Document automation is one of the basic legal tech tools that has been developed for more than a decade by software engineers and legal practitioners. It offers a straightforward benefit of speeding up document production while improving the quality of legal documents and eliminating room for errors.
Despite the benefits, legal practitioners and businesses are generally sceptic towards legal technology - document automation included. According to Wolter Kluwers report, less than one third of lawyers participating in the survey said they are prepared for adoption of legal tech, although 76% admit the importance of legal tech for running their business.
The gap between the awareness of the benefit legal technology brings and the adoption rate is rooted in a demanding process of embracing any new technology in an organization. Applying document automation gives a good example for the challenges law firms and business teams face when deciding on how to improve their internal processes and increase efficiency of their businesses.
Managers will first evaluate if document automation will genuinely cut costs of their business.
The cost cutting comes from the time savings when doing repetitive work. A lawyer, or a general counsel, must invest time and energy to produce simple legal documents even if the organization developed standardized templates over the years. This is because inserting data into a template needs to be done carefully, to avoid errors and mis-fillings. This repetitive work leaves less time to lawyers and inhouse teams to get their hands on more sophisticated tasks.
"Still, why should I change this process when the job gets done?" manager asks. "Why should I put myself through the process of adopting new technology which costs and takes time?" A simple answer is "If you don't, someone else will fill your spot on the market with services delivered in a faster way at a lower price". Thus, a manager eventually needs to decide if his organization will innovate or lag behind.
At the same time, there is a benefit in being sceptical and analytical. Document automation is not for everyone. An organization needs to analyse its internal processes to determine whether the volume of its document production really congests the workflow. An organization also needs to see if its templates are worth automating. Very simple templates can be easily populated in the old school manner. On the other hand, complex documents are specific to each case and hard to standardize. Every organization has to decide if it makes sense for it to acquire a document automation tool to turn standard templates into automated electronic documents in order to save time and reduce errors when producing standardized documents.
Once the automation of templates is done, documents are produced more efficiently by going through a simple three-steps process:
Template > Questionnaire > Document
Another good thing with using document automation software is that automated templates can be used to create a new line of business. This is especially the case for lawyers and notaries, who traditionally provide various templates to their clients in standard Word format, usually by sending them by e-mail or printing hard copies to be filled-in.
Instead of this old way of doing things, with a document automation software, lawyers and notaries can create an online space for their clients. Within that space, they can provide clients with automated templates that are at all times updated in accordance with legal norms and practice. Clients get instant access to desired templates and create documents through the same three-steps process:
Template > Questionnaire > Document
Document automation software have been present for years, and many firms use them internally to increase efficiency in producing standardized documents. Over time, many firms and businesses seized the opportunity to create a new business line from their automated template libraries. In Serbia, BDK Advokati created blinkdraft| service for its clients, Orrick law firm launched online database for start-ups, Herbert Smith Freehills uses chatbots to communicate with clients as another way of automating standard procedures.
These are some examples of how automation can be applied for the benefit of legal service providers and their clients. Corporates can also improve internal document production process through document automation. To implement a viable solution, each organization needs to analyse its internal procedure and business service to determine if automation is possible and beneficial. Once the need for automation is identified, the journey of acquiring the best software begins!
Author: Vojislav Bajić, Business Development Consultat at Draftomat