Let’s ask a more pertinent question: How does the risk involved in increasing your firm’s use of automation compare to the risk involved in not doing so?
It would be pretty surprising if your firm didn’t already apply technology to the basics, like time tracking, document management, customer relationship management, etc. If you haven’t done these basics because you believe them to be risky, then I can save you some time: I don’t think the rest of this blog is for you.
Fully and Semi-Automated
The next “level up” in automation would be to automate interviews, and generate documents either in full or in part. In response to this recommendation, I have gotten responses along the lines of : “In part? Doesn’t that mean it is not really automated? If I have to do some of the work manually, why would I bother automating at all?”
This is a really important point that is lost on many lawyers: just because some areas of a contract require a bespoke/personal touch doesn’t negate the mitigation of risk in the assembly of 80% of the document. When you are in a hurry to get somewhere 5k away, would you question the point of driving if you have to walk the last 1k?
How Does Document Automation Mitigate Risk?
It’s pretty clear when you look at how many lawyers generate documents. Some grab a similar document they (or a colleague) produced recently and tweak it. Some grab documents from an expensive subscription-based precedent library. Some mix a bit of each of these approaches, and all of them are risky. The author might miss a business name or address from the copied document that needed replacing. They might accidentally include a clause that clearly doesn’t apply to the case, or miss a critical clause out. References to clauses might be wrong because of insertion of new clauses, or because they are in a group of clauses that might have been pasted in without the clause referenced. I’m sure there are other common errors. Oh, and you want a junior to be able to do this task? Then you need to keep the instructions up to date as well, and make sure they are looking at the most recent instructions, etc.
You know all this pain already, because you mitigate this risk by having your most valuable resources (lawyers) check every single document thoroughly every single time. I won’t go into the efficiency gains here, I’ll just stay focused on risk.
Ideally, you want to be able to check ALL the possible permutations of a document in one shot, and know that they can’t be wrong. But that’s not really possible without an automated Interview, which is the next “level up” in automation. Tightly controlling the process of gathering information builds risk management right into the process. Just as “garbage in, garbage out” holds true, so does “truth in, truth out”.
By making a bulletproof, informative, layman-friendly Interview, you can not only rest assured that the output is going to be perfect every single time for every document produced going forward, you can also mitigate an often underestimated risk: incorrect, even fraudulent input. Ever argued with a customer about what they claim to have said? Putting an automated, auditable interview in front of the customer shifts the responsibility to answer correctly and truthfully back on them.
It’s no wonder that so many firms are taking up more and more technology to increase efficiency, but the really savvy ones are also in it for the risk mitigation. Which brings me back to the first question…
Is Using Automation Risky For Lawyers?
Your competitors are getting more efficient, consistent, and affordable so that they can offer more value-adds such as strategic advice. The risk of not upping your automation game is being left behind.
If you’re interested in using lawyer bots to better serve your clients, check out this case study about an Australian law firm using lawyer bots to win new clients and serve clients online.