Where Are You Now?
Software for automating legal documents has been around for decades, providing genuine benefits to its users, yet we are constantly surprised that not all firms have fully automated their court documents and letters. Some are even unaware of the options available. Where do you stand on the document automation spectrum?
- Copy and Paste? You may be spending more time than necessary on your documents, and exposing yourself to the risk of errors. See “Are Typewriters Making a Comeback?”
- Document Assembly? This is a great way to build your own automated content, if you have someone in the firm with programming experience. See “Why Give Document Assembly a Second Look”.
- Document Automation? Congratulations. You’ve discovered the most robust solution. Are you using it for every file? Is everyone in the firm using it?
In earlier posts we discussed this hierarchy of approaches for creating court documents and correspondence, and the pros and cons of each. In more recent posts, we shifted to a discussion of current issues and controversies in the Canadian legal profession. In this post, we’ll tie it all together. We’ll make the case for document automation, with a Top 5 Reasons list, and explain the connection to issues such as alternative business structures, bad legal writing, new billing models, and Rule 48.14.
A Definition of Legal Document Automation
To be clear on what we mean by “document automation”, here’s a definition:
Document automation software is a template-based system that includes a full library of pre-built forms and letters. On the front end, a user answers a series of matter-specific questions. The system then uses the answers to populate the appropriate form and create a finished document. Client data can also be pulled directly from other office systems to pre-populate the document.
These are the top five reasons to use document automation software:
1 Save Time
This is typically the biggest benefit. It’s up to 40% faster to enter matter-specific facts into an “interview” form, or directly from your database, than to copy and paste from a prior Word® document and then go through multiple edit and review cycles. It may seem counterintuitive to save time when you’re billing by the hour. For more on that topic, see “Is the Death of the Billable Hour a Foregone Conclusion?”)
2 Eliminate Errors
In the most recent study of malpractice claims by the American Bar Association, the preparation and filing of documents was the activity most likely to generate a claim. (See “Are You or Your Firm at Risk?”) In some cases, just writing poorly has resulted in dismissal. (See “The Dangers of Bad Legal Writing”.) Document automation ensures that you are always working from a standardized set of documents that have been pre-vetted; client- and matter-specific data is the only content that’s added, eliminating costly errors.
3 Focus on What You Do Best
In his book, The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, Richard Susskind argues that lawyers should automate whatever they can, leaving to lawyers what they do best – providing expert legal advice. Document automation unburdens lawyers and legal assistants from the mundane tasks of document creation, review and editing, and frees them to focus on high-value tasks.
4 Train New Hires Faster
Document automation introduces a repeatable process and standardized content that makes it easier to bring new hires up to speed. Everything that needs to be done to complete court forms and letters is scripted by the software.
The productivity increases that come from automating legal documents help to maintain or improve profit margins at a time of intense competition and new billing models. (See “Is the Death of the Billable Hour a Foregone Conclusion?”) Automation also sets firms up to better compete with alternative services offered from outside the profession, and prepare for the possibility of alternative ownership models.
The Bottom Line
If you have automated the obvious functions, such as accounting or case management, but have yet to embrace document automation, now is the time. And you have five good reasons. For a brief look at how document automation works for court documents, see the demonstration videos on Korbitec’s website.
About Michael Sauber
Michael Sauber leads the marketing program for Korbitec, producer of Automated Civil Litigation Software (ACL). He has worked with document production technologies and professional services for over 30 years and is a frequent blogger on these topics.