Digital automation in the legal sector
From a purely operational standpoint, the events of the last few years have shaken up the legal sector more than most. At a human level, many employees have shunned the long-hours culture of the industry and have looked for employers with better work/life balance, particularly those offering hybrid work. Connected to this, more pressure is being placed on law firms to improve their ways of working, practice management software and recruitment processes, so that they can maintain high levels of talent attraction and retention. From a technological standpoint, client expectations for digital-first communications and operations are rising all the time, but many firms don’t have the technology to deliver on these demands. And at the same time, the risk of cybercrime affecting sensitive legal data and applications is becoming ever more severe and sophisticated. All in all, the legal sector has plenty to do to adjust to the challenges of the post-pandemic world.
What is causing these challenges?
The origin of virtually all of the challenges listed above, be they human or technological, can be traced back to the IT systems that law firms have in place. The legal sector has traditionally been resistant to change and has lagged behind others in adopting new technologies. This reluctance has now been exposed in the shape of antiquated digital services, and the fact that huge amounts of staff time and resources are still wasted on hard-copy paperwork. Not only does this diminish their ability to service clients effectively, but it can also be enormously demoralising for ambitious people who have made huge sacrifices in the name of their career, only to find themselves bogged down in repetitive admin. Additionally, as ways of working have changed, technology hasn’t moved in tandem. This has led to inefficient processes that make hybrid work difficult or impractical, and leaves flaws in cybersecurity that put highly sensitive information at risk.
Introducing Enterprise Service Management (ESM) for the legal sector
Automation can go a long way towards solving these challenges for law firms, especially through the implementation of Enterprise Service Management (ESM). This is where the automation of many different processes complements human skills to streamline operations and service delivery to the fullest possible extent. It’s based on the guiding principles of IT service management and is focused on making processes quicker, easier and more reliable in their execution. For the legal sector specifically, automation has huge potential because of the sheer volume of tasks that are repetitive and based on rules. As these tasks don’t require subjective judgement by a human, automation can take care of them far more quickly, freeing up human skills for more value-adding tasks. Whether it’s using self-service tooling to handle employee requests automatically, or taking on the burden of standard paperwork like non-disclosure agreements, it’s estimated that the potential staff time savings could be as high as 30-40%.
Benefits of ESM for law firms
When the right ESM deployment is put in place for a law firm, it will find itself much better equipped to navigate the challenges of today and tomorrow. It will be able to:
- Support a hybrid legal workforce: mobile apps, client portals and case management systems can all be augmented by automation, and give clients full accessibility to data and applications anywhere, any time
- Improve productivity: hours saved on admin and paperwork allows staff to devote more energy to strategic and commercial initiatives that drive greater profitability for the business
- Get more done with less: connected to the previous point, law firms can increase their output without having to invest in more staff, or can maintain productivity and slim down the headcount (by not replacing staff who leave)
- Enhance customer experiences: savings made through automation (i.e. in billable hours worked) can potentially be passed onto the client, making them feel like they’re getting better value for money at the same time as an improved experience
- Ensure security and compliance: automation can help apply rigorous security measures and policies across all data, applications and devices, improving protection in the age of hybrid working
Prime use cases for digital automation
While there will naturally be specific use cases that will suit individual law firms, there are many examples of areas where ESM can be applied and benefit companies across the sector, including:
- Electronic contract signing: secure, universally recognised electronic signatures can be automated, so that agreements can be taken care of much faster
- Contract automation: relatively straightforward and standard legal agreements (such as NDAs or client registration) can be automated to save staff even more time
- Contract reviewing: AI-enabled automation can help review long, complex contracts full of unstructured data, making it much quicker to find points of contention and ensuring nothing slips through the net
- Automated workflows: multiple manual processes can be brought together into efficient, scalable workflows, ideal for areas such as processing and triaging new queries and assigning them the correct priority level
- Automated billing management: keep better control of spending on outside counsel, with monitoring and automated alerting helping to minimise costs
- Risk and compliance management: automation can keep a constant eye on the security situation and risk profile of the business, and instantly flag up any issues that need human intervention
As this blog ably demonstrates, ESM is ideal for law firms who are fighting battles on a number of fronts by now. However, it is not a catch-all, plug-and-play solution: ESM requires careful planning and deployment, so that automation is applied in the areas where it can have the greatest effect. This is something on which an expert partner is best placed to advise. SCC has been working with law firms like you for years, helping them exploit all the potential of ESM for their businesses. Take a closer look at what we can do for you here.
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