Automating Manual Processes: Some of the Latest Applications to Consider

Many articles have addressed the fact that recent advances in legal technology allow law firms to enhance the delivery of their legal services by automating manual processes using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

These advances provide significant reductions in overhead expenses, execution timelines, and productivity.

As the legal tech community continues to grow through acquisitions and greater funding over the last decade, the legal sector saw the birth of many legal tech startups looking to solve the problem of “how to help law firms do more with less.” This is now possible with many low-cost automation tools available in the market today.

The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 23 percent of a lawyer’s job can be automated with current technology. Eliminating manual processes through automation will give your law firm an advantage to more efficiently assist your clients and to attract new business.

This article explores some of the latest advances in legal task automation.

Contracts

Contract and document review are a long and time-consuming process, especially when doing so manually. Reviewing contracts requires a careful eye to avoid mistakes or to not miss a detail, as well as safely sharing the contract or document with the necessary parties. For these reasons, a wide variety of contract and document automation tools were created.

Manually reviewing contracts is a process in itself. Legal tech tools like Kira Systems automates the process all together. From beginning to end, its machine learning and artificial intelligence assists you to help review projects quicker, investing less time and effort doing so, as well as eliminating the possibility of human error. Its users have reported time savings of 20-40 percent for first-time users, and up to 90 percent for those with more experience.

Similarly, Elevate, a legal services provider, saved a client $500,000 and eliminated over 5,000 hours of contract review and analysis using Kira and advanced workflows. Quick returns, better results – sounds like a win-win and a very happy client.

Once the contract or document review is completed, and the contract is executed, guaranteeing and enforcing performance often created new challenges. With room for improvement, “Smart Contracts” came in to play.

Smart Contracts uses blockchain technology to help you exchange money, property or anything of value in a transparent and conflict-free way without dealing with or paying intermediaries. Imagine the time saved and the conflicts averted by utilizing smart contracts to facilitate, verify or enforce the performance of a contract automatically.

Time Entries

Entering and keeping track of hours worked can be the bane of most lawyers.

Aderant’s Marie Burgess states “lawyers work on multiple matters often for multiple clients on any given day. It’s time-consuming and challenging to reconstruct what they worked on at the end of a long day… This may well compound the problem because many of us have a hard time remembering what we did yesterday, let alone what we did last week, or even several weeks ago.”

Time entries can be automated to eliminate the frustration associated with entering time. These tools work to streamline the process altogether, improving accuracy, eliminating lost time and it provides greater transparency.

With applications like Smokeball, your law firm can automate the manual process of entering time. Its application automates time and activity tracking, document automation, and seamlessly integrates with Word and Outlook. Small firms on average see a 34 percent increase in profitability using Smokeball’s software.

Other platforms like Time by Ping, focusing on large law firms, automate timekeeping through building a timesheet for the lawyer and analyzing the time data for the firm.

Another application called BillerAssist increases revenues by using machine learning to prevent non-billable work and ensure compliance with client billing rules.

 Task Coding

Does your practice focus mainly on institutional and corporate clients? Your prayers may be answered with automated task-based coding.

With the emergence of Unified Task Based Management System and the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard, clarity was brought to billing. According to Rocket Matter, 30 percent of law firm work is left uncollected because of the agony associated with LEDES billing.

Lawyers that manually deal with UTBMS/LEDES coding are all too familiar with the hassle of searching through a drop-down menu list to find the correct code associated with the task you are billing for. Once again, automating this function will save your law firm time and money.

An application called LedesAssist eliminates the headache all together with automated UTBMS/LEDES coding. 

The application automatically codes your entries as you bill, or process an entire month’s worth of entries in a matter of minutes. With this cutting-edge technology, lawyers can enter their time, and have compliant task coded invoices, easier and more efficiently.

According to Rocket Matter, 30% of law firm work is left uncollected because of the hassles associated with LEDES billing.  Automating this function will save your law firm time and money.

Research

Legal research is another time-consuming manual process, and the process of sifting through statutes, regulations, case law, and other legal authorities to extract key quotations is tedious. However, automation tools that exist today to conduct legal research as well.

For example, let’s take a look at Ross Intelligence, a legal research platform powered by artificial intelligence. A bankruptcy partner at a Miami firm decided to go toe-to-toe with this legal research application to see what the outcome would be. The result was, “[a]fter 10 hours of searching online legal databases, he found a case whose facts nearly mirrored the one he was working on. Ross found that case almost instantly.”

The value is clear and the results are accurate. Imagine notifying your client that you completed the necessary legal research on the matter in minutes, not hours or days? Your client will be pleased, and will most likely give you more work.

Furthermore, if you think that your legal research skills are superior and that you do not need the assistance of artificial intelligence, you might want to consider a recent ruling by a court in Canada.

In his ruling, the judge penalized two lawyers for failing to use AI to assist their case, resulting in over billing. As noted in Robert Ambrogi’s Above the law article, the judge stated that if AI sources were used, the counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced. After cutting the requested disbursements, the judge eliminated the entire amount sought for legal research, ruling that”[i]f artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.”

Moving Forward

Automating your manual processes to enhance the delivery of your legal services will benefit your law firm in many ways.

The time and money saved are clearly evident when automating manual processes, as well as the increase in efficiency and accuracy that legal technology offers.

Early adopters can stay ahead of the curve staying up-to-date on the latest legal tech tools the market has to offer through researching online, as well as attending one of the many legal tech conferences like the Clio Cloud ConferenceABA TECHSHOW and more.

Law firms should be proactive and not reactive to find solutions that improve work flows to do more with less. Early adopters who are at the forefront of improving their processes become more attractive to their clients and to potential ones in the future.

This article was first published on Law Technology Today on 5/7/2019.