Senior partners and lawyers face a number of frustrations during daily law practice. If you’re a mid-career or executive-level legal professional, you might point to winning important cases, getting just outcomes for clients, and closing complicated high-value deals among the reasons you pursued your legal career.
The daily reality of law firm workflow and case management has likely turned out to be very different. You can lose countless hours and energy balancing client relationship management, document management, timing and billing discrepancies, lengthy discovery, and matter pricing and planning.
These are undoubtedly important activities, but as a lawyer, they can leave you with a nagging feeling that more productive billable work is losing out to repetitive, manual tasks. Or, if you’re a partner, that the business of your law firm is being neglected amongst the daily tumult of reactive management.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that the legal profession has been hotly debating automation and A.I in recent years. It’s understandable that the demands of law firm life have led some to seek a panacea for work that seems to get in the way of pure lawyering.
In-house legal teams have seemingly moved quicker to streamline legal operations. Legal departments that standardize legal work and provide templates spend, on average, less than their peers, according to a recent whitepaper from Gartner. Similarly, CLOC’s State of the Industry report notes how many lawyers are taking steps to leverage A.I., with:
Still, it’s early stages, with CLOC noting that 37 percent of legal departments are not using or even exploring using A.I. for legal operations.
While it would be unrealistic to try to standardize the entire workflow, departments – and equally law firms – can significantly cut the need for unnecessary lawyer input to drive efficiencies. Gartner reports that low-cost legal departments have done this by creating repeatable decision rules and criteria, which offload low-value legal work to appropriate parts of the business.
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But what do legal leaders predict for the role of artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence, in delivering legal services? More than a fifth of general counsel think A.I. will impact the management of repeatable legal workflows, according to Wolters Kluwer’s 2019 General Counsel Barometer Report.
In fact, 70 percent of the general counsel that Wolters Kluwer surveyed said the main reason for increasing their spend in technology — or seeking to do so — was motivated by improving team productivity. Can we surmise that sentiment may be the same within law firms?
General counsel told the Wolters Kluwer survey that they are currently using some form of workflow tools, with more than 80 percent using between 1-2 tools, 11 percent using between three and five tools and a minority of six percent using more than five tools. While the true benefits of A.I in the legal sector may not yet have reached an inflection point, other automated processes are creating change. Take the increasing adoption of application programming interfaces (APIs), which smooth the integration of useful data across key software and apps.
Where can law firms benefit by effectively adopting automation?
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