Everything You Need to Know About Legal Document Automation

Everything You Need to Know About Legal Document Automation

The Estateably Team
October 12, 2023

Lawyers can spend much of their day creating similar versions of the same standard contracts and documents. These manual, repetitive tasks are hardly the best use of their time: It impacts their ability to focus on more strategic work, and it certainly doesn’t deliver the best value to clients in terms of billable hours.

Legal document automation software offers an effective solution to this problem. Below, we’ll look at how document automation helps law firms and in-house legal teams increase productivity so they can focus on more high-value tasks.

What is Legal Document Automation?

Legal document automation is a digital process that helps lawyers generate standard legal documents—such as probate forms, letters, and NDAs—from a template. It’s perhaps the most well-known tool under the ‘legal automation’ umbrella, which describes any mundane or repetitive legal process that software can automate, such as document management or knowledge management.

Which Legal Documents Can Be Automated?

Automation technology is most suitable for generating routine documents such as NDAs, T&Cs, or renewal contracts. It’s worth considering legal automation if:

  • Documents are time-consuming to create but low-value in terms of billing
  • Templates can be created based on clear rules and processes
  • The same type of document is used frequently in your practice
  • Documents aren’t overly complex

Automation may not be suitable for:

  • Requirements that are likely to change often
  • A new legal field without established processes
  • Bespoke work that’s unlikely to be repeated

How The Legal Document Automation Process Works

Creating a standard contract, such as an NDA, can be laborious and time-consuming. After wading through all the previous versions to find the most up-to-date Word document or PDF, lawyers then have to make manual amends to correct any errors that have crept in. Then, they need to include all the relevant information, such as the effective date and counterparty, before entering into the back-and-forth over negotiation and signatures. It all involves a lot of cutting, pasting, and chasing, with plenty of scope for human error along the way.

Here’s how the process looks when you create a digital contract instead:

  1. Your law practice (or in-house legal team) creates the NDA template.
  2. Users answer a questionnaire to enable the software to generate the document according to set rules. Guidance can be built into the template to help users fill it in.
  3. Internal collaboration and external negotiation both take place online within the document.
  4. The document is signed with an electronic signature.
  5. The final signed document is shared.
  6. The final copy is then stored securely and tagged for findability.

Benefits of Legal Document Automation Software

By streamlining the entire document creation process, automation software can bring a host of benefits to a law firm:

Save Time

Nobody went to law school hoping to spend all day entering the same client information over and over. One of the main benefits of technology is the sheer amount of time it can save. Freed from routine administrative tasks such as printing PDFs for signature, a legal department can focus on providing strategic advice or complex negotiations.

Reduce Costs

Legal automation significantly reduces the cost of creating legal documents by saving time on manual tasks. Digital contracts and self-service capabilities reduce a team’s workload, helping decrease costs and make the best use of resources.

Less Duplication

Creating documents at scale involves a large amount of duplication, both in terms of drafting documents and entering client information. Automation can significantly reduce this by building a bank of up-to-date, compliant documents and pulling information from your client database.

Set the Standard

Version control is a big challenge for law firms and legal teams. Creating multiple versions of the same contract and saving them as Word documents means that it’s difficult to identify the definitive version and increases the risk of errors and non-compliance. Legal document automation helps establish a single source of truth with standardized templates based on business rules that comply with current legal requirements.

Eliminate Human Error

Manually producing a large number of documents invites a degree of human error. Automation software, on the other hand, can repeat the same task repeatedly without getting tired, reducing the risk of error so that documents are accurate, up-to-date, and compliant.

Capture & Analyze Data

Digital contracts capture information that can be used in analytics to improve processes. This information can also be linked to other systems, such as client communications software, for a smoother workflow.

A Better Client Experience

Automation software offers a quicker turnaround for legal services and provides cost savings that can be passed on to clients. It also enables self-service for clients and internal stakeholders to create simple documents themselves.

3 Tips for Choosing the Right Document Automation Platform

Selecting the right platform is imperative to fully reap the benefits of document automation. Here are a few tips for doing so:

Secure Internal Buy-in

Despite the impact that document automation has already had on the legal industry, many lawyers are still resistant to new technology for fear that it will erode their role in creating contracts. Consider a pilot scheme to demonstrate the benefits of delegating routine tasks so that they can focus on more high-value work, leading to greater job satisfaction.

Consider Your Area

This applies to both your legal field and your geographical location. Legal regulations can vary internationally and from state to state, so verify whether your technology provider can create templates that comply with your operating area. It’s also critical that the system can generate documents for your specific area of law.

Identify How it Fits into Your Process

Legal document automation doesn’t operate in a vacuum; it’s important to consider it as part of your overall legal automation software, together with tools such as billing, compliance management and reporting, and analytics. While document automation isn’t the same as document management (which helps lawyers organize, search, edit, and manage the access of documents), the two often go hand in hand.

Empower Your Digital Transformation With Estateably

Looking to power your trust and estates law practice with the help of legal automation tools? Estateably offers a cloud-based estate, trust, and guardianship administration solution. Our library of over 1,000 automated documents includes provincial probate forms, precedents, federal notices, and template letters that can be generated with just one click.

Book a free demo or contact us today to see how our solutions can streamline your legal administration workflow to increase productivity and grow your business.

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