Use of robotic process automation for law firms has been empowering companies of all sizes discovering that intelligent automation can significantly change the way they work. Last year we wrote an article suggesting several ways to leverage the potential of RPA in the legal industry by using software robots as assistants.
Structuring huge amounts of data, enhancing focus on end users and thus significantly improving customer satisfaction, or even more complex processes like drafting contracts or incorporating startups, are among the key roles that bots can play in law firms.
I have also stated in an article for Asia Law Portal that high-class customer service is a critical attribute of competitive companies, and hence its improvement is the centerpiece argument for upholding RPA for law firms.
Moreover, as a result of RPA taking over mundane, tedious tasks, law clerks’ critical minds could be freed up to focus on what they, and only they, can do: reason and argue well. This would also increase lawyers’ level of job satisfaction, which would boost their performance, and consequently, the firm’s overall status and productivity.
In the meantime, RPA technology has matured and our experience with legal firms has also grown, both quantitatively and qualitatively. For instance, using the UiPath platform with Studio, an orchestrator and unattended robots, after a 2-week implementation time, we automated the migration of access database records to cloud database, with over 100 data points per record.
As much as 95% of effort was automated with full-blown (100%) data entry accuracy, which led to a visible ROI in 2 months. This prompted us to further assist law firms getting started with robotic process automation.
The results mentioned above are very much consistent with an outlook of digitisation in law in the Asia Pacific region. According to a survey commissioned by Baker McKenzie, and published in the article Asia Pacific Mega-Trends and Legal Solutions, 66% of the law executives in the region acknowledge the need for technological innovation, while 84% expect the legal industry to be faced with major technological disruption over the next two years.
How to Get Started with robotic process automation (RPA) in the legal industry
When law firms get started with RPA, they provide an instantiation of the principle that “less is more”. Their efficiency is increased by digitisation because more desirable effects can be attained with less financial and work-related effort.
The proportion between the cost and the value of the bureaucratic and administrative processes, which are actually constitutional for the law sector, is considerably improved by using bots that mimic human performance but carry out data intensive, repetitive, rule driven tasks more effectively.
Additionally, because it doesn’t require changes in legacy systems, RPA can deliver a high ROI in a matter of months. For such reasons, we believe that robotic process automation for law firms is likely to be established as a competitivity standard and not merely ‘a good option’.
There are however two main obstacles that may hinder the start of the automation journey:
A solution is use of RPA as a service: avoiding disproportionate spending on software and licensing by outsourcing to an expert vendor. This way, law firms only pay a monthly fee which depends on how many bots they use. Thanks to the scalability of RPA, the number of bots can be fine-tuned to accommodate a dynamic picture of the firm’s needs, which is why we created our RPA Robots for Hire service.
• Difficulty to select the processes that best lend themselves to RPA digitisation
Asking yourself the right questions might be a good road opener. Furthermore, working with a software provider that offers automated process discovery might assist decision making. Automated process discovery means using a software that constructs a map of automatable processes based on analysing data about the way employees work.
RPA application areas in law firms
Robotic process automation is mostly applicable to support functions and commoditised process-driven work. For the time being at least, you would not assign bots complex legal issues like those handled by specialist lawyers and corporate counsels.
However, the more general rule of thumb is that legal processes that are rule driven, involve manual calculation, have electronic triggers, high error rates, and few exceptions could be streamlined if performed by software robots. Read template contract generation, conflict checking, conveyancing correspondences preparation, secretarial form filling, compliance records handling, etc.
In order to become more familiar with how exactly law firms get started with RPA, let us elaborate now three specific application areas.
• E-discovery. Data management is a top challenge for lawyers who have to go through huge amounts of information in order to build a strong case. There are plenty of e-discovery programs, but the costs are rather high, and it’s still law clerks who must manually sift what is relevant. Even with software assistance, the process is time-consuming and process intensive. RPA’s capacity for flexible data management can be leveraged to simplify the process.
• Client risk assessment. Subsequently to e-discovery, software robots can fill in anti-money laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CTF) risk assessment forms. They can gather into a single structured file information about the client’s products and services, or the length of their relationship with the firm, continue to run reports on this newly created database, and verify its completeness. The result is an exhaustive client profile, available in a matter of hours, with administrative costs 10-15% lower than those of manual performance.
• Fee overruns reductions. It is highly important to handle fee overruns efficiently because of their potential to downgrade the firm’s image in the clients’ eyes, and open up neverending cost disputes and satellite cases. RPA can ensure much faster task finalisation when clients decide to bring into play their own records system, and thereby troubleshoot communication issues. What’s more, at-scale deployment makes robotic process automation an even better choice to handle this process. Just imagine the pressure when vital documents from clients are delayed, or when previous matters overrun too. RPA scalability makes it a perfect match with such migraine-causing situations.
All in all, in the midst of the technological revolution, a cost-benefit analysis recommends that law firms get started with robotic process automation. You shouldn’t allow yourself to be discouraged by the idea that implementation doesn’t come too easily, because there are things that you can actually do to support it. The most important is to approach it from a person-centred perspective.
Explain to your employees what RPA is and what it is not meant to be, emphasise that “either robots or humans” is not a correct description, rather “robots and humans towards more efficient goal attainment”. Start with a small-scale pilot, which will give employees the chance to observe the benefits and internalise the thought of robot assistance. And design a roadmap for your digital journey together with your team.