A Guide to Legal Automation: What Law Firms Need to Know

by Myrna Johns / June 20, 2024

A Guide to Legal Automation: What Law Firms Need to Know

In the fast-paced legal industry, time is not just money—it’s the backbone of efficiency and client satisfaction. Embracing legal workflow automation within your practice isn’t just a trend; it’s a strategic approach to redefining how your firm operates for the better. This comprehensive guide delves into the nuances of legal automation for law firms to help you better understand what automation is, its benefits, what to automate, and what process you shouldn’t automate.

What Is Legal Automation?

Legal automation involves the application of technology to automate complex, time-consuming tasks that traditionally require manual effort. In our practice management software, PracticeMaster, we call these automations WorkFlows. Using WorkFlows, we’ve seen firms realize substantial time savings, such as a reduction of 33% in time spent processing paperwork. They work based on a simple if/then principle: “if” a trigger event takes place, “then” actions can begin. Using automations streamlines time-consuming processes.

One popular automation in legal services is document assembly. By identifying frequently used legal documents, such as fee agreements and contracts, you can set up document templates in the software. Each template has designated fields, such as name and contact information, sometimes called variables or conditional text, which represent case data. Save your templates in the software and select them as needed. With WorkFlows, after you enter a new client into the system, document assembly can begin with client data already filled in. Templates can include additional prompts, like entering a fee for billing or setting a calendar appointment with a client.

Benefits of Legal Automation

Embracing legal workflow automation within your law firm can have many benefits that extend beyond just time savings. Some of the main benefits of embracing automation include:

  • Improved Efficiency and Productivity: Automation streamlines repetitive tasks, freeing up time for higher-value work, which improves overall firm efficiency and reduces human error.
  • Enhanced Client Experience: Faster response times and personalized interactions through automation lead to a smoother client journey and increased satisfaction.
  • Cost Reduction: Initial investment in automation technology pays off with significant long-term savings by reducing the need for manual labor and minimizing errors.
  • Data Security and Compliance: Automation tools enhance data handling practices, ensuring sensitive information is secure and compliance with regulations is maintained.
  • Scalability: Automation allows law firms to handle growth efficiently, scaling operations without the need for proportional increases in staffing.
  • Competitive Advantage: Adopting automation positions your firm as innovative, attracting clients looking for efficient and modern legal services.
  • Insightful Data Analytics: Legal automation tools provide analytics for deeper insights into operations, helping to make informed decisions for improvement.

When to Use Automation

The best kind of tasks to automate are ones you do regularly. Think about the goals you want to achieve by streamlining your firm’s processes. Meet with your office administrator or billing clerk to learn about their time-consuming or repetitive tasks, and make special note of redundancies like duplicate data entry. Review how you enter time, enter new client information, and communicate with clients. Don’t forget about billing and payment collection. To start, focus on finding tasks that take a long time, or things that are done the same way every time.

Identify two or three key things to automate, then implement them. As your team becomes more comfortable with setting up and running automations, you’ll find more opportunities to automate. Not sure how your software’s automation tools work? Reach out to a consultant or your software’s support team and ask how they can help.

What Not to Automate

Not everything can or should be automated. Processes need to be predictable for automation to work. Unique documents or anything that requires individual consultation, decision-making, or collaboration are not good candidates for automation. Until we figure out a way for computers to become more human, personal engagement and conversations about your client’s situation are what make your firm different from others. Those are your personal and professional skills that can never be automated.

Take Advantage of Available Resources

Automations may seem overwhelming, but don’t fear the work involved in setting them up. Take advantage of the tools available, and your firm will reap the rewards of the higher level of efficiencies. Saving time does not mean losing billable time. Automation allows you to spend more time with your clients, find additional clients, and plan for your firm’s future.

Invest the time to review all of your processes. Find out what your software’s automation capabilities are. Implement what you can now, and set up a plan for future automations. Although you’ll spend more time early on with automation research and setup, you will never regret the time you will save.

Embrace the Future of Legal Practice with Tabs3

Legal automation offers a transformative opportunity for law firms to enhance their operational efficiency and service quality. By adopting a moderated and strategic approach to automation, law firms can leverage technology to not only save time but also to foster growth and innovation within their practice. As we continue to navigate the complexities of the legal industry, automation will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of legal practice.

For more information on automations in PracticeMaster, check out our WorkFlows Guide. To learn more about how document assembly works in PracticeMaster, watch this video: Intro to Document Assembly.