At the CLOC Institute London in January 2019, Richard Susskind said: “We are currently not radically transforming legal practice, we are extensively automating past practice.” We disagree with this statement. Mainstream adoption of document automation technology is radically transformative and automation projects are catalysts for change to poor past practice.
The Transformative Effect of Automation
Automating a document reduces drafting time by at least 80%. Further time savings are available by combining similar documents into automated “suites”. Automation also improves the consistency of legal work, reducing the risk of mistakes. Pre-approved templates also mean that low-risk contracts do not have to be checked by legal before they are signed. The benefit of this to any legal team is transformative. For example, in the retail sector, commercial buyers can “self-serve” contracts without input from the legal team. We know of one retail chain which uses automation technology to create contracts during negotiations between a buyer and a supplier, with many contracts digitally signed during the same meeting. Business is conducted faster which in turn increases cash flow.
This addresses Susskind’s ‘more for less’ problem, the idea that legal teams are having to do more but charge less, by allowing more work to be completed at a higher standard in less time and at a lower cost.
Automation Projects As Catalysts To Weed Out Poor Existing Practice
Automation drives change to existing poor practice. The prospect of automation forces legal teams to consider whether their documents and process are fit for purpose. One of our clients (a complex, multi-sector former state-owned business) had 16 different NDAs as a consequence of lawyers in different sub-teams acting in silo. We used AI and document automation technology (alongside legal experience) to rationalising the 16 NDAs into one automated template.
Another client had a complex governance process where contracts were often rejected right at the end of the contract cycle (an enormous waste of time and effort). Automation forced the client to reconsider its approach to governance. Post automation contracts are pre-approved unless certain risks are triggered. These risks, such as financial commitment and exclusivity, are triggered during the process of creating the automated document.
The Transformative Impact on Lawyers
When we first start working with customers, particularly corporate legal teams, they feedback that key motivation for digitising legal process is that they are under so much pressure from repetitive business as usual work, that they have no time for more complex interesting matters, (which are invariably farmed out to external lawyers). Later, as automation reduces time required for repetitive tasks lawyers can focus on the more interesting work. Anything which makes lawyers happier is truly transformative!
For more information please contact Alfie@syke.tech