Contract Manager: How to Find (or Become) One

Contracts are an integral part of any business because they lay out expectations and obligations for you and the company you’re doing business with. 

Good partnership is all about observing contractual terms, fulfilling obligations, and renewing deals if and when necessary. To ensure that each side benefits from the partnership, a responsible person should look after these processes. In many industries ‘ legal included ‘ this person is a contract manager. And no, it’s not someone who only brings or sends agreements to sign.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into

  • who contract managers are
  • why these employees are key players in your business 
  • how to understand that you’ve hired a skilled one 
  • how to become a sought-after candidate for the job
  • what technologies help streamline the paperwork processes. 

Let’s start with a contract manager profile. 

Who is a contract manager?

A contract manager (CM) is responsible for managing and contracting for procurement, sales, and non-sales deals. CM oversees projects that the hiring organization is involved in, from negotiations to post-signing. 

Simply put, this employee makes sure that every contract your organization has signed fully supports your business goals, and observes the terms and obligations that the sides agreed to. 

While contract managers work across industries, including real estate, healthcare, and construction, law firms need these professionals like nobody else. The reason? Dealing with contracts is every legal practice’s day-to-day business. Contracts are simply wired into their business model.

Contract managers make sure that every contract your organization has signed fully supports your business goals, and observes the terms and obligations that the sides agreed to. 

Every enterprise signs dozens of contracts and agreements with its employees, clients, partners, and investors ‘ from employment and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to sales and procurement contracts. Each of them requires drafting and administrative supervision of deadlines, signees, payment/identification/company details, budgets, addendums, contract changes, breaches, and outcomes. However, that’s only a small part of what contract managers are hired for.

What contract managers do: roles and responsibilities

A contract manager role can’t be underestimated: CMs are responsible for the outcome of any contract-based project. They work closely with paralegals, lawyers, HR managers, administrators, and top-level executives, which makes them ‘liaison officers’ between the companies and their clients. However, the roles of a contract manager within the company vary.

In small enterprises, contract managers usually double as paralegals or lawyers bearing legal and administrative responsibility. They ensure that contractual parties hash out all the terms and conditions, meet deadlines, and do paperwork, storing it securely. Medium to large enterprises often delegate managerial tasks to contract managers, so their lawyers can focus on the content of deals. 

Here’s a typical career path for contract managers:

Source: PayScale

Large enterprises set up teams that overview contract details based on industry-accepted terms and parameters. Contract managers often work together with internal and client’s corporate counsels to ensure the best outcome for all the parties.

Contract manager responsibilities: The ultimate list

Guided by our experience, market research, and industry specifics, we pulled together a list of responsibilities of contract managers in the legal field. So, what exactly do they do?

  • Meet customers and discuss their business needs
  • Participate in contract negotiations and take care of the company’s interests throughout the process
  • Serve as the first point of contact during negotiations
  • Partner with finance, marketing, legal, and product departments to ensure appropriate contractual wording
  • Draft, evaluate, and execute contracts for the lawyers to review for consistency, clarity, and lawfulness
  • Overview market dynamics to make sure the terms of existing contracts remain relevant so the company stays competitive 
  • Collect and keep all contractual documentation, correspondence, records, and reports 
  • Run risk analysis for every document and suggest mitigating options
  • Prepare tender and commercial bids to land new clients
  • Coordinate budgets and timescales with other parties
  • Manage contract terminations, cancellations, renewals, or renegotiations
  • Provide updates to internal stakeholders
  • Resolve any issues arising from contractual processes

Senior contract managers also supervise junior employees and update the CM playbook based on research findings. They also organize trainings and work closely with the HR department to monitor the newcomers’ performance.

It seems like a position for a smart, detail-oriented, business-driven person, right? It’s true, but that’s not the whole list of skills your employer will (and should) look at. 

How to become a contract manager

It’s hard to start a career as a contract manager without these things: 

  • Relevant education
  • Hands-on experience
  • Strong interpersonal and technical skills
  • Industry knowledge 

The good news is that you can get all of them under your belt with time ‘ and put them on your CV. Let’s see what contracts manager qualifications and skills you must have to become a competitive CM applicant. 

Skills and qualifications for contract managers

It might seem from the previous list that a contract manager is someone doing tons of paperwork for lawyers, but that’s not exactly true. Contracts are more about people and their relationships and less about laws and documents. In fact, contract managers are acting as a go-between among them. Here’s a list of must-have skills and qualifications of a successful CM. 

CM skillsCM qualifications
– Strong negotiating skills
– Excellent verbal/writing communication skills and interpersonal intelligence
– Ability to work both autonomously and in a team
– Proactivity and problem-solving
– Proficiency with legal paperwork software, document processing tools, MS Suite, and document management systems
– Ability to prioritize and multitask
– Attention to detail
– Proficiency in handling confidential information
– Legal training/law degree for those who combine legal practice and contract management
– Completed Contract Management course, online or at a local college
– Up-to-date knowledge of contract law
– In-depth knowledge of specific industry
– Experience in a specific management area
– Experience with data capture systems
– Foreign language skills, particularly for those working in an international environment or with overseas clients

The ultimate list of skills and qualifications will depend on the company’s sector and its operational needs. 

Some may hire a graduate fresh from college and offer training that would cover particular industry-related issues. Others seek experienced professionals who can manage large-scale projects and work with high-profile clients. But there’s one skill every employer is looking for: proficiency with contract lifecycle management (CLM) systems. Here’s why. 

The role of CLM for contract managers

Digitization of paperwork processes is a critical step to remaining competitive. Legal businesses that want to continue providing their services and expand their geography adopt solutions that would allow borderless approach. They also seek people who know how to use them. 

CLM systems allow the contract managers to manage the contractual paperwork in less time and store everything in one secure place. Here’s the full list of CLM features that simplify the contract specialist workflow:

  • Possibility to draft complex industry-specific documents in 80% less time
  • Multilingual interface and document base (templates, drafts, etc.)
  • Brand compliance across the contractual paperwork
  • Client database and automatic gap-fill with the client details
  • Team collaboration mode
  • Ability to invite third-party to collaborate/approve
  • Option to import existing contracts into software
  • E-signature
  • Integration of public registries into the software database
  • Option to re-use deal data across all related paperwork
  • Simultaneous creation of multiple documents for the same client
  • Role management
  • Statistic reports
  • Extracting the documents in various formats for printing

Proficiency with CLM is a key to becoming a productive contract manager who spends time on creating relationships rather than writing documents. 

In addition to other things like company role, responsibilities, and skills, CLM expertise influences compensation rates. Let’s see how much you can get paid for managing contracts. 

Contract manager salary

CM compensation depends on many factors: experience, education, certification, skills, negotiation, and references. The salary for a contracts manager also depends on the country or state where they apply for the job. 

According to PayScale, the average CM’s base salary in the US is $82,592 per year. The position comes with benefits and bonuses, specific for each employer. Salary.com states that contract managers earn from $71,883 to $91,363.

Source: PayScale

It’s not only location that influences the salary ‘ gender plays a role here, too. According to Zippia, women earn 93 cents for every dollar earned by men, which leads to a 7% difference between the medium salaries across the States. 

Now that you know all about the requirements and compensation, it’s time to look for the best offers. Where can you search for them?

Where to find contract manager jobs

Currently, the US has 43,634 employed contract managers. According to Zippia demographic research and statistics on contract manager positions, New York, Texas, and California are locations where CMs are in the highest demand. The company developed an interactive job opening map to see the number of offers in each state easily. 

Source: Zippia

Personal referencing, LinkedIn, and social networks remain important sources for a job posting and searching. Other websites to find contract manager jobs in the US include:

If you’re looking for a position of contract manager in Europe, check out these job aggregators:

Businesses offer full- or part-time, remote or office-based employment, and sometimes ‘ relocation. Make sure you have your CV, references, and motivation letters in place to apply for a job where you can grow professionally. 

Modern contract managers need advanced solutions

Contract managers are key employees in any organization as they make sure that the company’s agenda and relations with partners match the agreed terms. Just like many other professionals, they’re working now in a new, digitalized environment. To meet clients’ expectations of efficiency, security, and performance, contract managers deal with contractual paperwork using top-notch technologies and tools. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and restrictions, companies open remote CM positions. They often hire professionals from around the world and switch to remote paperwork management supported by modern technologies and instruments. AXDRAFT is one of these solutions. 

Designed to ensure quality paperwork management, legal drafting, and secure cloud storing, AXDRAFT powers the employees of legal firms around the globe with a reliable tool that helps them do their work faster. Like, 80% faster. Contact our representative to see how we can streamline the process of contract management for you. 

FAQ

Are contract managers lawyers?

Contract managers can be lawyers, but not necessarily. For some, it’s enough to have an MBA degree or complete a Contract Management course. It depends on the business needs and responsibilities in a particular organization.

Do you need a law degree to be a contract manager?

It depends on the company’s requirements, its clients, reputation, and business strategy. A law degree is a great benefit for the applicant, to be sure. But having an understanding of the business processes linked to contract execution and being a strong negotiator is even more valuable.

Who is a certified contract manager?

A certified contract manager is a manager who has successfully completed the course in Contract Management and obtained a certificate showing the hours, curriculum, and achievements that the person gained during the course.

How can I be a good contract manager?

To be a sought-after contract manager, you need to have a legal background and the experience of working in a similar position. You must pass the certification test and be proficient in using the technologies that streamline contract paperwork management and follow-up processes.

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