We talk about all sorts of stuff – the state of the profession, the future for lawyers, whether the three Barrett brothers will appear together at the All Blacks v Argentina game in New Plymouth in September. Other than the Barrett brothers, one theme that comes up quite often is that, while [insert person I am talking to] is keen on automation, [insert more or other senior person] doesn’t “trust computers” and will never go for it. We fondly call these people clockblockers – people who want to stop the clock ticking because change freaks them out.
Computer says yes
Computers are a tricky one … but misplaced fear and a lack of understanding of technology often leads to resistance.
A lot of this resistance relating to automation comes from a concern that automation = “I’m going to be replaced by a robot”. While automation will mean lawyers no longer have to perform certain (repetitive, mundane) tasks, it’s unlikely that the profession will advance to a point where robots do everything and we all just sit around in rags because we can’t get a job.
Technology generally changes the way we work, rather than the fact that we work, and in the process, allows us to redeploy our efforts to areas of greater utility. And why should we expend human effort unnecessarily, just so we don’t have to change, develop and evolve? I’d say whoever used to carry everything before the wheel was invented is far better off because of that innovation, even though they would have lost their job.
Show them the money (and the other good stuff)
While people often resist change, there are very few who won’t move with technology if you can properly show how it can improve their lives. Here are few ways you can approach the topic of document automation with members of your own organisation:
- Automation means greater efficiencies, which hopefully means larger profits. E.g. you’ve been instructed to prepare a simple confidentiality agreement – how long does it take you, and how much does this cost your firm? If you have an excellent precedent, you’re a senior lawyer or a partner, and you do it yourself, it’s going to take you at least an hour to find the document, amend it, read it and send it. If you don’t have a good precedent and you involve other staff, it’s likely to take longer. Best-case, the process is still likely to result in WIP approaching the $1,000 mark, once you take into account a partner’s hourly rate ($350 +) and the involvement of other lawyers and support staff. Can you bill it all? Now imagine you’ve got an automated confidentiality agreement. Drafting time is reduced to minutes, if not seconds. You have a perfect document that you know the content of. You complete the interview, or better still get your client to complete the interview, you review the document and then forward it to your client. It takes a fraction of the time, and you can invoice the client the amount you’d usually invoice for a confidentiality agreement.
- Sometimes, increased profits is not always the most compelling argument. It’s sometimes helpful to change the focus of the conversation from maximising profits to investing in the future. Ask your partners what they want their legacy to be – most will want to leave their firm in a strong position after the retire.
- It’s cheaper to get started than you think: While software for law firms has historically been outrageously pricey, new cloud-based software is far cheaper. For example, Automio’s low price point means there’s really nothing stopping you from getting stuck into automation without the buy-in of the rest of your organisation. You can purchase your own subscription and automate the documents you use, without it having an impact on the rest of the organisation.
- Create your own business case: If you’ve independently automated your own documents, you’ll have created a very powerful business case for wider application of automation within your firm. It will be much harder for people to resist automation if they see you happily reducing your working hours while at the same time you keep meeting your budget! Plus your clients will love you for it which strengthens your case. What law firm doesn’t like being seen as innovative?
- Many firms have dedicated technology and development committees. If your firm has one, get on it and make sure automation is a topic of discussion. If change in the industry isn’t on your mind, and your firm doesn’t have a technology committee, maybe it’s time you set one up! Beware though, I’ve seen a number law firm tech committees in action now and many of them are slow to make decisions if they make decisions at all. The firms that are making great strides with technology are generally smaller firms who can make decisions to give things a go quickly, and then report back. If you do form or join a tech committee at your firm make sure it is small enough so your analysis doesn’t lead to paralysis and ensure you have the authority to make quick decisions to give different technologies a whirl. And if you can’t get buy-in from your tech committee straight away, don’t be afraid to take the lead yourself.
- Get an expert in. We travel up and down the country doing demos for our clients, and we’d be more than happy to present to your team – just get in touch here. You can also book an online strategy session by clicking here.
Until next time.