not have a legal background, he may ask for some advice to lawyers for specific questions, or also ask questions to engineers for technical information. As long as the contract is not signed, he is one of the customer’s privileged interlocutors.
- Secondly, the contract manager has to manage also the problems that may arise during the execution of the contract. If there are delays or breaches of contract, the contractor will ask for compensation, and the contact manager will negotiate the amount of damage asked.
- Thirdly, the contract manager is needed to ensure that the contract is fully executed and that it ends properly. If the contract ends well, it enhances the possibilities of signing a new contract with the same contractor.
You may be wondering why contract management can be interesting for a law student. Actually, at the moment, only two degrees in France offer contract management classes (the European School of Contract Management, and Paris II Panthéon-Assas), and it is not really a job for juniors. It is really recommended to have some experience as a lawyer or an engineer in the firm. The contract manager must know perfectly the product or the service the firm sells. He has multiple roles: engineer, lawyer, negotiator… Therefore, he must have some experience in at least one of these areas. Certainly, if a very specific, or complex, problem was to arise, the contract manager would (and even must!) have to work with engineers and lawyers specialized in the suitable realm.
If you are interested in working as an in-house lawyer with different occupations than lawyers’ and paralegals’ only, you could want to become a contract manager. Your legal background and experience as an in-house lawyer will be valuable to cope with the negotiation of the contract, the understanding of the clauses, intellectual property matters, environmental protection regulation, labour law… You must be flexible and eager to learn about financial aspects of an offer, insurance policies, export control matters, ethics, intellectual property…
If you are given the opportunity of an internship in a contract management department, consider it as a possibility to learn law in a very practical way, and teach law to your colleagues, who may not be aware of all the subtleties of this complex area of study.