With limited time in the day and more and more work piling up, law firms of all sizes, corporate legal teams, and government agencies are looking for better ways to maximize their efforts. Their answer? Automation.
While it’s true that automation can help you streamline workflows, saving time and money, it can be intimidating to take the first step in adopting this new technology when you need to maintain your current day-to-day operations and workload. And with so many different types of automation technology on the market, developing a clear understanding of what automation could actually look like for your legal practice or agency can be difficult. Where should you start?
Because so much of legal work begins and ends with documents, the best way to immediately benefit from workflow automation is through legal document automation. By automating your document processes, you’ll not only receive significant benefits with the least amount of disruption to your current operations, but also create a solid foundation for bigger workflow automation upgrades in the future.
Regardless of your practice area, legal work requires a lot of repetitive processes to create a high volume of documents, such as contracts, agreements, pleadings, wills, and many more, which must all be compliant, consistent, and accurate.
Unfortunately, the all-too-common practice of reusing a base template or searching for an old document and utilizing “find and replace” to manually tailor each document for a specific purpose can lead to errors and important details missed. This is a tedious manual process that takes up valuable lawyer time that could otherwise be spent doing higher-value client work, and the likelihood of human error can create additional approval cycles and costly delays, as well as erode client confidence.
By automating the production of legal documents through smart templates and apps, legal teams can increase their efficiency, reduce errors, and eliminate the need to manually fill out the same information across multiple documents and formats.
Here are some specific examples of how document automation can help law firms of all sizes, corporate legal teams, and the public sector optimize their operations:
1. New Client Intake: With the amount of competition between small firms, your level of efficiency and communication can mean all the difference when it comes to winning new business. Automating client intake and engagement letters that can be passed to clients for electronic signature can save administrative time and effort as well as show prospective clients that your firm is fast, attentive, accurate, and technologically modern.
2. Document Generation: Especially useful for boutique firms — such as estate planning, family law, or bankruptcy practices — that offer fixed rates for legal packages rather than charging hourly, the ability to save time creating documents is critical to keeping hourly work within the scope of your pricing structure. Automation can help firms gather the needed information and automatically generate most, if not all, of the documents included in a fixed-price package, which saves time and frees up specialized consultative time with clients.
3. Mergers and Acquisitions Term Sheet Intake and Deal Document Generation: With time-sensitive legal work, such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A) — where the timeliness and success of large deals going through will impact a lot of people — any time-saving opportunities are especially useful, which is where automation can help. Automating the process to create a term sheet intake and automatically populating standard M&A documents allows your team to get a head start on the process as well as eliminate the risk of potential errors that can cost valuable time and approval cycles to rectify.
4. Be Better Equipped to Serve Corporate Legal Departments: For outside counsel that provide either partial or full-service support to large corporations, there is increased pressure to stay current on the most innovative practices in order to remain competitive. This means finding more efficient ways to service your clients and manage your workload, from reducing high-volume repetition to simplifying more complex tasks to offering bespoke self-service solutions so that lawyer expertise can be freed up to focus on more high-risk, specialized matters.
5. Request Intake: Corporate legal departments spend a significant amount of time managing requests for issue evaluation, document review or creation, and numerous other tasks that are coming in a steady stream via email. Automation technology helps reign in this chaos by streamlining the intake process. Things like simple employment agreements or non-disclosure agreements can be set up as self-service with department oversight only as needed. Getting out from under these types of requests allows your legal department to better manage internal requests, simultaneously creating order while freeing up valuable lawyer and paralegal time. This way, your team spends less time managing and organizing documentation and more time meeting the needs of the business.
6. Case Intake: Ordinarily, when corporate lawyers are served with lawsuits, they would have to manually generate responsive pleadings to ensure the case is handled properly. Automating the intake process ensures that no steps are missed, responsive pleading templates are automatically generated, and all relevant information is exactly where it should be. This frees up legal staff to spend more time responding to a lawsuit and less time on administrative work.
Find out more in "Automating Your Corporate Legal Department Made Easy."
7. Opinion Letters: For Attorney General’s offices and government agencies receiving requests for opinion letters via mail or email requesting clarification of laws under certain jurisdictions are commonplace. However, each correspondence requires setup, assignment, research, and a response within a specific time period. Automation technology can gather the initial intake data to generate an intake response to the requestor and also create responsive template documents as a starting point for your team. Here automation makes this repetitive process faster and error-free, maintaining and even improving the agency’s reputation with the public.
8. FOIA Responses: Attorneys and legal professionals working within state and federal government entities can easily get overwhelmed with the frequent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from citizens and journalists, which they may receive by mail, email, and even fax. Automation tools can streamline and modernize this intake process through online intake forms and templatized documents. This can significantly reduce repetition and chance for error, easing lawyer workload while maintaining a good relationship with the public.
9. Self-Service for Common Legal Documents: Agencies or their legal departments can publish a library of online forms (e.g., employment agreement, HR forms, or intake forms) that allow employees or external parties to input information and instantly generate the routine documents they need. Or to get a process started by gathering information and then escalating more complex matters to staff as part of a workflow.
While there are many great automation tools out there, not all of them are suited to handle the sheer volume of document creation, sophisticated level of logic, or level of security legal teams need. Here are some important features to look for when selecting your automation tools:
As the leading cloud-based document and email management solution trusted by legal professionals worldwide, NetDocuments has introduced PatternBuilder, a legal document automation solution that provides all of the automation benefits listed above and more.
NetDocuments is designed to support high volumes of document creation and management while maintaining strict security and compliance regulations required by law firms and government entities. Natively integrated into the NetDocuments DMS platform, PatternBuilder:
Here’s how PatternBuilder can help legal professionals streamline and optimize their day-to-day work:
Take those mundane, repetitive tasks — and automate them. PatternBuilder can help you save significant amounts of time by incorporating secure legal document automation into your practice. Contact NetDocuments or request a demo to learn more.
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