Which tasks should your law firm automate first?

August 20, 2020

Law firms excel at building and executing processes, which explains why so many are interested in business process automation. The high-level benefits of automation are significant: you’re able to reduce or remove the burden of repetitive tasks on your staff while at the same time reducing the potential for errors and mitigating compliance risks. What’s not to like?

While law firm practice automation can work wonders for your day-to-day workload, it’s important to understand that not all tasks should be automated. When it comes to some interactions, no machine–AI or otherwise–can achieve the results of good, old-fashioned human engagement

So, as you build some automation into your law firm, where can you draw the line to make the most of the benefits of automation without losing a high-touch client experience? Here’s a list of three questions you can ask yourself and your staff members to identify opportunities for automation that will improve the way you operate.

Question 1: What tasks do we do every day or every week with computer software?

The first step you can take toward automating processes is evaluating your calendar and computer usage to identify tasks, meetings, or processes that take place every day or every week within your law firm.

For example, by evaluating your schedule you might find that you regularly have a partner meeting on Thursdays or Fridays of every week, but this meeting is scheduled by your assistant every Monday. A quick and easy automation you can put in place is to create a standing meeting scheduled in your email client – along with an automated 24-hour reminder email and a post-meeting request for feedback or notes – so everyone knows what to expect each week.

Many firms using Microsoft’s Office 365 can utilize Bookings to have available calendar appointments visible on the firm’s website. Once a client selects an available date and time, it updates the firm calendar and notifies the responsible attorney. For firms using AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney, or Amicus Online, these events are added automatically via the Office365 calendar sync. Such low-effort, high-reward scheduling automation can make clients happy and free busy attorney’s time.

A more complex example of process automation is new client onboarding.

For many firms, onboarding every new client is an exercise in PDFs, emails, signatures, and phone calls. But what if you took that manual process and created an automated one that held all of the instructions and paperwork for your clients in one place? Then you and your legal team would be free to focus on providing the high touch client service that turns every client into a client for life.

Finding and acting on efficiencies like this will only become more important as clients push to secure legal services at lower costs. To stay competitive against product- and process-focused offerings like Rocket Lawyer and Legal Zoom, your firm must ensure it’s doing everything it can to maximize value and minimize cost for clients.

Question 2: What tasks do we need to do but often delay or forget?

As you identify more processes to automate for your law firm, you’ll find you finally have time to review those tasks that are important, but not a priority – the activities that often get pushed back or forgotten about until a deadline looms. These tasks represent more opportunities to automate your to-do list both with your schedule, notifications and reminders, and with your processes.

For example, if your firm has not yet grown to need a full-time Human Resources director, there are often HR-related activities and requirements that are important but not urgent until a deadline is pending. You can automate these processes by outsourcing your HR responsibilities to a consulting company or even deploying a modern Human Capital Management system with consulting support.

Automation can also transform how your firm assembles, reviews, and organizes documents, including but not limited to engagement letters, court pleadings, agreements and contracts. Traditional methods of organizing documents involve manually storing them contracts in filing cabinets, or perhaps storing scanned copies in a secure cloud location. The review, comment and updating process is time intensive, complex and convoluted.

HotDocs document automation allows you to create accurate, compliant documents in a fraction of the time it takes to do manually, with the option to easily collect client information through virtual interviews. HotDocs also integrates with AbacusLaw and Amicus Attorney, giving your staff access to a unified dashboard that organizes all emails, notes, and documents within these practice management solutions—a total process upgrade.

Question 3: What kind of outreach do we do with current and prospective customers?

Relationship-building and outreach is essential in maintaining and growing your legal practice. But all too often these important but not urgent tasks get set aside in favor of the high value work and even daily emergencies that pop up. Marketing automation in the form of scheduling social media, company newsletters, and interpersonal emails to be sent at a particular day and time can help you meet your marketing goals without devoting your valuable time managing the process each day.

Here are a few products to consider for marketing automation:

Even if you’re automating all the outreach you can, attorneys might find they’re often spending a lot of time communicating with clients. This is an example of a process that needs to have a high level of human touch, but that can still be automated by creating templates or form responses to common client questions.

In general, let your firm’s policy be to only ever write the same thing once. Then task an administrative assistant to capture and organize those responses in an internal database so your legal team can quickly and easily find, customize, and send a succinct and effective response to a client.

Process automation optimizes your legal firm

At the end of the day, process automation is a crucial component of your law firm’s organizational excellence. The goal of process automation is not to eliminate the human touch from all your work and automate your business, but to automate the repetitive and non-essential tasks of your job, thereby freeing you and your staff to serve your clients better. Start today by using this list to identify the processes within your legal firm that are most suitable to automation and take a small step towards enhanced operations.

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