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Document Automation – An Analysis of the Time Well Saved, Time Well Spent and Time Well Invested Framework

Posted by Gene Turner on 18-Mar-2024 08:39:53


Back view image of businessman drawing graphics on wallI found the latest podcast by Ron Baker and Ed Kless in The Soul of Enterprise (The Time Tax: The Crime of Stealing Customers’ Time) very thought provoking. I recommend it highly.

It is based on an article by B Joseph Pine II and James H Gilmore – Competing for Customer Time.

While there is ongoing discussion about the hourly billing model and lawyers charging for their time, the focus in the podcast and article is on the value of the client’s time and how to avoid wasting it.

Pine and Gilmore come out strongly:

"While not crimes against humanity, time-wasters are certainly offences against human customers. The worst thing you can do is waste your customers’ time – yet companies do it all the time.”

They go on to say:

“Companies can create value for customers by eliminating activities that waste their time; saving their time when so desired; offering experiences where time is valued; and even helping customers to wisely invest their time.”


“No company should impose wasted time on customers. The primary strategic choices today focus on time well saved and time well spent.”

This made me think about how this applies to our business, LawHawk, and the legal automation solutions we design, build and support. I have set out my thoughts below.

I also have thoughts about how it applies to law firms and in-house legal teams, but will write about that separately.

Time Well Saved

Pine and Gilmore start by looking at “Time well saved”, and how providers can save their customers time.

As an example of excellence in this area, they point to Amazon:

"Amazon excels at saving customer time. It eliminates travel time to and from stores and, through its search and recommendation functions, shopping time itself. It saves customers additional time by remembering credit cards, addresses, and past purchases to avoid duplication and returns. Its one-click ordering all but eliminates checkout time. Prime members avoid the wait for orders that can be bundled into one shipment, while Dash buttons, Echo devices, and Alexa systems even eliminate the time needed to get online to order.”

That’s a lot of effort to save customer time!

What about legal automation, and businesses like LawHawk?

We do pretty well here. One of the main benefits that is promoted for document automation is that it can save a LOT of time. Our lawyer customers would usually see time savings of 75% or more – that’s how slow it is to enter information into word templates and find and correct errors.

Adding further workflow automation into the overall process can save a great deal more time. We’ve provided law firms with online forms that they can use to gather information from clients in a much easier and more intuitive way, saving time for both the client and the law firm.

In-house lawyers have rolled out our self-service forms so that people in the business can complete contracts themselves from within SharePoint pages, saving a lot of time for the business as they don’t need to wait for legal at all – unless they’re triggered something that requires a review and approval, which can be managed digitally too.

Even non-lawyers have been able to use our online will to do simple wills in as little as 30 minutes from the comfort of home – much quicker than if they were to go through a law firm.

Overall, I think we do pretty well on time well saved, but we’re far from Amazon levels yet. There’s more we want to do in the integration space in particular, so that management and re-use of data is as efficient as possible. We’re working on that – watch this space!

Time Well Spent

However, Pine and Gilmore introduce a note of caution about only focusing on Time Well Saved:

“However, if a customer seeks time well spent while the company only provides time well saved, the strategy may backfire and result in commoditization. Consider this: when customers buy goods and services from a company as mere commodities – bought at the cheapest possible price and greatest possible convenience – they can turn around and spend their hard-earned money, and their harder-earned time, with companies offering more highly valued experiences”

How does this apply to legal automation and LawHawk?

We’ve seen this in relation to document automation.

While we often create time savings of 75% or more, we could go a lot further than that. We could, in particular, have fewer questions in our interview questionnaire and less guidance on screen. We could encourage customers to just copy and paste unstructured and poorly written text about the services a contract will cover into a text box, rather than structuring it into separate deliverables/milestones, due dates and performance standards. We could avoid discussions about integrations with other systems, or how different business units or team members collaborate and share information with each other.

This would be faster, and would resemble how a lot of CLM and document automation companies demo their solutions, using simplistic MSAs and employment agreements, but in reality this approach would result in a worse contract and poorer outcomes. So we don’t do it. We think that taking longer, and working through a more guided interview that offers options and guidance makes more sense, particularly if you want good data for better contract management. We think it makes sense to at least consider what a broader solution could look like, even if we still start with something simpler and build out over time.

Similarly, in our online will we could offer a very basic will with very few options. This is what many law firms do to keep costs down. They have “husband and wife” templates where the couple leave everything to each other (or to the children as a fall-back) with no easily available options for other specific gifts.

With automation it makes no difference to us if the customer wants to make lots of specific gifts, or none. They can set out detailed burial wishes. Or not. It’s up to them. However, we do want them to think things through carefully. To enable this, we have embedded 1 hour 50 minutes of video into the solution, so a user can click on the video link in any screen and be taken to the exact part of the video that not only tells them what their options are, but explains when each might apply, and shows them how to use them.

These are not high production quality videos and the presenter could be a lot better (but he works for free), but we get a lot of feedback from people saying how valuable they find these videos. It’s clear they find it “time well spent”. As a result, in the update we are just releasing, we have included even more features, and more guidance so the video is now 2 hours 15 minutes. Because it’s chaptered up, people can watch all or any particular parts – its up to them. The advice is there if and when they need it. We hope that customers will take a little longer to complete their documents and find that even more valuable.

This is also a benefit for our law firm customers who use the same solution, because the same video can be used by their own junior lawyers or legal executives to help them to learn good practices and to create more consistency.

So far so good.

Time well invested

What about the third tier, Pine and Gilmore raise, Time well invested?

This is a bit more complex. They say:

“One can offer even greater value than time well spent. How? By helping customers to achieve their broader aspirations, whether via the proverbial “life-transforming experience” or, more likely, through a series of experiences that effect desired change in some significant way. In our book The Experience Economy we simply call such economic offerings transformations – where companies use experiences as the means to guide customers to achieve some particular change.

Transformations – think fitness centres, healthcare, education, consulting, coaching of all stripes – can enrich people’s lives. But companies can’t do it alone. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Customers – whether consumers, businesses, or employees – have to undergo the transformation for themselves, whether doing workouts, following a wellness routine, completing homework, or following counsel or coaching instructions.

That’s why transformations offer time well invested. Under the guidance of their transformation elicitor, customers invest their time, aiming to achieve their aspirations and reap dividends now, and in the future. With time well invested, it matters less what inputs the elicitor provides; the main concern is the outcome customers achieve. Indeed, the customer is the product – it is a changed dimension of being that they seek. Therefore, in offering time well invested, companies should not merely charge for well-spent time, but for the demonstrated outcomes that customers achieve. Channelling Ben Franklin again: industries that help people become healthy, wealthy, or wise, in particular, should shift to outcomes-based compensation. A few companies lead the way.”

This resonated strongly as it’s the path we have been on with LawHawk.

We have found, inadvertently at first, that the combination of all the various small improvements we were able to work with our customers to make would combine into much more material improvements. The combination of document automation, SharePoint, PowerAutomate and AdobeSign for example provides overall benefits that greatly exceed the sum of the parts.

Contracting processes for a construction client would shorten from up to 4 weeks, to a day or less. The challenges of running and growing a business broking business would become that much easier as it was possible to keep on top of all required compliance, and win more business. Sales teams across multiple countries could sign up merchants to very tailored agreements without needing to wait for a small legal team to check things.

You can see a wide variety of examples on our case studies page.

How do you know where the sweet spot is though?

Pine and Gilmore say:

“There’s one foolproof way to know if experience offerings are worthy of customers’ attention and valued as time well spent. They willingly pay explicitly for the time spent, whether it’s through an admission fee, membership fee or some other form of time-based payment.”

Our experience is that achieving this level of transformation can only be done in collaboration with the customer. In many cases, what might appear to be the problem is just a symptom of a deeper issue, and there are many more opportunities for improvement – across teams and even between organisations – than are initially apparent.

The best and most valuable way to surface this is through some form of discovery exercise. Our view is that these should be paid, which means it is properly treated as a genuine process rather than a form of pre-sales. It helps to test that the time will in fact be well spent, and that the written report setting out a summary of the current situation, viable options, and recommended actions will be valuable.

A second step (assuming one of the recommendations from the discovery exercise is adopted) would be a proof of concept, where key assumptions can be validated, and risks eliminated. Again, it's a small investment that will ensure there is value in the longer term solution before progressing further.

The third thing we have learned is the value of having a subscription component of the fee, which we often describe as a use and support fee. Instead of putting all the cost into an up-front fee that transfers all risk onto the customer, the subscription – which is set by reference to the agreed outcomes that the customer needs to achieve (including a strong ROI) - ensures that there is ongoing value and alignment. We will do everything we can to keep the solution current and ensuring that it continues to provide the required value to the customer, but if we can't, the customer can cancel the arrangement. Within the subscription, customers are able to contact us with questions or suggestions, and we can also proactively keep them informed of the latest possibilities. It's the outcomes, rather than the time spent, that matters in this case.


The time well saved, time well spent and time well invested framework is a really useful way of looking at the benefits of legal automation. It helps to go beyond the sometimes simplistic initial focus on time and cost savings, and to focus on what is more valuable – the overall outcomes sought from the process, and the transformations that could be possible for the business.

For insights on how to implement a successful legal automation project, ensuring success and avoiding the key mistakes most lawyers make, see our Lawyers Guide to Implementing Successful Legal automation.  

If you'd like to talk about your current situation and what options may be available, please get in touch. Alongside our trusted partners, we help people at all ends of the spectrum from getting the most out of the M365 tools you're already paying for, through to some of the most advanced solutions available. 

Topics: Document Automation, Legal Technology, In-House Legal, Law Firm Management, Self-Service Legal Automation, Legal Automation, Matter Management, Legal Operations, Contract Management

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