What Is The Value Of Deep Automation?

By Elizabeth Basten, CMO, Clarilis

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year (who could blame you), you will be in no doubt that there are more choices of legal tech in the marketplace than ever before. That is particularly true in the case of document automation, which has lower barriers to entry for simple use cases than some other forms of legal tech.

As we all know (not news) lawyers are also increasingly engaged under Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs), particularly fixed fees, and certain areas of law are fiercely competitive, with clients consistently driving down prices, whilst maintaining expectations as to quality. See Richard Tromans’ article on 30 June on the rise of AFAs – AFAs Increase to 16.8% – Could Be Good News for Legal Tech.

In this context efficiency is top of mind, particularly in departments such as banking and finance, corporate, and real estate. Statements such as ‘Efficiency – we’re not that kind of firm’ are now few and far between, although surprisingly are still uttered from time to time.

It is not surprising that the conversation in these departments has moved from whether ‘To automate or not to automate?’ to questions such as ‘Show me the appropriate use cases?’ and ‘Which legal tech will bring the greatest efficiency to my process?’.

It is also refreshing to note that for more progressive firms, efficiency is not the only driver when it comes to accelerating the pace of legal tech adoption.

The Clarilis team works with law firms daily in this space to produce a customised Value Analysis report to help them quantify the potential impact of deep automation and consider, alongside efficiency, outcomes such as increased margin, higher recovery rates, and the financial and competitive benefits of liberating fee earners from the mundane.

Intangible benefits such as better work/life balance and lawyer wellbeing can then become a natural by-product of automation which are, in themselves, key drivers of talent acquisition, development and retention.

What Are Your Drivers?

There are a wide range of adoption drivers for legal tech in modern law firms from which ROI can be derived. A Value Analysis Report from a provider like Clarilis can help to establish or enhance a business case for automation (or equally as valuable, to establish that there isn’t one), but also serves to inform conversations by linking the drivers ‘top of mind’ to aspirational and tangible business outcomes.

It can often also help inform wider internal audiences of new goals to help drive the business forward in line with growth aspirations. Quantifying the impact of innovation? Absolutely.

For example, in some jurisdictions, in light of the fact that permanent remote working is now ‘doable’, both recruitment and retention can be a challenge for mid-market firms, regardless of location. It is a candidate’s market, and those candidates want to work for innovative firms that adopt technology to improve the quality of lawyers’ work life balance, wellbeing and to minimise the risk of burnout. That could be your sole driver for adoption – and it would be a good one.

If your focus is improvement to margin, recoverability, enabling risk mitigated delegation, facilitating aggressive pricing through AFAs, creating capacity to increase the productivity of a team, proactively demonstrating a relevant innovation agenda when pitching, whilst differentiating yourself from firms that also have good lawyers and impressive experience in the relevant space – then you are also looking in the right direction (i.e. forward).

… And Your Goals?

Understanding your key drivers then translating them into the goals you are looking to achieve, is key. Next, quantify whether adoption of ‘Legal Tech A’ or ‘Legal Tech B’ will move you further towards your goals.

Sharing your drivers and goals with legal tech providers early in your selection process is much more important than a conversation around features and functions. These conversations often shortcut the process and allow technology demonstrations to be shaped around achievement of your goals.

It’s not good enough to hear ‘here’s a toolkit, it’s really easy to implement’ if it doesn’t help you meet your goals or could involve a world of pain to adopt. Also, legal tech providers shouldn’t be afraid to turn down opportunities where there isn’t a match between their technology and the law firm’s goals – retention is a key metric for all providers and trying to shoe-horn an unsuitable technology into a law firm never ends well.

The More You Automate, The Higher The Reward?

In the context of document automation, arguably, the most significant and dramatic outcomes come from more comprehensive automations, particularly when applied to suites of precedents rather than individual documents. Both simple and complex automations have earned their place in law firms.

Yet, having the right conversation at the start of a relationship with a legal tech provider could be the difference between saving eleven minutes in a given twelve-hour process, as opposed to eleven hours. Ask the legal tech provider you are speaking with to quantify projected savings through an open discussion on the depth of automation necessary to materially impact drafting time. If you are mainly only filling gaps in the document, then expect to be disappointed by the business outcomes. There are compelling and tangible (proven) outcomes of deep automation, if it is done well.

A legal tech that offers a statement of key metrics (such as achievable improvements to your recovery rates, realisation rates and an evaluation of billable rates versus costs, drafting time per role, number of transactions per month) after an initial discovery session with you, is likely to have ‘proof of the pudding in the eating’ statistics based on the law firms they have worked with who can quantify the reduction of wasted effort and recovery. Explore this through reference calls and use cases.

Make Great Communication and Trust the Start of a Beautiful Long-Term Relationship

If you don’t save the lawyer enough drafting time, it isn’t worth that lawyer changing their current working practice, so they are unlikely to adopt document automation if there is no material benefit in doing so, especially when they are busy.

If you also face a testing and implementation process that is onerous and complicated, you are not going to get user buy-in – a huge barrier to adoption. Make sure the support you have available to you speaks ‘legal’ and not ‘tech’. The PSL-led managed service from Clarilis is a model built on the belief that the quality of the people in the legal tech you work with is just as important as the quality of the tech itself.

Generating a compelling business case for adoption is a great start. Keep that momentum by ensuring your legal tech provider commits to a long-term relationship with experienced people to support you. Also ensure your goals for adoption are aligned as closely as possible to the commercial arrangement.

Finally, look out for hidden costs in implementation, additional users and in maintaining your automation (again, references and peer firms are a great source of information here). Your relationship with your legal tech provider is no different to any successful relationships, based on trust and great communication. Be in it for the long haul. The value-add of this approach is boundless.

If you would like your own, customised Clarilis Value Analysis report please click here.

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