While other industries have steadily moved toward automation, the legal profession is still rife with manual tasks. These tasks not only drain firm resources but open up your firm to potential errors and lost revenue. Yet, technology has evolved to provide simple and effective solutions for these tasks.
In fact, legal technology has recently improved with Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Both allow for firms to automate manual processes, thereby dramatically reducing overhead expenses.
Approximately 23 percent of an attorney's activities and 69 percent of a paralegal’s activities could be automated using current technologies, according to McKinsey Global Institute. With shorter execution timelines allowing workers to tackle more work more effectively, the end result from automation is markedly improved productivity.
While once apprehensive of its advances into its industry, the legal profession has come to recognize and accept the numerous advantages technology brings. By consolidating manual tasks of multiple workers into automated systems, evolving legal software has offered smaller companies a greater chance of viability and the ability to become more competitive.
Furthermore, this extra time and attention saved through automation can be spent providing clients with improved service or focusing on attracting new ones to ensure that the firm is constantly growing.
Optimized and Accurate Timekeeping
Keeping meticulous track of how many hours an attorney works is tedious, but also critical to a law firm’s survival. Entering that time and selecting the correct classification or description of what the work entailed is highly important, as it communicates to the client what they are paying for. Although all of these tasks are crucial to running a practice effectively, they are often frequently vulnerable to human error.
Entering time is not a favored task for most lawyers, considering it a “necessary evil.” This task can often be put off until the weekend, where lawyers spend their relaxing or family time consumed with recalling their tasks from the week prior. Or, if done during every day, can consume easily 30 minutes of their time.
As Marie Burgess of Aderant aptly puts it: “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.”
In addition, a majority of law firms say that it takes them up to two weeks to clean up their invoices before they are even ready to be sent to clients, according to a 2019 Aderant survey.
A realistic solution to the problem of inefficient time entries is through automation. Instead of tracking and entry being two separate tasks, new legal software solutions work to streamline the process as a whole. Additionally, the AI and machine learning components help improve billing accuracy by reducing human error and provide clients with increased transparency.
Manual Bills Coding: Is there a Better Way?
If you are a law firm that mainly deals with institutional and corporate clients, most likely just thinking about manual task coding keeps you awake at night. Thankfully, coding too, can be automated.
The Unified Task-Based Management System and the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard created standardization and transparency from the previously nebulous art of billing. They have been so successful that the institutions and organizations employing lawyers require their use.
On a small scale, the drop-down boxes used to select the corresponding code or cost do not appear difficult. However, it can become a considerable hassle as the number of entries increases. Not only that, the tedious method of looking for and choosing the right code that is vulnerable to human error and idiosyncrasies. This implies that, due to unintended errors, numerous hours can be poured into coding only for the invoice to be rejected.
Luckily, it is the very repetitive nature of this task that makes it suitable for automation. When they are entered, applications can automatically code time entries or pre-entered entries can be coded all at once. Again, this approach saves time, money, and quite a bit of aggravation in this situation. In fact, there are applications that already solve this problem.
Improving Efficiencies in Document Review and Contracts
Manually reviewing contracts and other legal documents is a time-consuming and laborious practice. In these tasks, attention to detail is key. Attorneys must ensure that they do not miss details as small facts can help or hurt their clients. This equates to poring over long documents, often multiple times. As such, it should come as no surprise that one of the first areas legal tech was called to explore was document review.
Using legal technology resources such as Kira Systems, the document review process can be fully automated. These technology resources can use both AI and machine learning to analyze documents in a fraction of the time used in manual review. Since the process is automated, it is possible to do other work concurrently, thus instantly improving productivity. In addition, the possibility for human error is greatly reduced.
New Kira users estimated saving 20-40 percent of the time they had previously spent on document analysis, while seasoned users reported saving more than 90 percent of their time. One Kira Systems client, Fredrikson and Byron, used the Kira document review application for its M&A practice, finding an approximate 48 percent person time savings for a due diligence document review project of over 500 documents.
Legal technology can assist in finding errors in documents and contracts as well. In a study pitting 20 top US-trained lawyers with expertise in corporate law against AI to find errors in five Non-Disclosure Agreements, the results were startling.
The AI platform from LawGeex performed at 94 percent accuracy while the lawyers performed at 85 percent accuracy. Furthermore, LawGeex AI completed this in 26 seconds while the human lawyers completed the tasks in 92 minutes.
Evaluating and analyzing contracts are only part of the equation. Guaranteeing and implementing performance poses its own special challenges. Though still not yet flawless, “Smart Contracts" provide a solution that is constantly evolving and improving.
With Smart Contracts, using blockchain technology, contractual terms can become self-executing. More significantly, it eliminates the need for go-betweens, thus saving resources that would usually go toward an intermediary between the two parties. Because exchanges made via the blockchain create an immutable record, all transactions can be verified immediately. On fulfillment of preselected requirements, exchanges via blockchain can be configured to automatically release payment. Additionally, with the recent development of blockchain oracles, these blockchain Smart Contracts can source external data to trigger contract execution.
The automation of manual tasks is smart business. Legal automation saves money, time, and, in many cases, greater awareness of details. By reinvesting the saved time and resources, the results are multiplied in the ability to provide better representation of existing clients and increase focus in finding new ones.
In time, the use of these technologies and software will be commonplace. Adopting them now will allow you to enhance your firm with their beneficial and competitive efficiencies.