The Top 3 Myths About legal Automation

Few subjects have spawned quite so many headlines in legal recently than automation, save perhaps Brexit.

The reasons behind interest in both topics are clear – uncertainty about how things will develop, and no small amount of fear. Here Ben Stoneham, CEO and Founder of Autologyx, explains, delving into the top three myths surrounding legal automation.

The law is one of the longest established professions and often resistant to change, which is why the looming threat of automation making certain practices within the sector obsolete is no small concern. Some of the more forward-looking, and large, law firms have attempted to get ahead of this by investing in legal startups so that they have a stake in the disruption to come. Other just seem to be ignoring the issue – a study last year by PwC found that over one In five (21) of the top 100 UK law firms are not interested when it comes to using process automation technology.

For those unwilling to stick their heads in the sand, there are ways to overcome the objections which may be occurring within businesses and get ahead of the curve – and competition. Here are just a few myths which can be dispelled about modern legal automation processes:

Myth 1: upskilling staff will be an uphill battle

Many law firms consider the burden of getting staff up to speed with new technology a daunting one. After all, people join the legal profession for different reasons than to become proficient in technology platforms. A study by Capgemini last year actually found that upskilling staff in AI and automation platforms is a consideration for just one in ten businesses. For some offerings in the market this is a key issue – they are not necessarily intuitive or easy for non-specialised employees to grasp. However, there are a new breed of systems available which take a more accessible, ‘Apple’ approach to automating company processes.

For example, our ALX digital operations platform has been built to enable users to just drag and drop icons to build processes in a matter of moments. The process feels intuitive, which increases the speed of uptake. When it comes down to it, many established approaches to automation are actually relatively simple, addressing only single issues in the larger scheme of business operations. This simplicity is often masked by the inaccessibility of the interface. But, as automation develops and evolves this is changing. Just as Apple didn’t nail the user experience straight off the bat, so legal automation is learning as it develops.

Myth 2: our work demands the human touch at too many points

What could be more human than the law? It is often rooted in understanding the unique nuances of each individual clients’ case, and therefore exceptionally complicated as no two sets of circumstances will be precisely the same. It’s not, however, always the case. When it comes to lease agreements or the kind of repeat processes often given to paralegals, there are often the kinds of repeated and process-led actions which automation absolutely can help with. AI is making great inroads into checking contracts for GDPR compliance and even Brexit preparation.

Historically most automation applications have deployed for processes just like this – task based, repetitive and relatively straightforward. In these cases, solutions automate a single process (often very well) but in isolation. Now operations are attempting to connect these processes together, and are finding that these tasks may seem straightforward but are often nonlinear in practice. Humans are good at adapting to and managing complex tasks – when it comes to automating the complex this is often the stumbling block.

Again, as new technologies are developing, they are growing beyond this problem. Autologyx’ next generation digital process automation platform doesn’t suffer from the rigidity of earlier automation platforms. It means that complex, non-linear workflows can be built that incorporate both human or database touchpoints at any stage. This means that the human element can be accommodated, information captured and reported on in real time.

Myth 3: there’s so much development in legaltech, hold off on investment until a frontrunner emerges

It’s true, legaltech is seeing a lot of growth. It’s natural for people to want to wait before picking a solution to avoid backing the wrong horse, which could prove costly. Some may also think they have already invested in matter management systems and that should be enough. The new breed of solutions don’t necessarily close doors to companies when it comes to future tech integration though. ALX has a no-code approach and its drag and drop user interface can integrate with any database, or third party technology. Future proofing is baked into the DNA of the service and any new or alternative can be easily swapped in or out. This means that no user is tied in to backing one single type of tech as the sector continues to develop, but can instead start finding solutions and delivering cost- and productivity savings from the get-go.

Legal automation may seem a daunting prospect for those in a sector where technology isn’t often applied. However, the benefits of lifting the process burden from partners, associates and paralegals alike are beginning to be recognised by legal businesses across the board. Cost efficiencies can be one of the clearest benefits, but they are not the only ones. One client of ours was able to save thousands of hours of valuable legal hours while improving SLAs and allowing staff to focus on other areas of their roles. It’s high time that those who only see the hurdles to automation begin to recognise the benefits that they may be missing – to their staff, their clients and ultimately their own businesses.

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