Top Ways to Implement Law Office Automation

by | Published on May 19, 2021 | Legal Process Outsourcing

With nearly all industries adopting several innovative digital technologies, the legal industry is no exception in the current scenario. Law firms being service oriented, revenue earned in this profession is still based on hours billed for work on behalf of their clients. Non-billable hours are a practicality for any law firm and can take up a significant amount of time per day. Right from administrative tasks, client intake, billing and collections, and practice management tasks, non-billable hours cover a wide area of tasks and are important to the maintenance and growth of a law firm. The significance of law office automation arises at this point and can apply to nearly every aspect of a law practice, saving time and expanding the scope of their services. In fact, automation has become a catchphrase and improves the efficiency and productivity of law firms in the long run. The rapid implementation of automation within the legal sector, has led many law firms to look out for smarter ways to analyze huge chunks of data efficiently and quickly. Utilizing data processing services to handle complex data entry tasks has become a common practice in legal firms.

Need for Automating Law Firm Processes

According to the 2019 Legal Trends Report, the average lawyer in the United States works only 2.5 hours of billable work each day. This means that when compared to a standard 8-hour workday, the typical lawyer only has a 31 percent utilization rate. As mentioned above, non-billable tasks are a very common aspect for the maintenance and growth of a law firm. But, at the same time, these tasks can consume a lot of time and cost that could be otherwise utilized for revenue earning tasks. This is particularly significant for solo law practices that have fewer revenue streams available to balance such expenses, when compared to large practices. With several advancements in law office automation and technology, it is possible to reduce the time a law firm spends on time-intensive yet menial tasks and invest more time in areas that require valuable skills and expertise. Here discussed are some key points on how automation processes can benefit routine law firm processes in the long run –

  • Reduces the chances of human error related to duplicate data entry
  • Provides a better client experience
  • Reduces the overhead costs of staffing and other fees associated with a conventional law office
  • Increases attorney satisfaction (as they can spend more time on billable work and other revenue-producing activities)
  • Helps remain competitive with a smaller budget (this is particularly relevant for solo or small firms)
  • Better communication and transparency a law firm’s staff and clients

How to Automate a Law Firm?

Automating day-to-day processes of a law firm can be challenging. One of the key aspects is to start with one specific task at a time and decide which ones are good candidates for automation. If there are numerous tasks that a law firm could possibly benefit from automation, develop a specific plan of action and tackle changes on a one-to-one basis. It is important to prioritize implementation as part of the day-to-day tasks without jeopardizing the attorney and client experience. After prioritizing which specific processes to automate, perform a detailed research to find the best solution that fits the specific needs of a law firm, implementation timeline and budget. Communicating the automation changes early to the staff is important. Ensure that all the staff members of the law firm are aware of the plan and have proper training for the easiest transition. Re-evaluating entire processes is another important aspect. With several unique automation tools in place, there is wide scope for customization. Also, regularly asking for feedback from staff and clients will help expose valuable opportunities for improvement and further savings on overhead.

Implementing Law Office Automation

In simple terms, law office automation involves utilizing technology to complete repetitive and day-to-day processes. Here discussed are the top ways to implement law office automation –

  • Client Intake Process – This step involves collecting case information and where clients have their first touch point with a law firm. For each practice area and type of case, it is important to collect a standard set of data or details. For instance, for a divorce case, a law firm may need certain details like – client’s name, spouse’s name, date of marriage, date of separation, number and names of children, and more from a client. On the other hand, from a law firm’s end, internal information like – practice area, responsible attorney, other staff members assisting on the case and billing methods – is needed. Implementing automation allows a firm to customize forms to suit the particulars of the client case, adding the fields and eliminating any irrelevant entry fields. This will ultimately save client time, and reduce the occurrence of manual errors on the part of the law firm.
  • Document Automation – Document automation involves faster and easier document creation. The process not only helps streamline the process of writing complex legal documents, but also enables firms to reduce their reliance on billable hours. Rather than taking days, documents can be drafted up in a matter of minutes with fewer errors, costs and inefficiencies when compared to traditional drafting process. Another key benefit of document automation is to share and retain knowledge across a law firm. When a lawyer leaves to join another law firm, their expertise can, in part, stay with the firm in the form of these automated document templates, thereby helping to bridge the knowledge gaps that can occur soon after their exit. In fact, robotic document drafting tools work by providing users with a questionnaire that they can easily fill out with their information. Responses are then automatically collected and recorded within a case. This information can then be inserted into a document template and returned for approval. One of the top benefits of this tool is that lawyers can easily handle the automation task in Microsoft Word as they are most knowledgeable about the subject matter, and are quite familiar with the templates and programs. In short, lawyers who automate their documents will be able to best maintain their document templates for the long run, without having to call on intervention from IT specialists.
  • Client Communications – Automation process can help reduce the time required for processes such as individual client intake, document drafting, and billing. Before the advent of modern communication technologies (such as email, texting, and virtual meetings) lawyers often had to spend their time and resources talking on the phone or travelling to clients for personal consultations. In fact, many law firms still continue to operate in the same way. However, with the newer modes of telecommunications, lawyers can still maintain that personal touch without having to spend as much time or money. Automation can help reduce expenses on tedious processes and simple routine communications, leaving more time for personal interactions. One form of automated technology is an AI-based chatbot – that can be used to answer client inquiries and for simple cases, can even be programmed to provide legal advice. By utilizing automation tools, it is possible to send automated client emails (to keep in contact with clients and maintain an ongoing relationship). These tools also provide automatic updates to clients on their case status, thereby reducing the volume of inquiries coming into the law firm, as well as providing clients a better experience.
  • Law Firm Collection Automation – According to the 2019 Legal Trend Report, 14 percent of all hours invoiced to clients are never paid. The reasons for these unpaid hours involve – client’s inability to afford legal bills, or law firms neglecting to follow up on invoices. In fact, most law firms look to speed up the collection process, but can’t compromise on the accuracy or compliance areas. Invoices can at times come back from the client for multiple rounds of adjustments, potentially adding weeks to the collections cycle. With billing automation, electronic payments or bills get paid faster and this in turn makes collections easier and saves time on follow-ups when bills are past their due dates. Modern billing technology creates an audit trail for accountability. For instance, some clients may dispute charges several weeks or months later. In such cases, law firms are at a disadvantage if they use manual or paper-based billing systems. With collection automation tools, they have the capacity to audit and outline changes as pre-bill transitions into an invoice.
  • Client Reviews – Asking for a client review is a significant aspect for most attorneys and law firms. Positive client reviews can garner new clients, build brand awareness and enhance a law firm’s credibility for delivering top-notch service in the long run. This in turn drives more reviews, referrals, and business for a law firm. By using automating software, law firms can have template emails ready in place. These mails can be programmed to be sent out automatically to the clients once a case closes. Law firms can also go one step ahead and get customer reviews on sites that matter the most to them.

The growing trend of automation in the legal industry is expected to emerge significantly and offer excellent opportunities to speed up business processes. Law office automation technologies will also help create positive client experiences, better work environment for attorneys, and help achieve business goals in an efficient and time-saving manner. Having a solid plan in place and taking a step-by-step approach to integrate new automation technologies will be good. All these benefits can be effectively achieved if legal firms try to strike a smart balance between automation and human intervention. Error-free document scanning services along with automation can streamline legal functions, reduce expenses, and improve client experiences in the long run.

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