4 practical tips for legal teams to start their automation journey

Slow down now, so you can speed up later.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already thought about using legal automation to solve a problem in your team. 

Wanting to dive right into an automation project is a great attitude to have – you’ll need the tenacity to see it through – but you also don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment.

According to Ernst and Young, between 30 to 50 per cent of automation projects fail. Luckily, we know why these projects fail, and what we can do to avoid making the same mistakes.

In a recent episode for the Centre for Legal Innovation’s Automation Mini-Series, ‘What should I automate?’, the Josef team shared four simple and foolproof tips about choosing your first, or next, automation project. When do you start? What do you automate? How do you choose the right project? 

We also spoke to Anna Golovsky, the Executive Manager, Legal and Company Secretariat Operations from IAG, and Gary Adler, Chief Digital Officer at MinterEllison, who offered insight into their own automation journeys in in-house legal departments and law firms.

Take a moment to slow down now to answer a few crucial questions to ensure the success of your project later. Because it doesn’t matter how well you execute something if you’re executing the wrong thing.

“Make sure you are building the right ‘it’ before you build ‘it’ right. ”
– Alberto Savoia, Innovation Agitator at Google

1. Ask: What could we be doing better?

This seems pretty intuitive, but you’d be surprised how often people don’t stop to ask themselves and those they work with: “What could we be doing better around here?”

Pull up a seat and have a Zoom coffee with your colleagues or clients and ask them this one, really simple question. Once you take a pulse on what needs improving – not just what you think needs improving – you’re ready to start mapping out the process.

2. Map it out 

You’ve landed on what you could be doing better at work. But now you need to break it down into its constituent parts.

You’ll want to lay out your current process, step by step, and drill in on the sticking points. Figure out if those pain points are the same or different to the problem you first identified. 

The idea behind process mapping is that it forces you to find the actual source of the problem so you can start to come up with a solution. You don’t want to make the mistake of being too vague, because that will lead you down the wrong track. 

“Look for low value, repeatable documents your team spends a lot of time on. We’ve automated NDAs, services agreement, and sponsorship agreements.”
– Anna Golovsky, Executive Manager, Legal and Company Secretariat Operations at IAG

3. Look at what others are doing

Identify opportunities for change and automation by simply looking at what other legal teams are doing. It’s what’s known as analogous inspiration. 

A famous example is Britain’s largest children’s hospital copying the art and synchronicity of Formula 1 pit stops to improve emergency room patient ‘handoffs’.

A common application of legal automation technology is bots that automate the provision of legal advice. Australian law firm MinterEllison, for example, identified a problem during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and automated advice using Josef about employment law to COVID-19 regulations. 

During deeply uncertain times, it provided clear and instant advice, 24/7, to the public. 

Other examples of what bots can be used for:

  • lawyer-client interactions, like intake and triage;
  • document automation;
  • workflows and processes;
  • guidance and advice, and
  • education and inspiration
“Magic happens by defining the problem, very clearly, and then having a team who knows how to build and leverage the various automation technologies we have across the board. ”
– Gary Adler, Chief Digital Officer at MinterEllison

4. Use the desirable, feasible and viable framework

Once you’ve identified the opportunity, you need to figure out whether it is the right project. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the task or process frequent?
  • It is repetitive and does it use the same variables of information over and over again?
  • Is the task or process valuable? Is it a core part of what you do?
  • Is it user-centric? Have you just come up with this idea to solve your problem, or does it actually solve a problem for the people who you want using it? 

After you’ve given these questions some thought, you’ll be well on your way to carrying out your next automation project!

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