Automating legal documents

Build Better Bots is our series exploring how to do legal automation well

Build Better Bots is our series exploring how to do legal automation well

Here at Josef, we’ve seen thousands of bots created by our community of bot-builders. 

If legal documents are here to stay, we need a way to make document drafting faster, more accurate and more efficient. 

Enter the humble document automation bot! 

What is a legal document automation bot? Why use them?

A legal document automation bot is a digital tool that collects information from users and inputs it into an existing document template, generating a complete and customised legal document, like a contract, letter or form.

All legal offices deal with a wide range of documents. As legal teams are under increasing pressure to work more efficiently, manually creating new documents and contracts in all situations is no longer practical.

For example, if a lawyer needs a standard suite of documents for a client to help them with a transaction, with a legal document bot they can simply use the same dataset to generate the whole suite of documents at once, saving them from having to fill out the same information in different documents.

Document automation bots also allow legal professionals to produce legal documents in a way that is more convenient for their clients. Where a client once had to provide instructions by coming along to a meeting, now they can have a simple five minute chat with a bot, and the first draft will land in the partner’s inbox for review.

On top of freeing up time and improving the client experience, legal professionals have found that using bots to automate documents can help to reduce errors too.

“Allowing internal and business units to self-serve means a faster turnaround on simple legal documentation and a better experience for stakeholders.”

Who uses them?

Legal document automation bots are used by all kinds of legal teams to reduce routine and repetitive work.

  • Community legal centres and other not-for-profit organisations use these bots to great effect. Members of the general public can obtain legal documents they might otherwise be unable to access because they’re unwilling or unable to seek paid legal advice.
  • In-house teams also use document generation bots extensively to make their teams more efficient. Allowing business units to ‘self-serve’ means a faster turnaround on simple legal documentation and a better experience for stakeholders. The outcome also helps the team achieve greater efficiency and improved morale, as they can spend their time on providing value-added legal advice for the business.
  • Law firms of all shapes and sizes generally use document generation bots to improve the client experience – by providing direct access to suites of documents, for example – and to increase internal efficiencies.

What kind of documents should I automate?

The best documents to automate are those that are repetitive, lower risk, and less complicated. These documents often have standardised fields of information such as personal or company details, have established criteria and requirements, and follow simple logic based rules on the next steps in the process.

It is also a good idea to look for suites of documents that use the same variables over and over – this way you’ll apply a multiplier to the efficiency gains.

Based on our experience, commonly automated documents include non-disclosure agreements, employment agreements and standardised letters or forms.

Tips to build better document automation bots

  • Choose the right document

    Look for something high volume and low risk

  • Clean up your document

    Is your template fit for purpose?

  • Listen to feedback

    Good feedback leads to great bots

  • Think about your workflow and process

    Is it self-serve or light touch?

If you’re looking to automate your documents with legal bots, here are our top four tips for builders:

1. Choose something high volume and low risk

Identify the documents that are used the most, take up the most of your time, are important to your users, and are low-risk for you.

For in-house teams, this may be a contract or form that other departments often ask you to create or tidy up, but is taking your attention away from things that truly require that a lawyer’s skillset to do.

For a law firm, this may involve having a good look at the work that your clients need but that you don’t generally charge for, or that fits nicely alongside other reimbursed work.

2. Clean up your document

Before building the bot, pause and consider whether your templates are fit for purpose. 

Picture how your users will use the bot and generate the document, and then consider the template.

Do the questions follow the order of the document, or would they make more sense in a different order? Which fields are essential and which are nice-to-have? Are some parts of the document only relevant for a physically generated copy?

3. Get user feedback

After you’ve built your bot, we can’t overstate how important it is to test it out, and listen to your users. 

Experienced power users will often give you feedback on how to make your bot more efficient. New users have great insights on how user friendly and accessible your bot is, and what doesn’t make sense to them. 

Through this process, many of our customers have not only finessed their bots, but also improved their template documents.

4. Self-serve or light touch?

It’s good to think about the process and your workflow, and decide whether you want your documents to be fully or semi-automated. Sometimes documents can be finalised on the spot by the end user and then actioned, while others require further oversight by the legal team. 

To help make this decision, think about the risk-profile of the document, the risk appetite of your organisation, and the types of people likely to use the bots.

It can also take time to embed new processes and to ease your clients, partners and internal stakeholders into the new self-serve processes. 

Read more of our guides to legal automation

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