How Tech is Injecting Innovation Back into Law
How is technology impacting the legal sector for the better? Here we explore how we can leave the mundane tasks to tech.
Ask any lawyer: what is the universal problem that will add on extra resources and costs to your case? Almost all will answer ‘research and admin’. While research is a vital part of building a defence, prosecution and all that’s in between, the way in which manual administration tasks are practised can be changed for the better.
According to research conducted in 2017, only 2.3 hours of an eight-hour workday is spent on billable tasks, with 48% of time spent on administration. Meaning that nearly half of a lawyer’s day is spent on processes that could be done in a fraction of the time.
There are 146,148 practising lawyers in the UK. Every single one of them will spend an inordinate amount of time drafting and reviewing binding documents. Of those thousands of practising professionals, 87% of them still use traditional pen and paper methods for proofreading and note-taking, using more time and resources than necessary.
By continuing to use manual processes like pen and paper, legal firms are exposing themselves to risk. As an industry where workers are time-challenged human error comes in to play, especially when it comes to administrative burdens such as document creation or filling in forms. This can lead to dire consequences that leave lasting damage to a firm’s reputation and finances.
Other ramifications from human error include:
• Slow turnaround of documents
• Lengthy review process
• Poor standardisation practices
• High cost of document production
· Duplicate data entry
· Information security vulnerabilities
· Key information not being captured
· Information not being timely
· Poorly organised data
· Multiple drafts going through review
· Inability to locate previous executed version as starting point for renewals
· Inconsistent application of intended terms and conditions clauses, dependent on changes
Many different factors can influence the complexity of a document. As new elements are added, more pressure is put on manual processes, resulting in inaccurate, non-compliant or inconsistent documents. The added layer of a global scale, including differences in local legislation and date formats, can leave firms even more exposed to risk.
In order to shift gears and balance increasing revenue whilst also improving efficiency, law must keep up with the digital age, easing the workload and creating a standardised approach. By diminishing time spent on these areas, we can allow for growth in the sector and inject innovation back into the workload. This is where technology can help.
By embracing advances in technology, more time can be freed up for tasks that require considerably more brain fuel, such as business development. By freeing workers to focus on what really matters, we can inject a human touch back into the law practice.
Disruptive technology has transformed the way in which we live everyday life, both inside and outside of work. The introduction of e-mail and the smartphone, for example, has made legal professionals more accessible to clients than ever before, greatly streamlining the communication process.
Applying similar innovative tech, such as automated document generation software to everyday tasks, can help legal practices generate the same level of high-quality results but in a fraction of the time.
Let’s take a closer look at how automated document generation software can inject innovation back into law by streamlining everyday tasks in the workplace and promoting best practice.
Clients want to pay for your expertise, not for administrative tasks. But as a legal professional how do you tackle the beast that is admin?
As we already know, administration can take up nearly half of a lawyer’s day. This in turn costs practices a large percentage of profit due to the fact these are often unbillable tasks.
But, simple software integrations like automated document generation can free up employees to focus on other business-critical tasks.
Once a client’s information is gathered and input, the software can be synced with a company’s practice management system, automatically generating first drafts and even important finalised documents that are ready for use right away.
Software like this not only drastically reduces the time required to draft, review and finalise an important document by up to 80%, but it enables legal professionals to spend less time on routine data collection and document drafting and more time on complex client work or new business.
Keeping up with legislation
Legal documents are notoriously unstable. Any time a governing body or policymaker meets, clauses can change.
When the regulatory environment is changing quickly – as is likely to happen no matter what the outcome of Brexit might be – it’s difficult for experts to keep on top of each and every single change in the legal landscape. Fortunately, technology can stop the experts from making mistakes.
The implementation of smart tech like document automation software can give professionals peace of mind that they are compliant with new and updated legislation. This is because software like this allows for legislation to be updated in a central location, which then appears in all new documents going forward, saving time and resources whilst mitigating risk.
Mistakes happen. It’s a part of everyday business. But by using technology to pull together key legal documentation, the possibility of human error is greatly decreased.
For example, having automated documents allows senior lawyers at a bank’s legal department to create watertight paperwork that can be used by non-legal staff out in their network of branches. An assistant or apprentice can then have confidence filling in a document because they know that an expert has kicked off the automated process by using the software.
AI can also have proofreading functionality, meaning fewer resources are needed to spend time checking and reviewing information recorded.
Another benefit of using automated systems to compile key legal documents is its impact on the bottom line. With the risk of human error reduced, so is the need to create multiple versions of a document, which can inadvertently save costs on things such as printing and any time spent reviewing and updating.
The changing work landscape
Gone are the days of traditional 9-5 day spent working in a cubicle. The need for agile working is now. More employees than ever expect flexible working and mobile access to files on the go…ergo, enter the Cloud.
According to research conducted by US investment bank Piper Jaffray, over the next five years, the workload for the Cloud will grow by 44% versus traditional premises computing. The American Bar Association recently ruled cloud computing ethical so long as lawyers “take reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorised disclosure of, or unauthorised access to information relating to the representation of a client.”
Advances in Cloud security can aid the move to flexible working. Allowing professionals to work remotely with the added help of document automation software available via the Cloud means everything is easily accessible and in one place.
Legal firms must embrace the digital evolution if they are to grow and move with the times. Software that integrates systems, which streamline the manual, processes, like document creation, will give practitioners more time to participate in business-critical tasks that require more mental capacity. One thing is clear, embracing technology is an essential step towards injecting innovation back into law.
Gary Lessels is General Manager of HotDocs, Powered by AbacusNext, a leading global provider of document automation.