Will the future of law belong to large or small firms? It’s a debate that is ongoing.
It was great to see our customer Housing New Zealand profiled in LawTalk 917 for their success in working with us on document automation.
You can read the article on the Law Society website here, and the full text is set out below.
If you would like to discuss how document automation could provide similar benefits for you, please get in touch!
For many people, January is a time of reflection and new year resolutions to make a change. Having had a decent break, many people recognise that they are not happy in their current situation and resolve to get a new job.
This article contains some suggestions on how to get the best new legal job for your circumstances.
We talk to a lot of organisations about document automation. Many of them have problems that document automation can help with. Some of them are literally drowning in paperwork, lacking sufficient experienced staff, and know they are exposed to undesirable levels of risk through inadvertent error or lost opportunities through delay. The people on the front-line need a solution now!
Although it is something that they want to start using because they know the benefits it will provide them in terms of greater speed and quality of document creation, with reduced costs and risk of error, many of them already have some type of system that already has, or could have as an extra module, some sort of document generation capability which they are not using. In a corporate context this could be a procurement system or an HR system, and in a law firm, it is often the firm’s practice management system.
Sensibly they want to look into that option further before they make a decision on how they will start to use document automation. The problem is that we see a lot of people go into that process, but few come out the other side. Months or years will pass without getting any of the benefits they know they need. How can this problem be avoided?
If you are considering these types of issues, the following questions and thoughts based on our observations might help you and your team move through evaluation more quickly and effectively and avoid it becoming a black hole that devours your initiative before you get going:
I like learning about new legal technologies, and how they can help me, but like most people I can still struggle to find time to try them all out.
A good example is digital signatures. I’ve known about them for years, and always thought they will eventually be the way that we sign all our documents, but haven’t made the time to look into it and why I should use it now. However a couple of weeks ago Mike Eyal from Secured Signing and I caught up again after first meeting at the LawFest Conference in May. Secured Signing are another New Zealand based legal technology company, established in 2010 with a number of satisfied customers.
Mike showed me how the Secured Signing system works, and I could tell it was a natural fit for our document automation system and something I wanted to start using. We have now built a Secured Signing integration which we can drop into any of our automated document templates so that users can automatically create Secured Signing “Smart Tags”. These are very simple pieces of formatted text that the Secured Signing system can recognise and act on to manage the digital signing process.
Just under a year ago when I launched LawHawk, in an interview with LawTalk I said that “Document automation will be the way lawyers work – the key is how you will do it.”
I also said “I know people have been saying ‘change is coming’ for years without it happening, but this time it really is.”
“Yeah right!” a lot of lawyers would have said.
But things really are changing quickly in this space, and you can see this in the exhibitors at LawFest, New Zealand’s leading legal technology conference. This year there will be three specialist document automation solutions that I am aware of, none of which were available in New Zealand this time last year. Automation of legal documents is becoming mainstream. It is happening, even if you cannot see it, as this example demonstrates.
A lot of my recent blogs have suggested clients should look at how their lawyers work and ask questions, like what systems do they have? What training do they do to ensure they provide the best levels of service?
This week I want to look at the related topic of pricing. I say related topic, because the pricing options a law firm can offer will depend heavily on the systems they have. A firm that has not invested in good systems is unlikely to be able to offer transparent and certain pricing.
Perhaps reflecting this lack of investment in systems, many lawyers still use hourly rate billing and loose estimates of cost based on time that will be spent (e.g. $3,000 to $5,000...), which is inherently unsatisfactory for clients as it contains little incentive to be efficient and can often lead to nasty bill shocks (e.g. $7,000) at the end of the matter when the lawyer advises that it took longer than they thought it would.
To try and get good value, clients often focus on discounts to the hourly rate, which does not solve the problem if the number of hours is open ended. The firm could just throw 5 people onto a simple job, as in this example.
Pricing in this way can be a complete finger in the air, where not only would different lawyers within a firm be likely to charge different amounts for the same piece of work, but the same lawyer could charge different amounts on a different day. Isn't that bizarre?
Firms that can give greater clarity and certainty on pricing - while still giving good outcomes and not taking shortcuts - should be rewarded by clients. But, for that to happen, clients have to look beyond hourly rates and ask the right questions.
A month ago LawHawk and Succeed Legal released a free will that anyone in New Zealand can use. You can read more about this in this earlier post: Half of Kiwis over 18 don't have a will - what are we going to do about it?
We decided we would run the free will as a trial through to 30 April to begin with, as we wanted to be sure that it would work well in practice, and there weren’t any issues we hadn’t foreseen. Well, a month in we are very happy with how it has gone and have decided to keep it going.
In this blog, I look at what our objectives were and the extent to which they were achieved. In particular, I look at the current and future role of lawyers in relation to drafting and advising on wills and how that could change when the drafting has been automated.
As I noted in my earlier blog (Half of Kiwis over 18 don’t have a will – what are we going to do about it?), a lot of New Zealanders don't have wills. It's not really clear why that is, but one reason is that a lot of people think they haven't got enough assets to make it worthwhile.
With the growth of KiwiSaver balances, that is often not the case. Average KiwiSaver balances are now approaching $15,000, which is the threshold for administration of an estate without a will. Above that figure, and the family has to go to court to have someone appointed as the administrator. Stuff recently drew attention to this issue, and also to the free will that we recently launched with Matt Hay.