The Value of Document Automation for Small and Mid-Size Law Firms

For many lawyento the category of shallow work. And although it’s important, many lawyers feel that time spent drafting could be better allocated

“Shallow work” is defined as “non-cognitive, logistical or minor duties performed in a state of distraction”, according to Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work”

This shallower work is usually considered by lawyers to be repetitive, mundane and less fulfilling than the more cognitively demanding, and rewarding aspects of the job. 
So, to win some time back, a lot of small and mid-size firms are automating document management. This can sound like a daunting task, but document automation is really a lot simpler than it’s technical-sounding name might suggest. 

Keep reading to get a better sense of how document automation is defined and the value it can deliver for your practice.

A graphic of a guy in a suit pressing a button that says "automation"

What is Document Automation?

Document automation is technology that helps lawyers draft legal documents quickly and accurately by identifying information such as dates, names and clauses that change each time a document is used for a client or matter. 

Benefits of cloud-based document automation include:

Simplifying your document creation process

Enabling easier delegation of tasks and remote collaboration

Converting your existing documents into reusable templates

Auto-populating key information across sets of documents all at once

Auto-inserting specific text based on rules (conditional logic)

How Does Document Automation Work for Legal Practices?

Perhaps you have a document where the number of parties changes on a case by case basis, thereby requiring changes in each document. For example, when a client has no children, a section of a certain document is not included. However, when they do have children, the section is included. Also, the subject-verb agreement will have to be correct throughout the document, which depends on whether there are no children, one or several. 

It can be tedious to go through a document on Microsoft Word and find/replace all of these subject-verb agreements and other areas that need editing. That’s where automation comes to the rescue. Instead of manually finding and replacing, a document automation solution will prompt you to enter the number of children. Then, the software will make the appropriate changes throughout the document. 

So, if there is one child, the document will read “The one child was...” instead of “the one children were…” or any other mistake. It’s nice not to have to manually go through each conditional section of the document to make sure it fits the specifics of your case.

Common Misconceptions About Document Automation

Before you understand the main features of document automation, it is important to go over some common misconceptions about the technology. 
Here is what document automation is NOT.
1. Generic pre-made templates
Each case comes with its own specifics, and each lawyer comes with their own expertise and method. So, generics have no place in document automation. Instead, document automation needs to help law firms capitalize on their attorneys’ expertise when creating legal documents. No software can replace that hard-earned experience.

Key point: A quality document automation solution will help you use your knowledge when creating templates, not hand you pre-made templates created by people who don’t share your deep understanding of your clients and practice area.
2. Find and replace
You might be familiar with the “find and replace” technique since it’s used widely in the industry today. Document automation is more efficient and user-friendly than this time-consuming technique. 

For example: With document automation, the areas that have changed in a document could be highlighted in yellow, so that you know exactly what text has been replaced.
3. Something requiring a computer science degree
Good document automation should make your life easier, not harder. The right solution means you don’t need a computer science degree or a technical background to receive value from document automation. Most of the software is intuitive and easy to learn, even if it does require some setup and customization to make it work for the needs of your practice.
4. A dangerous robot sent from the future
Most document automation software is built by industry professionals, not robots sent to the future to make your job more confusing. For example, Lawyaw is a document automation solution built by lawyers for lawyers. Practical experiences translates to a deep understanding of the documents used in the practice of law.

Why Should Small Law Firms Use Document Automation?

The main benefits of document automation are that it saves lawyers time and helps them reduce errors when compared to the manual processes of find/replace and copy/paste. Not to mention, lawyers will suffer fewer headaches and frustrations from dull legal drafting and avoidable mistakes.

Benefits of Document Automation

1. Save time
Lawyaw found that firms using document automation saw an 83% reduction in time spent on document drafting. So, where do these time-savings come from? 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. 

Plus, that time-savings is compounded when you create a template set, a group of similar documents you use regularly for clients. With automation, information will auto-populate across an entire group of documents simultaneously and save you the effort. 
2. Avoid errors
Lawyers at smaller firms wear a lot of hats. They’re often switching between different clients, matters and tasks, each with their own specific needs. This legal multitasking combined with manual processes can cause us to make mistakes. You can overlook a grammatical error or misspell a name, which can set an unprofessional tone with a client, or cause issues with court filings. 

With document automation, you can set up guardrails that make these errors easy to avoid.
3. Empower your team
Document automation makes it a lot easier to delegate legal drafting tasks to other members of your team, including associates, paralegals or admins. When these members of your team have access to templates, designed by experienced lawyers, this enables more of your team to work on billable tasks without constant supervision. 

And, thanks to the centralization of the documents, it’s easier to collaborate on and review documents created by other members of your team — even if you’re all in different locations. 
4. Focus on what matters most
When you spend less time on legal drafting, you can focus on what matters most to you. You didn’t start practicing law because of a deep passion for drafting documents like commercial leases or engagement agreements. Most of us joined to make a positive change, whether that change is in our clients’ lives, our family’s lives, or perhaps something loftier, like fostering a more just society.

When you can automate the bulk of legal drafting, you can spend more time doing whatever it is that excites you about your career. Not to mention, you have more time for life outside of work, whether that means watching a movie, spending time with family, grabbing a coffee with friends, reading a good book, or whatever else you enjoy.

Ready to Automate?

Your clients deserve as much attention as possible. Sometimes, their livelihoods and security depend on how well documentation is prepared and stored. It really is of the utmost importance to find ways to provide them with better service. Sometimes that means trying something a little uncomfortable, like implementing new technology or a new process. 

Adopting document automation for your firm can be a relatively light lift in this pursuit to create better lives for yourselves, and the clients you serve.

If you want to discuss how document automation can help your firm, complete the form below to schedule a call with one of our product experts.

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