Five tips to make the most of document automation.. and none of them relate to tech

With a potential recession on the horizon in some places in Europe we thought it would be useful to go through some tips on how to make the most of document automation – and by extension the efficiencies that can be absorbed from it. None of these tips relate to the implementation of tech itself but to maximise benefits these are some of the preparatory steps that should be undertaken, and if there is a downturn in work then this is an optimum time to do it.  

Summary

Here are the five tips:

  1. Make sure your templates are up to date
  2. Consolidate where possible
  3. Consider who should draft post-implementation
  4. Consider how people will need to change
  5. Consider what your requirements are

1. Make sure your templates are up to date

When people think of document automation they probably think of the instant generated document that appears as a result of a few keystrokes and clicks through a questionnaire. What they probably don’t think about is how it gets to that point. There are unfortunately some less exciting things to do in preparation for it, including the updating of templates.

This is likely to include wording changes based on market standards, regulatory changes and/or legislative changes that have happened since the last update. It is also likely to include proof reading, formatting changes and creating consistency across your templates. Automation works on the principle ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ – so whatever template is used it needs to be good as you’ll be reproducing from the same template many times. That rogue glaring typo is going to be reproduced many times over if automated.

2. Consolidate where possible

It’s likely over the course of time you have created a number of variations of a particular agreement template – one for all occasions. It’ll have very similar wording but will have that more focused wording for a particular type of client, sector or client type. When you review your templates you may want to consider (a) whether any of those variations are no longer required, and (b) whether you can consolidate any of the templates in preparation for automation. It might be for a particular agreement you refine it down to one agreement template for corporate counterparties and one for individuals. Colour code or comment with different variations in each one so it’s easy to automate conditionality later. These refined templates will then be used later as the basis for your automated templates. 

3. Consider who should draft post-implementation

The answer in your head is probably ‘the lawyer’. We’d say that this isn’t always the case. There are two ways that document automation can assist a particular business legal function or law firm. The first is that senior lawyers can pass down to junior lawyers the ability to create first draft agreements – thus freeing them up from drafting and also reducing the amount of time required for approval.

The second way is more relevant to businesses than law firms. In-house counsel can provide access to templates so business users can create documents for themselves (e.g. NDAs). Depending on how much Legal trusts their business users may depend on whether they get the document at the end of it, or whether it needs to pass through Legal for approval.

The consideration here surrounds the process of drafting legal documents and whether efficiencies can be made or achieved here by allowing others to draft with the assistance of technology. From the management perspective it may allow greater capacity within the team.

4. Consider how people will need to change

Implementing document automation is a project that will require some change within your business or law firm. If you didn’t have it before then the change will be for employees to move from manual drafting to automated drafting. For those that already use document automation but are changing – the change is getting people to learn their way around a new application. 

In any organisation there are different types of users, from those chomping on the bit to start using a new piece of software to those that are completely adverse to change. It’s best to have a plan in place for how you will persuade people to move to a (new) document automation tool. How will you get those resistant to change to adopt the new tool? How will you make sure people adopt and use the tool?

It’s not just the use of the tool itself that requires change – sometimes it can require a change in mindset as well. Document automation is most effective when used in fixed fee legal matters – therefore there may need to be a shift in mindset from billable hour to fixed fee.

Just as equally, document automation platforms like Ment have great client-facing functionality that allows slicker data capture and even the ability to offer templates on subscriptions. This type of functionality requires a shift in the established process or way of doing things, and therefore another example of a situation where a change plan is required to fully maximise the potential. 

5. Consider what your requirements are

Now that you have made sure that your templates are as ready as they can be for automation – and that you’ve considered some of the people and process aspects of implementation – the next step is to determine what are your requirements for document automation. How can document automation ultimately make the efficiencies you’ve made with people and processes and amplify them? 

On top of that, there is a wider trend of interconnectivity which means that you may also want to consider integration requirements. If during your review of processes you saw that employees were taking information from one application and retyping it in another – then you may want to avoid that in future with integrations. Examples include integrations with CRM, document management systems, SSO and e-signing applications.

What’s next?

Once you’ve done the preparatory work now you’ll be ready to go out into the market and see how document automation companies do against your requirements. Have these in mind when you’re going through demos. Make sure you compare each one against your requirements and by cost. Also, consider who will need to implement it and who will need to maintain it – and assess the costs for that too.

Don’t forget to shortlist Ment when you’re reviewing document automation platforms! Book us for a demo here

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