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.
Late last year, we automated some documents for a law firm. They had previously tried automation through their practice management system but it didn’t work for them. They rang me shortly after we delivered the documents to tell me how great they were, saying “Nothing new ever works as good as its promised, but this is great. It’s exactly how you said it would be”. Awesome feedback I thought – this should make a great case study as they promote the way they work differently to win more work. However, in that case – so far - the firm has preferred to keep their automation quiet, because they don’t want their clients to see how easy it is to prepare the documents at this stage. But they have actually increased their fixed prices in the meantime, because they recognise the market value of what they are providing their clients for their overall service is higher than they were charging for the previous service. They are preparing the documents faster and better, and have more time to listen to the clients, understand their particular needs, think, and develop great overall solutions.
While I think that there is generally an opportunity for law firms to charge lower prices in order to win more work, and that generally prices will come down over time, the price is a discussion between the lawyer and their client based on the overall service that the law firm provides, value to the client of a fast and high quality service, and the competitive market. Price can be agreed and fixed at a level that both law firm and client are happy with, and early adopters might well enjoy a period of even greater profitability until the market catches up. In any event, it’s working well for this customer and we’re expecting to do more automation with them soon, over a wider range of documents.
So if you are not using, or planning to use document automation, don’t think nobody else is either. You should expect that at least some of your competitors are. They can work faster than you can and deliver a great product. They have more time to talk to clients and build deeper relationships. They can work with clients anywhere in New Zealand. And they can beat you on price, if they want to. Not using some form of automation will not be an option if you plan to remain in business against these competitors.
If you come along to LawFest on 17 May, you’ll now be able to compare at least three document automation options on the same day and see which one is best for your circumstances. Don’t do nothing.
If you want to come to LawFest and haven’t got a ticket yet, let me know. We can hook you up with a discount. If you’re going to be there, come and see me and Allen and take a look at our market leading HotDocs solution.