The recently released FT Asia Pacific Innovative Lawyers 2016 report contains a number of examples of law firms beginning to use technology, including document automation, to improve their businesses.
Based on the examples cited, it appears that even the largest firms and legal teams are only just starting to scratch the surface of how significantly technology can increase efficiency and free lawyers up to do more interesting and valuable work.
Key technology developments and achievements overall, and particularly those that related to document automation include:
Standout - Gilbert + Tobin/LegalVision and Westpac Hackathon
The overall winner was G + T and Legal Vision's 24-hour legal “hackathon” for Westpac. Programmers at LegalVision, working with G+T and Westpac’s lawyers, worked on finding solutions to technical problems that Westpac’s legal team faced.
Among its outcomes was a self-service portal for legal help and an app for understanding delegated authorities. Coding went on overnight, giving instant results, rather than through a drawn-out process of commissioning.
Highly Commended Technology
The following efforts were highly commended:
Corrs Chambers Westgarth: The firm has moved its legal technology, analytics and document review platforms to the cloud, enabling the firm to provide a significantly faster and cheaper service to clients.
DLA Piper: The increased functionality of bid-management and contract automation tool Ascendant 2.0 allows clients to track responses from multiple bidders before contracts are awarded.
Norton Rose Fulbright: A fully paperless solution to produce, sign and manage franchising documents, improving compliance and reducing costs.
Anand and Anand: A digital learning programme has helped business services staff develop the skills to deliver digital communications and analytics for the firm.
Gilbert + Tobin: A strategic partnership with start-up online legal services business LegalVision provides technological insights, process efficiencies and increased client referrals to the firm.
The following efforts were commended:
Norton Rose Fulbright: Created ContractorCheck to help organisations determine if a worker should properly be classified as an employee, contractor or unpaid worker within a matter of minutes.
Slaughter and May: A new app and e-book provide clients with materials and guidance on the interpretation of the rules of the Hong Kong Takeover Code.
Clayton Utz: The firm’s CU Safe app helps clients respond quickly to safety and environmental incidents.
Hogan Lovells: Lawyers and technologists worked together to restructure a major client’s template documents and create a streamlined database to help the management of recurring lease agreements.
In LawHawk's particular area of interest, document automation, the following comments were made:
Gadens were commended, as "the banking transaction management team comprises a central talent pool and uses document automation technologies to deliver repetitive work more efficiently".
Brisbane Airport were commended, as their "project categorisation and contract automation initiatives have saved time and money while a playbook for external advisers gives outside lawyers greater autonomy to act on behalf of the business."
Automation will be a key part of the next phase
"Firms by and large have already introduced technology such as customer relationship management and billing systems. Next, they are looking at how to automate the time-consuming administrative work carried out by junior lawyers, such as discovery or producing routine contracts.
“The use of technology in law firms was mostly about innovating around the law,” says Sam Nickless, the Sydney-based chief operating officer at Gilbert + Tobin. “It never got into doing the law. I think what has happened in the past few years is that innovation is now getting into the actual practice of law.”
"While allowing computers to make judgments is some way off, there are quick wins to be had around automation, such as having an IT programmer streamline rudimentary tasks.""
There are opportunities
"But the downside of making things cheaper through technology is that it will displace jobs. A report from Deloitte this year estimated around 114,000 positions in the UK legal sector are at risk of being eliminated by 2020 because of technological advances. Yet the report concludes that highly skilled lawyers will be more likely to thrive.
Stephen Giles, a Melbourne-based corporate and commercial partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, has a similar opinion. He specialises in franchising, which is document-intensive and susceptible to multiple delays because of the number of times contracts must go back and forth, awaiting signatures from various parties.
Despite leading the development of a system that automates processes through electronic signatures and document management technologies, Mr Giles says he is busier now than ever before.
“The one variable with technology is that you can get process and intelligence, if you like, but you can’t have artificial experience,” he says."
Document automation is now available in New Zealand through www.lawhawk.nz
While the example above all relate to large overseas law firms and legal teams, cloud technology now means world class document automation based on market leading HotDocs Cloud Services is readily available in New Zealand to anyone with an internet connection.
LawHawk has just launched, and offers an increasing range of it's own automated legal documents, as well as the ability to have your own documents automated, all using the market leading HotDocs Cloud Services platform. To be at the front of this international trend, and ensure you are amongst the lawyers who thrive from technology, get in touch for a no obligations chat about your aims.