For the majority of us, automation is the process to add transparency and enable effective, error-free data representation and reports in a jiffy. However, automation is more than just reports and data representation, in simple terms – it is a method to reduce time and effort spent on recurring, manual activities. Essentially, it is a technique of making an apparatus, process, or system operate automatically with minimal human intervention.
Traditionally, the legal industry is known to be resistant to change but recent uncertainties have led the industry players to alter their path. Now, most of the human-intensive from client intake and management to document management can be optimised.
Need of the hour
For the 2021 State of the Industry report, Corporate Legal Operation Consortium (CLOC) surveyed respondents from 200 organisations across more than 22 industries and 21 countries. The survey results showcased the following top priorities for legal departments:
- Implement diversity and inclusion programs (61%)
- Automate legal processes (57%)
- Implement new technology solutions – eBilling, Contract management, IP management, dashboards, etc. (54%)
- Rightsource legal work (40%)
- Review/revise information and governance (27%)
- Increase legal operations headcount (15%)
It is not surprising that automation stood as a top priority in both 2020 and 2021 CLOC’s report.
Any function (including business function) works well when the processes are defined and adopted properly. However, even if the processes are documented and people are trained, it is still prone to:
- Human error
- Manual, time-consuming hours
- Effort redundancy
- Scalability limitation
Legal processes are often linked to a single source in an organisation and if the connection is broken the whole process comes to a standstill. Evolving to workflow automation-ready organisation reduces the dependency on the single source link. In other words, it’s about moving from a people-driven to process-driven culture.
Effective workflow amounts to workforce retention
On average, employees spend 20-25% of their time in routine, mundane, recurring or non-billable activities, that can be automated.
Enterprises that automate dull and recurring legal tasks indirectly boost job satisfaction and retention. Additionally, if the work is automated, the resources can be assigned to more strategic and rewarding projects. Within the context of legal departments, a few examples include, implementation of contracting or matter management tools, non-disclosure agreement processing, billing, etc.
As legal technology continues to evolve; a few in-house legal and technology leaders are abandoning the idea of embracing stand-alone, one-off products. They look for and even want to develop flexible, single-source, fully-integrated legal IT stacks that can drive overall business performance. The full-stack solution will be a step to create future-ready legal departments or the next-generation attorneys and legal professionals.
Productivity and profitability – hand-in-hand
Productivity is about spending time on tasks that increase profitability.
A robust automation solution should cover a wide range of processes across the enterprise. It makes sense to start with the identification of major pain areas. Also, one must not forget the ultimate objective or goal that the department or organisation wants to achieve “future-ready”.
With the ultimate goal in sight, some the important considerations for automation within the legal department will include:
- Ease of use – a purpose-built, self-service tool that works without any intrusion of the information technology development department.
- Cross-functional adaptability – a centralised tool or system that can talk or interact with the other tools deployed in the department and other functional units within the enterprise. A stand-alone or silo tool is an obligation for the entire enterprise.
- Flexibility and scalability – the capability to evolve with the processes and scale with the demand.
- Future-ready – the ability to integrate with any new technology or even a patch seamlessly.
- Reporting and analytics – another functionality to look for includes the ability to create reports, a mix of automated and customisable, in varied formats. Apart from making life easier for users, the tool also works to bring transparency across the enterprise.
Utilise brain power
While legal workflow automation can help in reducing the recurring tasks and ultimately freeing time to focus on strategic, challenging activities and redirecting freed brainpower. Hence, choosing the right tool or platform is pivotal. If the intended utility is not met, the tool or even process becomes inoperable.
Another important consideration should also include the average hourly billing of the legal professionals. The time spent on non-billable or recurring tasks ultimately translates to the loss of billing and/or productivity and profitability of the enterprise.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Novum Learning or Legal Practice Intelligence (LPI). While every attempt has been made to ensure that the information in this article has been obtained from reliable sources, neither Novum Learning or LPI nor the author is responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information, as the content published here is for information purposes only. The article does not constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law relating thereto, and does not constitute professional and/or financial advice.