Is document automation the new crackberry?

According to a recent survey of in-house legal technology by Chrissy Burns, Director IT & Knowledge at law firm Blake Dawson, when corporate counsel use document automation, they rate it one of their most “indispensable” applications, second only to free online primary legal information. Yet fewer than 23% of legal teams surveyed actually use document automation. Which begs the question: if so many document automation users find it indispensable, why have so few taken the plunge?

The best answer, and probably the most embarrassing answer for vendors like Exari, is that document automation has a publicity problem. We’ve done too little to make people aware of the application, its impact on transactional legal work and the value it delivers to companies that use it. Shame on us.

In simple terms, the impact is greatest when sales teams and other front office staff are empowered to get a high quality first draft contract via a self-service system. This gives them a faster, more flexible way to get deals closed. And it lets the legal team focus their efforts on high value negotiations, rather than spending most of their time grinding out first drafts. As a bonus, the business is less inclined to see legal as a roadblock, and more inclined to see them as a partner in winning new business.

It’s also interesting to note that document automation and contract management are equally rated on the indispensable scale. In each case, 42% of those who use these technologies consider them indispensable. Not valuable, or nice to have. Indispensable. In other words, once you start using them, and you get hooked on the productivity and risk management benefits, you don’t want to go back.

For those curious to see how other technologies were rated, we’ve reproduced the results below.

First, there are the applications people use:

Percentage-Users(Figure 1 – click to enlarge)

Second, there are the applications people find indispensible:

Percentage-Indispensible(Figure 2 – click to enlarge)

The bad news for law firms is that although in-house teams are big users of their websites (86%), very few of them consider those websites indispensible (9%).

The good news for corporate counsel is that, with increased pressures to cut costs and improve risk management, document automation may be just what you need. It won’t solve all your problems. But in the right places it’s (almost) as addictive as a crackberry.

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