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Home   >Collaboration 101

What are Contract Documents?

January 10, 2024
What are Contract Documents?
Contract documents comprise a set of written materials that collectively form a legal agreement between two parties. While the contract itself is a crucial component, it's just one part of a larger ensemble of documents, each playing a vital role in defining and clarifying the terms of the agreement.

When negotiating a contract, it's important to understand that there is a set of documents that are exchanged between the two parties (and multiple participants in each party!), it’s not just the contract. 

The complete set, including the contract itself, makes up the “contract documents.” Collectively, the contract documents ensure the agreement is comprehensive, clear, and legally binding.

What are examples of contract documents?

Just how substantial is that set of documents moving between counterparties?  

Well, it depends. The number and complexity of contract documents depend on the specifics of the agreement (and often on the industry!).  One approach to understanding these documents is to categorize them based on their role or purpose in the context of the agreement.  That breakdown might look a little like this:

1. Core Legal Contracts

Essential for forming any contractual relationship, these documents establish the legal framework and terms of the agreement. They protect the interests of all parties and provide the legal structure for the engagement.

Example Documents:

  • Main Executable Contractand Exhibits: The primary document outlining the agreement's terms.
  • Amendments or Addendums: Modifications or updates to the original contract.
  • Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and Letters of Intent (LOIs): Preliminary agreements indicating the intent to enter into a contract.

2. Technical Specifications and Details

These documents ensure that all technical aspects of the contract are well-defined, serving as a blueprint for quality assurance and project success.

Example Documents:

  • Technical Specifications Document: Detailed descriptions of technical requirements.
  • Engineering Drawings and Product Blueprints: Visual representations of the project or product.
  • Work Schedules and Quality Assurance Protocols: Outline project timelines and quality standards.

3. Financial and Payment Documentation

Vital for outlining financial obligations and ensuring clear, timely payments, these documents help avoid financial disputes and provide clarity in monetary transactions.

Example Documents:

  • Purchase Orders: Formal requests for goods or services.
  • Cost Breakdown Sheets: Detailed financial breakdown of expenses.
  • Payment Schedules: Timeline for payments.
  • W-9 Forms (EIN): Used for tax identification and reporting.

4. Compliance and Regulatory Documents

These documents ensure adherence to legal, regulatory, and industry standards, critical for maintaining the contract's legal integrity and avoiding penalties.

Example Documents:

  • Certificate of Incorporation: Officially recognizes the formation of a corporation.
  • Compliance Certifications and Environmental Impact Assessments: Demonstrate adherence to specific laws and regulations.
  • Business Licenses and Permits: Legal permissions for certain types of work.

5. Risk Management and Insurance

Focused on minimizing potential risks and liabilities, these documents provide a safety net for unforeseen events and financial losses.

Example Documents:

  • Insurance Policies: Protect against specific risks, often proven by furnishing a certificate of insurance.
  • Risk Assessment Reports: Evaluate potential risks.
  • Indemnity Agreements and Performance Bonds: Provide financial protection and guarantees, e.g., surety bonds.

6. Project Management and Operational Guides

Key for guiding the execution of the contract, these documents provide structure and ensure consistency in operations, aligning with the contract's goals.

Example Documents:

  • Project Management Plans and Operational Manuals: Outline the strategy and procedures for project execution.
  • Progress Reports and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Regular updates on project status and detailed procedures.
  • Project Timelines and Milestones/Statements of Work (SOW): Define project timelines and specific work to be done.

7. Confidentiality and Data Protection

Ensuring the security of sensitive information, these documents are foundational in maintaining privacy and data integrity in business relationships.

Example Documents:

  • Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and Data Protection Agreements: Protect confidential information.
  • Privacy Policies and Security Protocols: Outline how personal data is managed and protected.
  • SOC2 Type 2 Reports, ISO 27001 Certificates: Demonstrate adherence to data security standards.

8. Stakeholder Communication and Engagement

Crucial for managing relationships and effective communication, these documents help maintain positive and clear interactions with all parties involved.

Example Documents:

  • Communication Plans: Strategies for effective communication.
  • Stakeholder Engagement Strategies: Plans for involving and managing stakeholders.

9. Industry-Specific Documents

Addressing unique requirements of specific sectors, these documents ensure the contract's relevance and adherence to industry practices.

Example Documents:

  • Construction: Site safety plans and environmental impact studies.
  • Healthcare: HIPAA compliance documents for patient privacy such as the Business Associate Agreement.
  • Technology: Software licensing agreements and intellectual property rights documents.
  • Finance: Investment disclosures and regulatory filings.
  • Entertainment: Licensing agreements and talent contracts.

How are Contract Documents Typically Exchanged?

While it’s still possible to exchange contract documents physically, for the most part, and in most business settings these documents are distributed electronically. The top ways that these documents are distributed include: 


By far, email is the most widely used method for sending and receiving contract documents. It allows for the attachment of documents in various formats and can include multiple recipients.


  • Ubiquity: Email is everywhere and used by everyone, there’s no need to teach professionals how to use email. 


  • Ubiquity: Because everyone uses email, inboxes are chronically overstuffed for most professionals. The volume itself creates a productivity drain, it’s hard to locate important contract documents and relevant communications. 
  • Security Risks: Email is vulnerable to interception (in transit) and hacking (in inboxes). A loss of confidentiality is not just embarrassing; it can be harmful to reaching an agreement and can spoil other ongoing, competing negotiations.
  • File Size Limitations: Since email is still not suitable for very large files, some teams blend email with file sharing. This creates a condition where parties have to start looking in multiple places for relevant documents.
  • Version Control: While subject-based threading can provide some semblance of history, it’s often very challenging to track document versions and changes. This can lead to confusion about the latest agreed-upon language, forcing more meetings and discussions.  

File Sharing 

File sharing platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive are widely used for exchanging contract documents, and they're particularly useful for large files. While these tools can function as a mutual 'file share' for both parties, they are more commonly employed as one-way distribution mechanisms. For instance, you might upload a document redline to a shared folder, but you wouldn't typically expect your counterpart to upload their redlines to the same place.


  • Centralized Access and Collaboration: These platforms offer a single location for storing and accessing contract documents, which streamlines collaboration.


  • (Typically) One-Way Distribution: As mentioned, these solutions are mostly used for one-way distribution. As a result, various contract documents (and their iterations) can be spread across multiple file-sharing platforms and emails. This can be the case if both parties are using different file-sharing solutions to exchange big contract documents. 
  • Security and Privacy Concerns: While these platforms are generally secure, the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches remains, especially concerning sensitive contract documents. Managing access rights and ensuring document security can be burdensome for businesses.
  • Control Imbalance: Typically, one party controls the cloud-based file share used for exchanging contract documents. This can lead to concerns about loss of negotiating power and impose an administrative burden on the party hosting all the files.
  • Version Control Challenges: Although file-sharing platforms offer better version control than email, managing document versions is still a manual affair, and conflicts or confusion can arise over the most current version of the documents.
  • Workflow Organization: While these platforms can organize files effectively, they don't necessarily help automate the exchange of files between parties.

Contract Lifecycle Management Platforms (and other enterprise applications)

The purpose of contract lifecycle management (CLM) software is to improve the overall contract management process for an organization. While some CLM tools do offer modules for contract document exchange, the platforms are most commonly used as a business’ specialized document management platform for contracts or a “contract vault.” 


  • Comprehensive Management: For an organization streamlines the entire contract lifecycle from creation to execution.
  • Advanced Security and Compliance: Provides robust security features 
  • Audit Trails and Version Control: Offers detailed logs of document revisions and access by internal stakeholders.


  • Limited External Collaboration Capabilities: CLM tools are primarily designed to eek out internal efficiency gains. Many do not and often fall short in facilitating collaboration with external parties like customers, suppliers, and vendors. This can limit their effectiveness in managing the logistics of contract document exchange.
  • User Adoption and Interface Issues: The complexity of CLM platforms can hinder user adoption, especially among external stakeholders. Most counterparties prefer using their own tools or default to email for contract negotiations, complicating the document exchange process.
  • Integration Challenges: Integrating CLM systems with other tools and processes used by external stakeholders can be difficult. This can lead to inefficiencies and challenges in the seamless exchange of contract documents.
  • Neutrality Concerns: There are significant concerns about neutrality when one party's CLM system is used for negotiations. External parties may feel disadvantaged or perceive a lack of fairness, impacting the willingness to engage and share documents.

Why You Should Consider an External Collaboration Software for Exchanging Contract Documents

TakeTurns improves contract negotiation it simplifies how you exchange contract documents with opposing counsel

External collaboration software, such as TakeTurns, address many of the disadvantages found when using email, file sharing, and CLM to exchange contract documents.

  • Centralized Content Management: These innovative tools establish a centralized hub for all negotiation-related materials. By aggregating documents, files, versions, and communications in one place, they significantly reduce the likelihood of miscommunication. This centralization not only streamlines access but also saves time, as all parties know precisely where to find needed information.
  • Structured Workflows: With structured workflows for document exchange, such as the turn-based approach in TakeTurns, every party is clear on when it is their turn to review, comment, or edit. This structure minimizes confusion and greatly enhances the efficiency and flow of the negotiation process.
  • Enhanced Version Control: Tackling one of the most significant challenges in contract management, these tools offer robust version control features. They ensure all parties are always working on the correct version of a document, meticulously tracking and recording each change for complete transparency.
  • Improved Transparency and Accountability: Features like detailed activity timelines and explicit turn-by-turn workflows provide all parties with a transparent view of the negotiation’s progress. Such visibility fosters trust and accountability, with every action taken on the document being recorded and readily visible.
  • Security and Compliance: In the sensitive arena of contract negotiations, the security of information is non-negotiable. External collaboration tools come equipped with advanced security features to safeguard sensitive data. Moreover, they aid in adhering to record retention and privacy regulations, ensuring a secure and compliant archival of all negotiation activities.
  • Time and Cost Efficiency: By effectively streamlining the negotiation process and curtailing the typical back-and-forth of contract discussions, these tools yield significant time and cost savings. Efficiency is not just a benefit but a necessity in fast-paced business environments.
  • Ease of Onboarding New Participants: Introducing new stakeholders into ongoing negotiations is streamlined with these tools. Their comprehensive overview of past communications and document changes facilitates a rapid and seamless integration process for newcomers.

In summary, external collaboration tools like TakeTurns present a modern, sophisticated solution to the multifaceted challenges of contract negotiation and document exchange. By adding structure, security, and transparency, they improve efficiency and are an indispensable asset for any organization engaged in frequent contract negotiations, offering a significant advantage in the complex world of modern business.


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