Change often begins with breaking habits, and legal workflow automation is one such change that is being embraced by many law firms.
Lawyers face this daunting task of stepping away from the familiar in place of a better way of doing things.
That’s true for the way lawyers work. For all of us, improvement is always an option. There are viable alternatives and choices for those lawyers who want to regain sanity or improve efficiency by automating some of their processes. Legal workflow automation can help lawyers liberate themselves.
Understanding legal workflow automation
In the ever-evolving legal landscape, law firms, and legal departments continuously seek innovative ways to improve their productivity and efficiency. Legal workflow automation has emerged as a powerful solution to address this need.
This comprehensive blog will delve into legal workflow automation, covering everything from its definition and benefits to implementation and best practices.
Whether you are a legal professional, a law firm, or a corporate legal department, understanding and embracing legal workflow automation can significantly improve your legal operations.
What is legal workflow automation?
In a professional context, workflows are an intentional process for streamlining work. Legal workflow automation refers to using technology to streamline and simplify various processes, making them more efficient, cost-effective, and error-free in the context of a law firm.
Developing legal workflow involves the creation of automated workflows that handle repetitive and rule-based tasks, allowing legal professionals to focus on higher-value, strategic work.
Why is legal workflow automation relevant?
Old-school pen-and-paper practices could be more efficient. A step above old-school paper processes is a practice built on simple tech solutions like Excel spreadsheets that require a lot of manual input.
Some lawyers feel a particular affinity and security with their tried and true processes. Legal workflow automation allows lawyers and law firms to scale and work more efficiently.
Legal workflow automation has gained prominence due to several compelling reasons:
- Improved efficiency: Automating routine legal tasks, such as document assembly, contract review, and compliance tracking, reduces the time and effort required, leading to higher productivity.
- Cost savings: By minimizing manual labor and reducing errors, automation leads to cost savings in both time and resources.
- Enhanced accuracy: Automation eliminates human errors, ensuring legal processes are executed consistently and accurately.
- Compliance and risk mitigation: Automation can help ensure that legal processes adhere to regulations, reducing non-compliance risk.
What legal services can be automated?
Indeed, automation cannot cover all aspects, but certain components within legal workflows readily align with automation.
Examples of legal services that can be automated include:
Contract drafting and review
Contract drafting is a pivotal process aimed at streamlining the creation of legally binding agreements.
Through automated systems, contracts can be drafted efficiently while adhering to relevant legal standards and customized to meet specific needs.
The automation process typically involves the utilization of software equipped with templates, predefined clauses, and logic-based algorithms to generate contracts accurately and promptly, allowing legal professionals to focus on higher-value tasks such as negotiation and strategic analysis.
Legal contract software systems will typically provide mechanisms for version control, audit trails, and compliance tracking, thereby enhancing overall transparency and accountability in the contracting process.
Examples of legal contract software: HighQ; Clio
eFiling legal workflow automation completely changes the traditional filing process by digitizing and streamlining document submission to courts and regulatory bodies.
Through automated systems, documents are prepared, validated, and submitted electronically, reducing manual errors and processing times.
eFiling automation typically involves integrating software solutions with court systems, enabling seamless document exchange and tracking, which improves accessibility, transparency, and compliance while minimizing paperwork and logistical challenges associated with physical filings.
Additionally, eFiling automation often includes features such as document indexing, electronic signatures, and status notifications, empowering legal professionals to manage filings efficiently and focus on core legal activities.
Example of eFiling provider: One Legal
Legal research workflow automation optimizes the process of gathering, analyzing, and organizing legal information.
Through specialized software, algorithms, and databases, legal professionals can efficiently search for relevant case law, statutes, regulations, and precedents.
Automation tools streamline the retrieval of information from diverse sources, improving accuracy and reducing the time required for research.
Moreover, these systems often offer features such as document summarization, citation management, and trend analysis, enabling legal practitioners to make informed decisions more effectively.
Example of legal research automation tool: Westlaw Precision;
Legal compliance workflow automation involves the systematic use of technology to ensure adherence to laws, regulations, and internal policies within organizations.
With specialized software, compliance tasks such as monitoring, auditing, and reporting are streamlined and standardized. Automation tools facilitate the tracking of regulatory changes, the implementation of controls, and the management of compliance documentation.
They also enable real-time monitoring of activities and flag potential compliance issues for prompt resolution.
By automating compliance workflows, organizations can reduce human error, improve efficiency, and demonstrate a commitment to regulatory integrity, which helps mitigate legal risks, protect reputation, and foster a culture of compliance throughout the organization.
Example of legal compliance software: Quentic
Improved sanity (and other benefits of legal workflow automation)
Developing processes to run your legal practice more efficiently has many benefits. Chief among the list is sanity.
Developing workflows helps law firm owners, lawyers, and clients have more understanding and trust in how work is moving through the production line of the law firm.
Benefits include streamlined work, accelerated production lifecycles, enhanced collaboration, data-driven insights, compliance and risk management, and more.
- Streamlined document management: Legal workflow automation can greatly simplify document management by efficiently organizing, storing, and retrieving documents, saving time and reducing the risk of document loss.
- Accelerated production lifecycles: Automating contract drafting, review, and approval processes can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete contract lifecycles, leading to quicker decision-making and revenue realization.
- Enhanced collaboration: Automation tools often facilitate better cooperation among legal teams, clients, and other stakeholders, promoting transparency and knowledge sharing.
- Data-driven insights: Automation tools can collect data on legal processes, helping legal professionals make data-driven decisions, allocate resources more effectively, and identify areas for improvement.
- Compliance and risk management: Legal workflow automation can provide continuous monitoring and alerts for compliance, reducing the risk of legal issues and fines.
Undoubtedly, the development and implementation of legal workflows and automation will benefit your law firm, but should you go about it?
Tips on developing and implementing legal workflow automation
Consider these tips as you build workflows for your law firm. A foundational step is the development of your firm’s unique workflows. You’ll want to think through what deliverables your law firm consistently produces for clients.
Have you written a specific workflow for each of the substantive work product or administrative tasks your law firm consistently produces? If not, you should set out to do so. It’s good to have this for all routinely occurring tasks.
Once you’ve taken stock of what types of projects you routinely perform and how to perform those tasks to the firm’s unique standards, you can identify the more frequently occurring to build out digital legal workflow automation.
You’ll also want to select which software or other digital tools you’d prefer to use to digitize and automate your workflows.
Step 1: Assess your law firm’s routine tasks and deliverables
Before implementing legal workflow automation, assessing your specific needs and goals is essential. Consider which legal processes are the most time-consuming and error-prone, and prioritize them for automation.
Step 2: Choosing the digital automation tools with features aligning with your needs.
Selecting the appropriate software or tools is crucial. Research and choose tools that align with your automation goals, offer scalability, and integrate seamlessly with your existing systems.
Step 3: Digitize and automate your written workflows using your selected software.
Work with your legal team to design workflows that define the steps, responsibilities, and decision points in your legal processes. Customization is key to ensuring that automation meets your unique requirements.
Step 4: Test, optimize, and evolve.
Thoroughly test your automated workflows and continuously optimize them for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance. As your business, team, and offerings evolve, so must your internal operations.
Instead of seeing this as an annoyance, you want to foster an internal culture that is agile and open to understanding that constant growth, improvement, and change are essential for any business, including law firms!
Step 5: Continued training and management.
Getting comfortable with new workflows and tools won’t happen overnight. You’ll want to provide training to your team to ensure they can effectively use the automation tools, understand the high-level objectives of the workflows, and allow them to give feedback on the process.
You want to encourage your team to take an active and engaged role in this process, empowering the team to ask questions and pose suggestions on what else the firm might benefit from automating.
Implementing change management strategies to ease the transition to automated processes can help with this. Law firms and lawyers are notoriously bad managers.
Don’t fall into that trap. All teams, no matter how high-performing, need managing. You must have an accountability process and management system to ensure your team implements the workflows and processes.
Additional best practices for legal workflow automation
As you develop your legal workflow automation, remember to be patient with yourself! Your processes will continue to improve and evolve with time and effort. Here are some best practices to apply as you build your workflow automation.
- Start small and scale: Begin with a limited scope and gradually expand automation efforts as your team becomes more comfortable with the technology.
- Embrace integration: Integrate your automation tools with existing software and systems to create a seamless workflow.
- Monitor and update: Regularly monitor and update your automated workflows to align with changing legal requirements and best practices.
- Secure data: Implement robust data security measures to protect sensitive legal information.
Legal workflow automation has become indispensable in a legal landscape that demands efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and accuracy.
Streamlining processes, reducing errors, and enhancing collaboration empower legal professionals to focus on strategic work and better serve their clients. Embracing automation is the key to a more efficient and effective legal practice.