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What's the difference between a template and a contract?
What's the difference between a template and a contract?
Templates are the source documents for contracts; only team members interact with templates, while contracts can be shared externally.
Julie avatar
Written by Julie
Updated over a week ago

Contracts and templates are connected.

Templates are master copies for your frequently-used legal agreements; you can think of them as a kind of blue-print, while contracts are the resulting products.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of a template (left) and the contract generated from it (right):

As seen above, the contract (right) contains the legal language present in the template (left), and dynamic variables for deal-specific information which have been formatted in the template show up as fill-able fields in the contract ("Company" and "date" fields above). Space for exhibits, appendices and e-signature fields may also be inserted into a template to hold space for this content in resulting contracts.

Templates and contracts are accessed in different environments.

The template viewer/editor is accessed via the Templates Tab, and the contract review environment is accessed via the Contracts Tab or Dashboard reports. 

Because contracts can be shared externally (with counter parties for instance), anyone may visit the contract review environment for a deal they are authorized to access. Templates, on the other hand, are only accessible internally, to authorized team members.

Template Editor

The Template tab is where your team's existing templates are stored ("template library"). Any template in the library can be opened and edited here.

This is also where new templates can be created by pasting or typing text into a blank template or by uploading a Word (.docx) document:

Legal text, dynamic variables, and automated "behaviors" such as conditional logic or auto-sharing with recipients are inserted and configured in the template editor. One of the most important dynamic features to be familiar with is the e-signature block, which looks like this:

Note that this template field is a placeholder. It holds space for names and signatures of parties in contracts generated from this template, but the template itself cannot be signed. Here is what the e-signature field looks like in the resulting contract:

Configuration of this placeholder also determines signing behavior. Because the "Show date stamps on signatures" box was checked in the template, the signatures are date-stamped in the contract; if the box had been left unchecked in the template, the signatures would not have been date-stamped in the contract.

In other words, when creating a template it is wise to carefully consider what content and dynamic features to include, because these content and settings configured in a template apply to each new contract generated from it.

Contract Review Environment

Team members can generate contracts from any template that is set to "active." As soon as a contract is created, it becomes independent from the template it was generated from, and from then on it will be accessed in the contract review environment, via the Contracts Tab (or Dashboard reports).

The contract review environment is tailored to the tasks of collaboratively reviewing, editing, negotiation, and executing contracts, and has many tools and features to support these tasks, from red-lining to version history, to one-click sharing and e-signature. Click here to browse articles related to contract review and negotiation.

Should I edit the template or the contract?

In most cases, you will be editing contracts, not templates. Templates should be preserved as bulletproof, sanctioned "master copies" for your frequently-used agreement types, while each contract is inherently unique, containing deal-specific information and moving through negotiation toward signing. To change something for a particular deal, edit in the contract review environment. 

If on the other hand your standard deal process is evolving and you want to change something for all future contracts, edit the template (only Editor and Owner team members can edit templates). Note that changes to templates are not retroactive. That is, such changes impact future contracts, but do not apply to contracts created previously.

A more powerful contract management tool

Outlaw combine the functions of Word, printer/scanner/fax, email, and third party e-signature all into one immensely powerful platform. Having distinct environments for template creation and contract review means users can create, send, negotiate, and sign deals all on Outlaw, making it a far more flexible and comprehensive solution for helping you achieve a wider variety of contract management goals!

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