Automation saves time and money, impresses clients who can access services more easily and prevents human oversight.
But for law firms, is trusting an automated system to produce sensitive client documents a bridge too far? The typical experience of law firms is that automating document creation processes actually reduces risk. Here are five reasons why.
Document Automation Software Doesn’t Make Assumptions
As lawyers we try to avoid making assumptions, but from time to time we don’t ask the right questions, fully understand a document or listen to a client’s entire story. Document automation software is built on logic trees, so it’s geared not to make assumptions. This is particularly useful for general practice lawyers who might deal with some clients on an ad hoc basis. If a client you haven’t worked with in several years engages you to sell a business, running through a checklist is a great way to make sure you haven’t forgotten an obligation or regulatory requirement that is specific to their industry or situation.
Automation Reduces Human Error
Although few lawyers regularly make mistakes, most lawyers are worried about the impact a rare error could have on their clients or practice. In 2014, the New Zealand Law Society asked lawyers what kept them up at night. Many were concerned about potentially inaccurate advice as well as mistakes that could affect a client’s claim.
Automation makes it harder to miss a crucial piece of information. Document automation software typically takes a lawyer through a checklist or a client through an interview to make sure all of the relevant detail is being recorded. Preparing detailed logic trees in advance (and peer reviewing them) reduces the risk of you and your staff giving one sided or inaccurate advice under pressure.
Simplifying Rote Tasks Frees Up Time
In a busy team, lawyers sometimes struggle to divide their time between rote and repetitive tasks and areas where they can add value by spotting risk or coming up with solutions. By speeding up low value work, you and your staff are better positioned to focus on the riskiest or most complex part of a transaction. Fewer businesses than ever use accountants for simple bookkeeping – yet many accountancy practices are thriving by focussing on business advisory rather than low value work. Automation Can Scale to Your Firm’s Comfort Level Law firms can automate a little or a lot. Even a firm that is unwilling to use automation to generate key documents may find it appropriate to automate simple documents which are often prepared by junior or support staff such as a letter of engagement. Given that some lawyers are uneasy about automation, using document automation software to prepare ‘low risk’ documents allows a firm to cautiously test the technology out before adopting it more widely.
At the other extreme, many firms are increasingly offering particularly common legal products such as a letter of demand or a simple will using a self-service model (often with no advice and at the client’s risk).
Keeping Up Requires Innovation
Just as automation changed the nature of accountancy, innovation will disrupt the way that most law firms currently practice. Failing to embrace automation is a risk in itself; over the next few years, your firm will need to compete with firms that are offering self-service and minimal advice options. How will you keep up?
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