The Financial Times Innovative Lawyers report for the Asia-Pacific region substantiates a “sense of growing maturity among the region’s law firms”. It goes without saying that major projects in the corporate world, particularly projects including parties external to the Asia-Pacific, call for legal expertise. As a consequence, law staff cultivate their skills in order to better deal with this need. More specifically, lawyers must cultivate their abilities to handle the complex regulations involved by international contracts.
Moreover, evolution to a more mature stage in law resides in acknowledging and acting upon the necessity of leveraging technological developments. Digitised law firms can better tend to their clients’ specific needs, and thereby improve customer service, a critical attribute of competitive companies. This, in fact, is the crux of the argument for advocating the use of robotic process automation in the legal industry.
With the fast-perpetuating wave of technological development, many business companies need guidance with respect to optimal ways of including technology in their business plans, to construct and implement adaptive compliance strategies, to manage cyber and data threats, etc. By assuming this advisory role, the legal industry sets the stage for a win – win situation. It can embrace emerging technologies in its own industry to achieve results such as those that we discuss in this article, while minimising their disruptive effects.
According to a Baker McKenzie article about Asia-Pacific legal trends and solutions, the major focus areas for businesses in the next two years are regulatory change, optimising tax structures and business system innovation.
66% of corporate executives in the APAC region acknowledge the need for technological innovation. Interestingly, an even higher proportion, 84%, believe it’s likely that their industry will see major technological disruption in the next two years, while 57% expect doing business to become more complex.
In this context, lawyers’ assistance is becoming a ‘must’ and not merely a (good) option. And since active use of robotic process automation in the legal industry itself facilitates this advisory role of law staff (in the sense of “teaching by doing”), we have good reasons to consider automation deployment.
Benefits of robotic process automation (RPA) in the legal industry
Let’s take a look at even more reasons stem out of a list of benefits of RPA in the legal industry, non-exhaustive as it may be.
- Release law staff from repetitive, time-consuming tasks
Freeing high-value staff from mundane tasks such as handling paperwork, timesheets, interaction with Law AI applications, etc. allows them to concentrate on the work that matter more for customers and reduce non billable time.
Law staff assisted by bots can indeed focus more on the high-impact components of cases, improve services and thus enhance end users’ satisfaction. And let’s also not forget about the improved accuracy in a number of areas such as contract law.
- Records digitisation
This is actually the first and most effortful step of the automation journey in law. The process of transferring files from paper to digital format, and further – organising, searching efficiently, and analysing these files, is a labour-intensive, tedious process. But automated transfer by means of optical character recognition technology produces more accurate and much faster results.
- Streamline clients’ access to expert legal solutions by technologically generated documents
Leveraging also the use of cloud platforms, clients can be offered online access to questionnaires and templates. Based on such standardised documentation, clients can construct and personalise the agreements they need, e.g. confidentiality agreements, employment contracts, subcontractor agreements, etc. Of course, this automation-mediated access to simple contracts is much faster and cheaper than interactions with lawyers would be.
- Facilitate support functions (HR, finance) in law firms
The biggest such impact is the improvement of the value – cost ratio of administrative processes (invoicing, employee onboarding and offboarding, etc). For instance, software robots can be programmed to upload bank statements and reconcile core finance transactional systems. Furthermore, by avoiding legacy system and process changes, RPA in the legal industry promises a fast and high return on investment.
- Data protection and cyber security
The zero-touch environment of robotic process automation helps to mitigate human-related risks in legal operations. An automated environment is free from biases, prejudices or variability, all of which mar human work with the risk of error.
RPA ensures less risky and consistent work with trustworthy data. Moreover, at a meta level, law firms are essential for regulating the digital transformation of businesses in general, and thereby for protecting against cyber threats.
In the fierce market competition, law firms today must deal with double-sided demands to become more accessible by cost reduction, but also to provide more effective services to clients. Robotic process automation helps to transcend the apparent contradiction between lower costs and increased efficiency.
The above list of benefits of automation bring significant competitive advantages. By including software robots in the personnel of law firms and assigning them the tedious commodity work, lawyers and associated staff can focus 100% on work which is underpinned by higher cognitive processes, like judgment, decision making, communication, divergent thinking, etc.
Both the clients and the lawyers themselves are likely to be more satisfied. Enhanced efficiency is thus a natural result, which comes without the extra costs involved by additional hirings and training.