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Document Automation: top tips for effective implementation

In the fast-growing legal tech toolkit available to lawyers, document automation continues to offer superb opportunities to boost efficiency, increase competitiveness, build client value, strengthen business resilience and reduce risk.

And yet document automation remains a widely untapped efficiency resource for lawyers.

Why is this, and what can we do about it? In this article we set out some thoughts on why automation projects often stall, and suggest some top tips on how to address common pitfalls, and execute an effective implementation strategy.

Why do automation projects often stall?

Drafting will always remain at the heart of lawyers’ service offerings, so building efficiency into this core process will drive substantial commercial value.

But automation implementation often stalls. Why? Here are some common pitfalls:

  • A lack of combined, experienced legal / technical resource to commit regularly to building lawyer-friendly products;

  • An implementation strategy which fails to address key resourcing and automation-specific road-blocks;

  • The wrong delivery team structure;

  • Lack of lawyer awareness, trust and buy-in;

  • Perfection paralysis and a failure to identify, prioritise and roll out the most valuable automation first;

  • A failure to quantify the substantial benefits and strengthen management support.

Top tips for designing and executing an effective implementation strategy

So here are some top tips for kick-starting, accelerating and optimising your implementation strategy:

  • Identify a core delivery team to “own” the roll-out and deploy clear, pro-active and dedicated project management that targets agreed milestones, fosters proper cross-business collaboration and is backed by management.

  • Set an overall strategic direction and draft a priority list of documents to be automated within agreed timescales: often it’s best to focus at first on a small number of strong use cases within one or two departments.

  • Never automate for automation’s sake: always understand how automation can drive the most efficiencies through structural and information coding. Think about whether an end user will really know the answer to an automated question at the time that they are generating the document (or have enough commercial context to do so safely).

  • Find the right resourcing model for your roll-out. Automation is not just an IT solution: combined, experienced legal and automation knowhow, working within a properly managed process, is essential to deliver effective and timely automation. Factor project delivery time into your business planning.

  • Find and maintain the right balance between external and internal resource, and adjust that balance as necessary as your programme progresses. Automation can be time-consuming because extensive collaboration and dedicated legal / automation knowhow across the business is required. Firms / legal departments often lack time and resource internally to be able to drive forward automation projects and ring-fence clear roles, responsibilities and fee earner time to such projects - so think about a balance of internal resource / external support to help you:

  1. get up and running quickly, perhaps using external expertise to optimise your processes, make faster in-roads into automation projects themselves, minimise fee earner input time, upskill internal resource/knowhow and maximise investment return; and

  2. manage future spikes in demand for automation, both internally and increasingly from clients (even firms with established automation teams are looking for flexible external assistance to manage demand).

  • For each specific automation project, use a clearly defined, rigorous and methodical process that navigates common obstacles to automation. Automation projects can involve significant complexity, so it’s really important to prepare your content and agree your scope carefully before moving on to the actual automation, testing and roll-out. You will need to bring legal and automation experience together for most of these stages, so try to identify, optimise and implement a clear methodology each time.

  • Focus on the most valuable automation within documents first: projects often become bogged down because teams are looking for the “perfect” automation of a document from the outset; in fact it can be better to identify an initial round of big wins and roll these out to the team before moving on to further automation phases. This will enable a quicker investment return and encourage faster adoption within the business.

  • Build support for automation within practice groups so that lawyers buy in to each project more quickly, understand the benefits and take full advantage of the solution to drive investment return. Develop an effective change management programme and identify automation champions within teams.

  • Design and implement effective and efficient procedures for measuring and reporting return on investment: with proper systems in place, the substantial benefits can become more tangible and quantifiable (failing which automation projects will lose support).

In summary

Building and executing the right implementation strategy will allow you to enjoy the many substantial commercial benefits on offer from document automation – so focus on actual implementation and avoid the common pitfalls.

Look out for our upcoming articles in this document automation series, where we’ll focus in more detail on each element of an effective implementation strategy.

About BrightDraft

BrightDraft is a document automation consultancy run for lawyers, by lawyers. We solve the implementation challenge by combining years of legal, automation and project delivery experience to help busy lawyers kick-start and scale up their automation and other efficiency projects.

We understand lawyers’ needs and expectations; we have many years of legal experience at the front line of top UK and global law firms; we have automation experience.

Drop us a line any time for a chat!


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