Using Technology to Improve Your Legal Workflow
Technology is the most underutilized asset in the legal community and a tipping point is nearing that is going to turn law firms upside down and put many out of business. Most attorneys do not like to hear this information and some are completely oblivious to the revolution technology is creating in the legal field. For the few that have embraced the idea of change and understand how technology can take their firm from good to GREAT, the information below will provide you with great information on what is possible with technology and automation.
The majority of attorneys spend as little as a quarter of their working hours on billable tasks, according to a study by Clio. Solo practitioners have an even higher percentage of non-billable time. Technology can improve this situation. However, with all of the options out there, it can be difficult to know which tasks should be automated and how to achieve success with technology.
Use Process Mapping to Determine Which Tasks Should be Automated
The easiest way to determine which of your frequent tasks can and should be automated is process mapping. Process mapping requires you to invest a small amount of time in evaluating your daily, weekly, and monthly processes that can be boiled down into simple tasks. This will save you a significant amount of time later.
Breaking Down Tasks through Process Mapping
Process mapping will require you to evaluate ever step you take in a legal transaction. Each step can be separated into tasks. Tasks may possibly be categorized as either repetitive, administrative, or substantive.
Repetitive Tasks – Use Technology
Repetitive tasks are those that are done over and over again. They do not involve analysis or decision-making. Because these tasks can be done without much thought process, they can be automated easily. Technology can be used to complete repetitive tasks.
Examples of repetitive tasks include:
- Client intake
- Transfer of information
- Creation of template documents
- Identifying case law and precedent in common case types
- Invoicing clients
- Collecting payments
Administrative Tasks – Seek Assistance
Administrative tasks are a bit more complicated than repetitive tasks. However, they only require minimal analysis. They do not involve complex legal issues. Administrative tasks do require human input with minor interpretation, but an assistant, such as a paralegal or legal assistant, can do these tasks.
Examples of administrative tasks include:
- Checking existing cases relevant to your issue
- Collecting necessary documents from clients
- Reviewing information gathered from clients
- Completing legal transactions online
- Updating the client
Substantive Tasks – Require Your Legal Knowledge
Substantive tasks are more involved than repetitive and administrative tasks. They require in-depth analysis and critical thinking. Substantive tasks need legal knowledge in order to be completed appropriately. An attorney’s time is best spent on substantive tasks.
Examples of substantive tasks include:
- Determining the legal needs of a client
- Deciding next steps in a case
- Determining which information is relevant to a case
- Discussing next steps with the client
At each step in the process, there appears to be repetitive, administrative, and substantive tasks. You should be in a position to utilize technology throughout your process in order to reduce your time and that of your assistants.
Using Technology in Your Process
By breaking down your process into different types of tasks, you can properly utilize technology, your assistants, and your own time throughout a case. Here’s an example of each task type throughout the legal case process.
Gathering Information from Clients
When you begin a case, you will need to obtain information from clients. This may require an interview as well as collection of documents. Because this is a repetitive task, much of it can be automated. You can use software like Law Ruler and HelloSign along with Zapier to obtain basic information from the client, including signatures on necessary documents. These programs can also create standard letters for engagement and obtain a retainer. Electronic data collection can also allow you to analyze information about your clients in an easy and streamlined manner.
After data has been gathered in an automated manner, your process likely involves some administrative tasks. That would include checking for client conflicts and making sure all key information has been collected. An assistant or paralegal can easily take care of these tasks.
The only substantive task that an attorney would need to compete in the initial stage of a case involves determining next steps and conveying that analysis to the client. The client will want to speak with someone with legal knowledge in order to feel secure. An attorney should reserve their activities to these billable tasks.
Working on the Case
While working on the case, you will encounter many repetitive tasks that you can use technology to accomplish. Software such as HotDocs can be used to create document templates and drafts involving basic information from the client. You can even use Casetext’s CARA to obtain research and case law relevant to your case. Creating a document template with relevant case law can save hours of time for an attorney or paralegal.
Administrative tasks, such as obtaining additional information from clients can be completed by an assistant. If you need specific samples from a client, an assistant can also accomplish this task.
More substantive tasks exist during the work phase than any other time in the case process. An attorney will have to review client intake information and finalize documents with legal information. Client communication is also a substantive task at this phase in the process because clients need reassurance of legal information.
Closing a Case
When finalizing and closing out a case, there appears to be many repetitive tasks that technology can help complete. Lawmatics, Clio an MyCase can store information from the client and generate invoices. Technology can also be used to update clients about work and collect payment.
Any documents that need analyzed prior to storage can be managed by an assistant as an administrative task. If documents need filed with government offices, an assistant can also do that.
The only substantive task left for an attorney involves communication of next steps with the client. Drafting of any final documents may also be considered a substantive task.
Working Through a Case with Technology
Although many attorneys take hands on approach to working on a case, it’s just not good use of time for a legal professional to be completing repetitive tasks. These tasks can be automated with the use of technology to free up time that may possibly be spent on more substantive tasks. With the help of an assistant to complete administrative tasks, an attorney can spend more time on more cases and make their practice valuable.
If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you automate your firm, schedule an appointment today or fill out the form and we will get right back to you.