Read on to learn why legal automation matters, practical use cases of legal automation, how to adopt and promote it across your legal department, and how it can help you get more essential legal work done in less time.
In this chapter of our complete guide to Legal Operations, we look at legal automation and how in-house counsel and Legal Operations can benefit from automating their workflows and processes.
What is legal automation?
Legal automation refers to the use of software to automate repetitive and manual workflows and tasks that legal professionals execute each day. As Legal Operations is an integral part of legal teams, Legal Ops automation means using software to automate the manual work that your Legal Operations carries out.
Take a look at contract management. Before, legal experts had to manually copy and paste old contracts when preparing each new contract (which is still common in some cases). This often led to non-standardized contracts and missing clauses, eventually tying up legal counsel’s hands and preventing them from focusing on more high-impact tasks. Now, with legal contract automation, legal experts can fully automate contract creation, from end to end.
Which Legal Ops processes can be automated?
Believe it or not, legal automation can turn most legal workflows into automated processes. While the extent to which certain process can be automated might depend on their complexity or your legal tech budget, legal automation helps significantly with the brunt of them. The best processes to automate are those that are repetitive, time-consuming, and lack relative complexity.
The most common services of Legal Operations include process development, project management, data analytics, vendor management, process support, and financial management. And these services consist of recurring, low-complexity tasks, to a large extent.
This means you can automate legal processes such as:
- Contract management, including everything from contract creation to contract reviewing and signing, and contract risk assessing
- Compliance and risk management, e.g. CCPA, GDPR, DAC6, or ESG compliance
- Commercial contract due diligence exercises
- Vendor onboarding and vendor due diligence
- Legal intake
- HR incidents handling
Reasons for adopting Legal Operations automation
Automating Legal Operations minimizes risk, increases compliance with laws and company policies, and saves time for legal teams to focus on high-value, high-complexity tasks and projects.
Lawyers and in-house legal teams work on a variety of business-critical tasks. Preparing contracts for future employees or vendors, assessing compliance or IP infringements, and ensuring data privacy is protected in line with industry standards are just some of the backlog items for legal teams.
However, a good part of these tasks currently consists of manual copying and pasting parts of documents or legacy contracts, sometimes from one file editor to another. These clunky processes are prone to errors and can potentially cost the company, not just in terms of fines, but also in terms of its reputation, customers’ trust and in-house perception.
Legal automation is the antidote to these faulty workflows. It allows highly paid legal experts to create a templated workflow for all manual tasks and completely offload recurring, but still critical tasks, to their legal tools. This means fewer errors, faster delivery of legal work, and as a result, more time for legal experts to focus on high-priority, strategic work.
Benefits of legal workflow automation
Legal Operations automation brings a suite of benefits to in-house counsel, Legal Ops and law firms — here are are some of the top ones:
Legal workflow automation increases ROI
With service automation, Legal Operations and legal teams can use a simple drag-and-drop interface to create customizable workflow templates that can be replicated across departments and automate a large portion of currently manual work. This helps legal experts do more work in significantly less time, without waiting on lengthy IT project implementation cycles.
Reduce the total cost of ownership
Thanks to their ease of use, legal automation tools allow you to cut down costs to onboard and support legal staff. And, they create more space for highly paid legal experts to focus on high-impact work, not squandering time on important-but-manual tasks. Also, as most automation tools let you map out your processes and update them continuously, you will be optimizing costs on a weekly basis, with each update to your legal workflows.
Standardize processes to reduce errors and cut compliance costs
Legal automation tools let you create standardized workflows that are executed automatically in line with the rules you set. For instance, instead of copying parts of existing contracts each time you create a new vendor contract, you can create a template with key clauses, and allow for automatic alterations based on criteria such as jurisdiction. Then, when a new partnership deal is struck, all you need to do is choose the jurisdiction, enter partner info, and you will be instantly given a brand-compliant contract. This reduces the errors in the process, speeds up deal signing, and minimizes chances of non-compliance fines.
What is no-code automation?
No-code automation is simply the use of no-code technology to automate processes and tasks. This means that non-tech experts can use the visual drag-and-drop interface of no-code platforms to build fully-fledged applications, without having to learn how to code.
How does no-code automation apply to legal operations?
In practical terms, no-code automation of legal processes means using building blocks, forms, and decision trees to digitize workflows and processes, and in doing so, map out the logic behind the tasks you want to automate.
Once you lay down the business logic behind a process, you can look for ways to improve, edit, or replicate the (missing) steps. And you can see what your application looks like in real-time, which lets you add or update your workflow with input from other teams on an ongoing basis.
What are some limitations of no-code legal automation?
Legal workflow automation significantly speeds up Legal Operations. It allows them to take on more strategically important tasks from in-house counsel, and also to work as strategic partners and advisors with compliance, finance, marketing, and HR teams.
However, there are some limitations to where no-code legal automation can help.
First, no-code legal automation helps little with complex, bespoke processes that require legal experts to provide more in-depth guidance on a case-by-case basis.
Second, and building on the previous point, when a legal workflow requires several different parts of the infrastructure to exchange information in order to work, the IT team would need to be involved in bridging the gaps between those system parts. This happens in cases where you might need to exchange information with specific or custom proprietary internal platforms. Still, the majority of legal operations processes can be automated without the internal IT team having to be involved.
Final thoughts on automating Legal Operations
At its core, legal automation is about enablement, and not about making legal experts obsolete. Through legal automation, in-house legal counsel and Legal Ops can get their recurring, low-risk, and low-value day-to-day work automated. And when paired with a no-code app builder, legal professionals can automate these processes themselves. It is the legal and Legal Ops experts who benefit the most from legal automation — by being able to build apps that work for them, entire in-house legal teams get to do more high-impact work, involved in tasks only when necessary.
Want to explore how legal automation and Legal Operations fit? Check out our complete guide to Legal Operations and read about real-life use cases for more efficient legal processes.