Deploying new technology in law firms
It appears that the document automation industry is at a stage of development where there is still a lot of value to be captured by customers – that is, the benefits to be reaped far exceed the costs of implementing.
Common issues when deploying new technologies
The most common issue we encounter is that organisations are generally not well-prepared to deploy automation. This is understandable because unless you are in the business of technology, you are not deploying new systems on a regular basis. This can manifest itself in the following ways:
- Not having requirements bedded down. For example, a law firm seeking to automate their precedents might have different versions of the same precedent used by different departments (or even different partners in the same department) with variances purely of a stylistic nature. Automation can handle different versions for different scenarios, but documents for the exact same scenario should be standardised.
- Not having user buy-in. Technology is easy. Change management is hard. Most people have a bias to doing things the way they are used to doing it, and are averse to change. The thing with automation is that, in order to reap the benefits, you are necessarily introducing some form of fixed patterns and letting the machine do some of the work behind the scenes. We see this challenge in every organisation, but lawyers are particularly wedded to fine-grained control. In fact, the very best lawyers can (and should) be pedantic to a degree and pride themselves on their freehand drafting skills. (Do not worry, there is still a place for bespoke drafting, see below.
- Not investing in resources to rollout and maintain the system. Automation is not something you can do by half-measures – it is a technological implementation exercise and requires a disciplined approach. This is a challenge for all organisations, because costs are constantly under pressure, but professional service organisations seem to struggle more with allocating appropriately skilled staff to non-direct, revenue earning roles.
This article relates to LexisNexis’ special report into the future of law. Open the report here.
In deciding to implement document automation, you should set it up as a “proper” technology project and staff it appropriately, with a project manager, business analyst, etc. (If you do not have in-house capability then consider engaging contractors, the selected automation technology provider, or a third-party integrator).
Make sure to understand your requirements early (your technology providers can help with this, especially in the pre-sales stage when they are eager to impress and win your business). This includes engaging your users early and throughout the process to ensure they buy-in to the vision of the document automation project. Make sure they understand there will be work on their end that needs to be completed – this will ensure they are invested in the project too.
Invest in getting your team trained up on the technology once it has been selected, so that the right architecture and design decisions are made at the outset (thereby avoiding re-design and re-factoring down the line).
Consider a proof of concept with well-defined success criteria, if there are aspects that you are not sure about.
Why choose document automation?
Businesses generally adopt document automation to:
- Improve certainty, reliability and consistency, by increasing visibility and minimising manual labour and associated error rates
- Increase revenues by providing a more competitive, efficient solution that wins business
- Reduce costs and turnaround time
- Increase customer satisfaction by increasing speed and service levels
- Monitor and manage risk and compliance
- Eliminate low-value repetitive tasks to focus on higher value strategic tasks
- Empower and enable lower skilled resources to complete higher level tasks
- Manage workload and the efficient allocation of work to appropriate resources
Top tips for success
Thinking back to our most successful implementations, they have the following in common:
- A focus on building a strong business case for the initial implementation (usually this is to meet a proven market need).
- Do not try to build Rome in one day – have a strategic rollout plan and adopt a phased approach.
- Understand the 80/20 rule – there are diminishing returns. For example, you will go mad if you try automating all the way to 100% of edge cases. In some cases, document automation can generate a very good first draft in no time, which the expert lawyer can then add their bespoke drafting.