One of the hardest parts about change is simply breaking the habit that first time. It’s why there’s a movement called “couch to 5K” – getting off the couch is the first and toughest step for many.
For lawyers facing a mountain of work, taking the time to set yourself up for a more efficient process is daunting. It feels like a distraction, not progress.
But for those who wish they were free from the (sometimes literal) pile of paperwork, there is another way, and it starts with preparation.
Consider one real-world example: if your firm had 12,000 documents to review, and each one had 75 questions to answer, the task will take weeks to complete. Even with a sizable team working in concert, the sheer volume of work is daunting. One of those, “Where do I even start?” types of tasks others might shrink from.
But what if you started by working the process, not just digging into the work? By automating even a part of a task that large, you stand to shave hours off the time involved.
Focus on processes, not just tasks
That’s precisely what the team at Foot Anstey did. When faced with the opportunity to pitch a client, the firm looked at not only the size of the work, but the manner in which it had been performed in the past.
Instead of using manual processes and discrete spreadsheets, Foot Anstey leveraged automation and databases to create a workflow that streamlined the effort, and standardized the information. That time and thought spent in preparation wound up delivering results four times faster than their previous method, and crucially, winning the firm that new business.
Where automation can help your law firm
Not everything can be automated, of course. But there are some common elements of legal workflows that lend themselves to automation quite naturally. Document creation, for example, requires a large amount of repetitive work. Diving right into the work may seem like the best way to get ahead, but by taking the time to define the fields in a document, and set up corresponding variables, it’s easy for a computer to automatically create custom, accurate documents on a scale that no human can match.
For one, ten, or even a hundred documents, the ROI on setting up an automation probably isn’t there. But scaled across multiple clients or within bigger deals, the numbers can easily reach into the thousands. That’s where automation shines.
Automation also benefits law firms in legal workflows. Consider just how much of your time is spent passing documents back and forth, or notifying the relevant parties of their next steps. That work need not fall on you. Spend time up-front to define the triggers and actions relevant to your legal project and your subsequent work will move smoothly through the process.
Suppose you had a client who needed to review each document once a specific action was taken. In a manual world, that simple requirement could spawn dozens or hundreds of emails. Even if your firm relies on virtual data rooms or dedicated file sharing sites, there is still the act of notifying the client and confirming their receipt and response to each task.
All of that can be automated. Notifications can be triggered by a new document being added to a watched folder. Sign-offs can spur paralegals into action. And the dashboard the client wants each week can be automatically updated with real-time data around the status of each project.
Think about what’s possible
Automating the legal workflow isn’t all that hard, but it does require a willingness to look at the forest for the trees. Without a clear view of your process as a whole, it’s hard to see what’s possible. If you’re looking for a better way to work, make sure you’re using the right tool to automate your documents and workflows.