Legal Costs Part II: Technology to the Rescue?

Don’t give me problems, give me solutions.

Moaning about bloated legal costs is one thing. But how do you fix the problem? To what extent can technology be used to deliver better value legal services, with less padding of bills?

One approach is to use technology to monitor and analyze bills so that it’s easier to get a breakdown of costs and easier to spot any deviations from agreed budgets or billing guidelines. According to The Lawyer, this type of spend analysis tool is currently being used by Barclays to scrutinize its legal bills. Indeed, a Corporate Counsel technology survey suggests that a significant number of companies now require their external counsel to use some kind of e-billing software.

Improved tracking of legal spend may tell you which firms charge the most, and which firms are padding their bills, but it won’t do much to improve the value of legal services. For that, you need technologies that target the root of the problem: inefficient processes and poor productivity. Technologies like document assembly.

So how does document assembly deliver more value for a given legal spend?

Used by law firms, it allows many drafting tasks to be done profitably, for a fixed price and to high standards, no matter who does the work. Clients don’t pay top dollar for partners to cut and paste. Clients are not subjected to what Ken Adams calls the “scary vision of largely clueless associates hacking at forms of questionable quality and relevance.” And a bigger share of the total spend is allocated to high-value negotiations, rather than routine drafting.

Used by companies, it allows in-house legal to push many drafting tasks out to the business, so that they have more capacity for high value work (negotiations, compliance, etc), and less need to outsource to high-priced external lawyers.

Either way, any given document can be drafted and signed off at significantly lower cost using document assembly than by cutting and pasting in Word.

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