As technology transforms business. the legal industry is slowly adopting this change to stay relevant and ready to meet future demands. Legal automation is becoming an increasingly essential tool for legal departments looking to streamline operations and adapt to future needs. From document review and contract management to legal research and beyond, automation revolutionizes how Legal manages work.
The legal industry is moving closer to a significant transformation with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). While some legal professionals may fear that automation is not ready, the reality is that legal automation is poised to benefit lawyers and other legal staff, enabling them to work more efficiently and effectively. As legal departments face pressures to improve efficiency while lowering legal spend, it’s time to explore how legal automation will affect the future of legal work.
The legal industry has not been known as a leader in adopting new technology, but that is changing. Legal automation is gaining traction as a powerful tool for legal departments looking to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve outcomes. As more and more legal professionals recognize the benefits of automation, they will look very different from those of the past. In this blog, we'll explore how legal automation is shaping the legal departments of the future and how legal professionals can stay ahead of the curve.
Legal Automation Streamlines Operations
Legal automation typically refers to the use of technology to automate legal processes, such as contract management, compliance monitoring, and legal invoice processing. By streamlining these processes, legal automation can help Legal Ops teams save time, reduce errors, and improve the overall efficiency of the whole business. ELM systems are among the first to discover the benefits of legal automation practices. These are built into the ELM system to help process invoices more swiftly and accurately.
Manual invoice processing is time-consuming and error-prone, but legal automation tools can help streamline the process. Processing Invoices from outside counsel can be significantly simplified through the ELM system's capabilities. When a legal invoice is submitted, it needs an initial check to ensure that it is accurate and compliant with UTBMS coding standards, corporate billing guidelines, and any alternative fee arrangements (AFAs). ELM systems can evaluate each invoice in seconds. Once passed, invoices can be confidently added to the human review queue for payment.
Legal Automation empowers legal departments with limited resources through the following:
Standardized invoice formats: Legal automation tools can check for standardized invoice formats from external law firms. Standardization makes it easier to review and compare invoices, ensuring consistency in billing practices and reducing the time and effort required for review.
Automated invoice review: Legal automation tools can use AI and ML algorithms to review invoices automatically and flag any discrepancies or anomalies for approval, adjustment, or rejection. This capability helps reduce the risk of errors and ensures that invoices are accurate and compliant with agreed-upon billing arrangements.
Invoice Data Collaboration: Legal automation tools can store and analyze electronic billing data to build insights on future outcomes, cost forecasting, and fee negotiations. Automation collects every aspect of a matter, including every line item on each invoice. The data is analyzed and stored more efficiently than paper-based invoicing and payment processes. This can also help improve transparency in your eBilling practices and reduce the risk of disputes or delays in payment.
By automating outside counsel and other legal vendor invoice processing, businesses can save time, reduce errors, and gain unmatched business data transparency on compliance with corporate billing arrangements. Legal automation helps Legal Ops take control of their legal spend more efficiently, easily evaluate vendor performance, and make more informed decisions on every open matter.
Overall, legal automation can help businesses and legal teams streamline their work, reduce errors, and optimize every process. With the increased pressure to manage "more with less," legal departments need to automate repetitive tasks and leverage advanced tools. Legal automation lets businesses focus on their core activities while improving the bottom line.
Legal Automation Significantly Reduces Costs
Earlier, we discussed how optimizing processes can lead to cost savings. However, the benefits of legal automation go far beyond.. By automating legal processes, businesses can unlock significant potential for cost savings. Questel’s Ascent ELM has helped many legal departments achieve impressive savings in their very first year. One common theme among these success stories is the optimization of existing legal department processes, regardless of the market or clientele. These client success stories provide compelling evidence of the potential cost savings that can be realized by implementing legal automation.
Legal Automation Results: Global Healthcare Leader
A global, diversified healthcare company headquartered in the U.S. with more than 125,000 employees and operating in 60 countries is the leading provider of health and well-being products. The law department initiated a Global Transformation Project, spearheaded by the Director of Legal Operations, to create and enhance the law department's operational effectiveness and efficiency. The company chose Questel's Ascent ELM™ Enterprise Legal Management software and support services to drive this initiative. Their results show their savings and how Ascent ELM's automation helped accomplish their goals:
- Automation contribution to a 10% annual reduction in legal expenses
- More effective AFA agreements by leveraging automated data analytics
- Efficiency improvements in processing and tracking invoice appeals via Ascent ELM's automated appeals functionality
"When we adjusted invoices, we had a process for how vendors submit appeals, but now Ascent ELM has a more automated way of doing that, so we worked with Questel to customize our processes, and the results are decidedly better than what we had before," commented the Director of Legal Operations.
Legal Automation Results: Global Chemical Manufacturer
With more than 20,000 employees in North America and almost $20B in sales, this company is an affiliate of a multi-line global organization and one of North America's largest producers of chemicals and related products. Their Deputy General Counsel of Litigation realized there was little transparency in their litigation spend. Providing valuable reports on what they spent and what matters exceeded the budget was challenging. Some information existed but wasn't readily accessible, requiring hours of manual work by attorneys and administrators who often had to enter data into spreadsheets manually. This approach led to data errors and reports that weren't 100% accurate.
To improve the transparency of its legal spend, this global chemical manufacturing company replaced its manual billing processes with Ascent ELM™ enterprise legal management solutions, making savings possible:
- Automatically checks for vendor rate changes to avoid unknown cost increases
- Finds invoice discrepancies and automatically flags for adjustment or rejection to avoid paying incorrect invoices
- Makes innovative new processes possible such as fully integrated legal hold
"If you want real-time reporting and full transparency on what we're spending, along with automatic controls over approving rate increases and timekeepers, then we need this type of a system, " said the Deputy General Counsel – Litigation
Legal Automation Drives Improved Outcomes
The accurate measure of success will always be the results achieved! How quickly you get there and what you used to achieve those results are still vital to determining the level of success. In an increasingly transparent world, the ends do not always justify the means. It is critical to establish ground rules and criteria to determine your success. These criteria should use key metrics such as monetary savings, business awareness, process improvements, and business growth. Technology is increasingly capable of providing successful outcomes in the most transparent ways.
Legal departments and law firms face similar demands to provide cost-effective services to their internal and external clients. They also must keep on the leading edge of technology to remain competitive and relevant in an evolving market. Legal Automation has long been a popular buzzword for marketing, but now it’s more a reality than a nebulous concept. Legal technology is advancing at a record-breaking pace, bringing its users right along with it. Having full visibility of the entire business operation on one dashboard allows Legal teams to track budgets and forecast outcomes more confidently.
Legal Automation is one area that has taken a front-row seat in the action. With the added capabilities it presents a business, the improved results from data transparency, process optimization, human error reduction, and cost savings provide rewards that far outweigh the costs. The Legal departments of the future will rely on legal automation because it allows Legal to focus on the sustainable growth of the business while reducing its risks.
Legal Automation is the second trend covered in our 5-part series. Stay tuned for the next blog on how Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) are shaping how future legal work is handled. We take a deep dive into how corporate Legal teams gain a distinct advantage by not keeping everything they manage in-house.
For more information or advice on legal automation, get in touch with our experts.
Author: Scott Miller
Marketing Director at doeLEGAL, a Questel Company, leverages 14+ years of marketing Legal Ops solutions. Scott manages diverse marketing efforts building greater global corporate legal department value to help them excel. Scott’s background in marketing, creative arts, and aerospace engineering creates a unique skill set to drive successful results.