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Document Management and Automation by Legal Tech for Law Firms

by Shrisha Sapkota

case management software, practice management software, legal accounting software, legaltech, technology for lawyers, case management, immigration, london, united kingdom

Legal Technology

Legal technology, also known as Legal Tech, refers to the use of technology and software to provide legal services and support the legal industry[1]. Legal technology traditionally referred to the application of technology and software to help individual lawyers, law firms, medium and large scale businesses with practice management, document automation, document storage, billing, accounting and electronic discovery[2]. Legal Tech has evolved to be associated more with technology startups disrupting the practice of law by giving people access to online software that reduces or in some cases eliminates the need to consult a lawyer, or by connecting people with lawyers, more efficient online marketplaces and lawyer-matching websites[3].

The legal industry is widely seen to be conservative and traditional, law firms face weaker cost-cutting incentives than other professions (since they pass disbursements directly to their client) and are seen to be risk-averse (as a minor technological error could have significant financial consequences for a client)[4]. However, the development of new markets, rising costs, complex regulatory requirements, changes in communication and progressive digitalisation are all pushing legal departments to transform[5]. Transforming through the use of technology and automating pre-defined processes and tasks can help the legal department fulfil its obligations efficiently and with consistent quality, despite fast-changing conditions[6]. It can also help organisations save time and resources so they can focus on more complex matters and greater value-creating activities[7].

Document Management

The legal industry is full of routine work challenges and paperwork- which is one of the most difficult and yet unsolved issues in the legal industry[8]. When usually working with paper documents, lawyers spend too much time and energy on manually reviewing and managing each iteration of the file[9]. Sometimes fellow lawyers are hard to reach and ask to edit or sign. The pending document may cause work tasks may get stuck, deadlines may be missed and clients might be forced to wait too long for having their case matters solved[10]. That is when document management tools come in handy.

A Document Management System is a system (cloud-based or on-premise) that not only stores your law firm’s documents, but also provides a comprehensive set of tools to find, organise and manage your documents[11]. This is in contrast to basic file storage systems (which do little more than hold your files), or even law practice management applications that provide built-in, but basic, storage of your documents[12]. Due to their popularity and widespread use among legal professionals, document management systems such as Google Drive or OneDrive may seem helpful, however, many of these programs operate by charging for the amount of space you use and this can become expensive for lawyers with a lot of documents and files[13]. Furthermore, when standalone software is just linked to a third-party program, you can lose the ability to tag and easily associate documents and files with the matter of their origin[14]. Document Management System is special software that stores your documents and provides tools to manage them and makes it easier to retrieve and reference documents. [15]. Comprehensive document management can help meet a law firm’s information management needs, combining the various documents from emails to contracts, agreements and more used within the organisation with case and client information[16]. Moreover, when all the information of the firm is centralised and linked to activities and billing, the firm can generate insights to track the firm’s performance making the advantages of cloud document storage so much more than simply going paperless[17]. Due to the centralisation of the documents, it’s easier to collaborate on and review documents created by other members of the law firms even if they are all in different locations[18].

Overall, legal document management software allows for solving the most common pain points that lawyers face every day, which are improved by:

  1. Organised document file storage
  2. Instant access to documents and signature options
  3. Better communication between the colleagues
  4. Better file integration with other features of the software[19].

These features allow for added benefits, such as:

Remote work

Oftentimes, lawyers need to access their documents remotely and at any time and if legal documents are stored on your computer at the office, or on local servers within your firm, it can be very difficult or impossible to access these files remotely[20]. Finding a cloud-based software that allows you to access your documents remotely while at your home office or in court is an exceedingly important feature of any system[21].

Security

Moreover, a good cloud-based legal document automation and management software should have great security, so that it’s difficult to hack the system, and strict data policy, so there’s no inappropriate handling of data[22]. So, on top of convenience, an effective document management system also includes a blanket of security for the organisation[23]. Different levels of access and standardisation are available to be set for different users and a low-level employee can be restricted from accessing confidential or sensitive documents[24]. There are also surveillance features that will monitor which documents were accessed by certain staff and the time of access[25]. All these security features can help in the event of an audit or data breach[26].

Good Organisation of All Documents

Instead of centralised filing cabinets taking up office space, with a modern document management system, your files are all stored securely in the cloud[27]. An integrated system like this allows your people to find Word documents, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, image files, videos, etc. for cases, as well as guides and training documents for your own team’s needs[28]. Providing a centralised location for everything, naturally encourages people to use the software as a central library of relevant documents, email and notes–organised by client or client matter. That way the whole team can use and share the files and everything will be more organised[29].

When choosing legal document management software that would fit the needs of a law firm, lawyers should consider key features like storage, access, retrieval and integration with other features of the software[30].

Good Law Software‘s document manager is a platform to easily, safely and securely store documents and access them easily whenever needed.

Document Automation

The preparation of motions, appeals, forms, agreements, contracts, probate forms, civil litigation filing and thousands of other legal documents exact countless hours of effort on the part of attorneys and legal staff each year[31].

Law teams constantly draft and change matter-specific documents, often starting with a similar document from another client file and using a copy/edit process to change pertinent details to match the case at hand. This process that is used in many practice areas is slow, tedious and error prone[32].

The technology behind legal document automation software keeps advancing, but at its core, document automation is the process of taking the documents and forms you use every day and converting them into dynamic templates that can be used in the future to create and prepare new documents[33]. It uses your firm’s already existing legal documents – including contracts, purchase agreements, estate planning documents, leases, licences, etc. – to generate automated templates, which you can use to produce new legal documents[34]. Legal document automation software guides the user who is creating the document through an interview in order to input the crucial information for populating the variables in the templates[35]. Once the templates are created, users of the software usually answer questionnaires and once it has this information, the software can instantly generate the contract, and you’re done[36].

In practice, many contracts are extremely similar, with just a few variations. So, for example, once you create an NDA template, the next time you need an NDA, you can generate it much more quickly using the questionnaire[37]. The completed questionnaire will enable the system to dynamically create the document, selecting and inserting clauses throughout based on answers given[38]. The software also persists all formatting, numbering and document styles as per your requirements which saves even more time[39]. Some solutions enable users to create a suite of related documents based on the same data input[40]. For example, a real estate lawyer could generate a lease, a rent deposit deed and a licence for property alterations without having to repeat the data entry[41].

The benefits of automation are as follows:

Saves Time

Without needing to spend hours on admin and paperwork, lawyers have more time to do the strategic, commercial work they trained for; thus, they have more time for the high-value work[42]. Lawyaw found that firms using document automation saw an 83% reduction in time spent on document drafting[43]. In a recent podcast discussion on Legaltech News entitled “How Document Automation Tools Can Help You Maintain Productivity in a Virtual Environment,” Korey Lawrence of AbacusNext and David Brickman of Rocket Docket shared the sad facts from a law firm benchmarking exercise[44]. Using the traditional copy/paste/edit method to create a new document took on average three hours and incurred six errors in punctuation, spellings, omissions or printing[45].

The biggest time-saver is the fact that you only have to enter information once – information that can be used in many matters during the course of a client relationship[46]. Plus, that time savings is compounded when you create a template set, a group of similar documents you use regularly for clients and with automation, information will auto-populate across an entire group of documents simultaneously and save you the effort[47].

Time is money, and lawyers understand this sentiment better than most and that’s why lawyers need to select a document automation system that is easy and intuitive to set up and saves time in the future[48]. With document automation, you can create a wide range of legal documents in a fraction of the time it previously took, which increases efficiency[49]. Since document automation reduces the time it takes to create documents, lawyers are free to work on other matters and more clients translate into an increase in overall firm profits[50]. Since document automation reduces the time it takes to create documents, lawyers are free to work on other matters. More work on matters can produce more clients, and more clients translate into an increase in overall firm profits[51].

Reduction of Errors

Lawyers at smaller firms wear a lot of hats, so they’re often switching between different clients, matters and tasks, each with their own specific needs[52]. This legal multitasking combined with manual processes can cause us to make mistakes due to which they can overlook a grammatical error or misspell a name, which can set an unprofessional tone with a client, or cause issues with court filings[53]. Legal document automation helps eliminate human errors that can creep into manual processes while reducing wasted time and associated costs, protecting your firm against legal issues stemming from inaccurate, non-compliant content[54]. The use of well-designed templates speeds up the process of document creation and helps lawyers ensure their documents are compliant and contain the correct details[55].

A Better Customer Experience

For better or worse, speed of delivery is something clients increasingly expect and demand and being able to produce customised legal documents quickly provides a better experience and improves client satisfaction and retention[56]. Moreover, if low-value work is automated, then those cost savings can be passed on to the client (whether internal or external) in some way, giving them a better experience dealing with legal aspects[57]. Today’s clients are technologically savvy and expect a lot and document automation can deliver on these expectations.

Overall, document automation must be considered if your documents or processes are[58]:

  1. a) High risk and require constant input and output across a standalone document or a broader suite
  2. b) Done repeatedly, using well-established documents and processes
  3. c) Tedious or time-consuming to completely manual
  4. d) Done on a fixed-price basis and/or with low-profit margin
  5. e) Of a type that could benefit from clients or a third party inputting data or participating directly in matter workflows[59].

Overall, today’s legal marketplace is more crowded and competitive than ever, and law firms must find ways to differentiate their services and approaches from those of their competitors. Document management and automation deliver significant benefits to lawyers and their clients – helping your firm be more targeted and strategic. Thus, it is important to choose the right tech software, such as Good Law Software that adds value to the legal work that your firm does by efficiently managing documents

 

case management software, practice management software, legal accounting software, legaltech, technology for lawyers, case management, immigration, london, united kingdom

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_technology

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_technology

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_technology

[4] Goodman, Bob (16 December 2014). “Four Areas of Legal Ripe for Disruption by Smart Startups”. Law Technology Today.

[5] https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/06/legal-technology.html

[6] https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/06/legal-technology.html

[7] https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/06/legal-technology.html

[8] https://lexworkplace.com/best-legal-document-management-software/

[9] https://lexworkplace.com/best-legal-document-management-software/

[10] https://lexworkplace.com/best-legal-document-management-software/

[11] https://lexworkplace.com/best-legal-document-management-software/

[12] https://lexworkplace.com/best-legal-document-management-software/

[13] https://www.clio.com/blog/document-automation-for-lawyers/

[14] https://www.clio.com/blog/document-automation-for-lawyers/

[15] https://lexworkplace.com/best-legal-document-management-software/

[16] https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en-gb/expert-insights/cloud-document-management-law-firm

[17] https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en-gb/expert-insights/cloud-document-management-law-firm

[18] https://www.lawyaw.com/articles/the-value-of-document-automation

[19] https://loio.com/blog/top-10-document-management-systems-for-law-firms/

[20-22] https://www.clio.com/blog/document-automation-for-lawyers/

[23] https://www.recordnations.com/2016/12/benefits-document-management-system-law-firm/

[24] https://www.recordnations.com/2016/12/benefits-document-management-system-law-firm/

[25] https://www.recordnations.com/2016/12/benefits-document-management-system-law-firm/

[26] https://www.recordnations.com/2016/12/benefits-document-management-system-law-firm/

[27] https://lexworkplace.com/9-key-benefits-of-document-management-software-for-law-firms/

[28] https://lexworkplace.com/9-key-benefits-of-document-management-software-for-law-firms/

[29] https://lexworkplace.com/9-key-benefits-of-document-management-software-for-law-firms/

[30] https://loio.com/blog/top-10-document-management-systems-for-law-firms/

[31] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[32] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[33] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[34] https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/insights/articles/six-benefits-of-document-automation

[35] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[36] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html

[37] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html

[38] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html

[39] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html

[40] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html

[41] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html

[42] https://blog.juro.com/legal-automation

[43] https://www.lawyaw.com/articles/the-value-of-document-automation

[44] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[45] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[46] https://www.lawyaw.com/articles/the-value-of-document-automation

[47] https://www.lawyaw.com/articles/the-value-of-document-automation

[48] https://www.clio.com/blog/document-automation-for-lawyers/

[49] https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/insights/articles/six-benefits-of-document-automation

[50] https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/insights/articles/six-benefits-of-document-automation

[51] https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/insights/articles/six-benefits-of-document-automation

[52] https://www.lawyaw.com/articles/the-value-of-document-automation

[53] https://www.lawyaw.com/articles/the-value-of-document-automation

[54] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[55] https://www.amicusattorney.com/blog/i-love-drafting-legal-documents-said-nobody-ever/

[56] https://blog.juro.com/legal-automation

[57] https://blog.juro.com/legal-automation

[58] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html

[59] https://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.co.uk/en/explore/definitive-guides/document-automation-law-firms.html