Proven in Practice: Legal Workflow Automation in the Real World

Proven in Practice: Legal Workflow Automation in the Real World

By Steven O’Donnell, Mitratech

It’s all well and good to talk about the benefits of legal technology. But there comes a point where talk ought to be supplanted by proof.

Does a technology actually deliver as promised? Does it generate the intended positive results, or just create negative disruption? If legal departments and law firms are plagued by traditionalism and inefficient manual processes, is the cure better or worse than the ‘disease’?

There have been plenty of enterprise technology products with overwhelming hype and underwhelming performance. A lawyer or a Legal Ops leader can’t be blamed for casting a skeptical eye on any provider who freely flings around terms like ‘digital transformation’ but only offers up hypotheticals when it comes to on-the-ground ROI.

This only makes it more difficult for the prospective adopter to decide what their safest and most reliable legal tech adoption path should be. In 2018, according to Forbes, the legal tech sector saw a staggering 713% growth in investment. And according to AngelList, there are over 1,000 legal tech startups, each competing for its share of the market by offering up its own hyperbole.

To sort through this marketplace melee, it’s necessary for a legal tech evaluator to do two things: A) Decide which solution or platform is a solid, dependable ‘cornerstone’ for future growth and integration of their legal stack, and B) find a solution that’s proven in practice, having an established track record of results quantified by legal departments or law firms who have realised actual benefits.

A cornerstone technology with real-world results

The solution that’s been embraced by many Legal Ops teams as a cornerstone of present-day ROI and future technology adoption is workflow automation, for reasons we’ve explored before.

It’s particularly valuable because the right product can help an entire legal tech stack work more efficiently,  and knit together in-house legal, in-house corporate clients and stakeholders, outside counsel, and technology providers into a unified ecosystem, thanks to its integration and collaboration features.

That said, actual performance and results, as shown in verified case studies, is the proof point our would-be adopter should demand from a legal tech vendor.  What’s heartening about legal workflow automation is that these use cases actually exist, and they bear out the promise it offers. By adopting workflow automation, these three companies saw results that were a lot more than incremental.

NetApp: ‘Crazy, life-changing’ technology

NetApp is a Fortune 500 company with over 10,000 employees globally. Connie Brenton, its Chief of Staff/Director of Legal Operations, is a Legal Ops pioneer, a co-founder of CLOC, and her team were faced with a number of challenges: to drive greater collaboration and connection both within their department and with internal clients and external resources, to be more agile and responsive, and to reduce costs even while being tasked with delivering more services to a very large client base.

The particular solution they picked was TAP Workflow Automation. How did legal workflow automation work out in handling NetApp’s needs, according to Connie?

‘We rolled out our first use cases, which affected our operations, and discovered this technology is truly unique. It worked so well and was such an easy implementation, we got very little pushback. It’s incredibly intuitive, so there’s very little training required.’

Any business solution is only as good as its ROI, of course. In NetApp’s analysis, it saw workflow automation ROI from the very start that were, in a word, sizeable: ‘It allows us to create processes that are streamlined, which has helped our company embrace digital transformation,’ Connie says. ‘We save, on the average, $70,000 a week from using electronic signatures. That’s equivalent to $3.6m a year.’

As Legal Operations experienced success, it soon found itself helping other departments adopt workflow automation, spreading its impact across the enterprise. ‘We’re just getting started,’ Connie Brenton says. ‘It’s one of those crazy, life-changing technologies.’

Juniper Networks: Stemming the email deluge

Juniper is a high-performance network solutions provider, and was faced with the issue of having a single person in their legal department having to issue, sign and process 750 Manufacturer’s Authorization Form (MAF) documents every quarter. To add to that challenge, the person doing the job was based in California, while MAF approvers lived in the EMEA and APAC regions.

What compounded the difficulty even more, according to Juniper’s Senior Contracts and Project Manager, Eleanor Alderette? ‘Each of these 750 requests had at least two to three emails associated with them. Multiply that 750 by three emails, and that’s a conservative estimate of the effort each letter required. Trying to track all that was tough.’ That could mount up to over 2,250 MAF-related emails per quarter.

That and other manual tasks consumed a huge amount of attorney time, and they knew it – and were asking for change. Workflow automation provided it, cutting the number of emails requiring manual review by over 60%, or 1,276 hours in the first six months alone, which amounted to an estimated cost savings of $236,694.

‘Legal no longer has to have eyes on standard MAFs. You can instantly see where a document is in the process and what last happened with it – no manual tracking needed. It saves a lot of time,’ Eleanor points out.

The future upside of workflow automation is as enticing as the current ROI: ‘The more we roll out workflows,’ she says, ‘the more I realize the options are endless. There’s a number of things we could do to bring more automation to processes.’

Gilead Sciences: Creating successful synergies

Gilead Sciences is a U.S. biotech company that researches, develops, and commercializes drugs, and a member of both the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index and the S&P 500. When it set out to update their legal tech stack, it was critical for them to identify and adopt the kind of technologies that could contribute to the success of the whole stack.

In the view of Greg Bennett, Gilead’s Manager of Legal Operations, that success is ‘the culmination of the synergies between applications, and that they aren’t necessarily customized, but they are evolving over time.’ Legal departments didn’t always grasp those synergies, he explains, or how a solution like workflow automation can help create them through seamless interconnection.

One of the first ‘quick wins’ that workflow automation delivered for Gilead?

‘We had a paper (on-boarding) form that all new employees had to fill out, sign and scan and then submit to me, and I had to approve, then print it out and scan it back in and send to IT for a ticket,’ Greg says. ‘So that’s the first (process) we put into TAP, and we had it in production within two days — it was that simple.’

Empowering co-innovation

These are just some of the many stories of actual digital transformation we’re hearing from the growing TAP community of clients.  At CLOC 2019, Miitratech also announced the new TAP Co-Innovation Center, where customers can view process automation ideas and use cases from their peers, and at their discretion, easily share their own workflow designs.

This drives a culture of co-innovation among users, corporate stakeholders, outside counsel, and other partners. So collaboration and creativity permeate any TAP-based ecosystem, helping to transform not only the enterprise, but the entire legal operations community.

About the author:  Steven O’Donnell is Head of Product Marketing – Legal Operations at Mitratech, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience about the challenges facing legal professionals. A regular speaker at industry events and webinars, he provides in-depth insight into how technology is transforming the legal industry.

[Artificial Lawyer is proud to bring you this sponsored thought leadership article by Mitratech.]