The Value of Document Automation for Law Firms

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An illustration showing document automation

Law firms have come a long way from putting pen to paper. Today, law practice management software can help automate everything from client intake to billing. Many law firms are even automating document assembly with document automation software.

While document automation software might sound scary, it can be easily integrated in your practice to save time and reduce errors. Read on to learn more about document automation software and how it can benefit your law firm.

Document automation at a glance

Document automation software for law firms makes drafting documents easy. Law firms can either input existing templates or create templates for common types of documents—whether a standard retainer letter or a more complex contract or agreement with specific requirements like indemnity clauses. The document automation software will then fill in variable information (like dates, names, and clauses) that can change between clients and matters. 

But that’s not all—document automation software can even add/remove clauses in documents and correct subject-verb agreement to match the number of people referred to in the document. 

How law firms use document automation

Law firms can use document automation software in a number of ways. For example, document automation software can input names and contact information for standard letters. Whether you’re a civil litigation paralegal sending out countless document request letters or a family law attorney drafting a new retainer letter, document automation software can help you save time and money on routine letter-writing tasks.  

Document automation software is also valuable for longer, more complex legal document drafting. Take, for example, a will precedent. The attorney may need to add or remove clauses depending on whether the client has children. The subject-verb agreement also needs to be amended throughout the document depending on the number of parties referred to (e.g., if the client has one child or multiple children). As most attorneys and paralegals know, editing for subject-verb agreement and adding/removing clauses can take up lots of energy and time. 

This is where document automation software comes in. Instead of manually finding and replacing clauses, words, or phrases, you can tell the software what you need and it will create a document tailored to your needs. 

So, if there is one child, the document will read “The one child was…” instead of “the one children were…” It’s nice not to have to go through each conditional section of the document to make sure it fits the specifics of your case.

Why law firms should consider document automation

A man working on a laptop and using Clio to generate and autofill documents with Clio and Lawyaw

Document automation software can benefit law firms in many ways. Below, we’ll cover some of the top reasons to use document automation software in your law firm. 

1. Document automation saves time

The average law firm spends 20% of available hours on routine drafting. Document automation software like Clio Draft can help your law firm save time by only entering information once and applying it to a variety of documents. 

By creating a template set (a group of similar documents you use for clients), the information will auto-populate and save you even more time. 

2. Document automation prevents errors

Humans make mistakes, and lawyers, paralegals, and other law firm employees are no different. Juggling different clients, matters, and tasks on a daily basis means that small errors can happen. You might misspell a client’s name (which, at best, won’t impress your client) or worse, make an error in a court filing. Document automation software helps lawyers and paralegals prevent errors by filling in the information associated with their client or matter automatically. 

3. Document automation empowers law firms

Every day, law firms lose time to delegation and oversight. Document automation software can provide all members of a law firm with access to templates designed by experienced lawyers, allowing anyone from associates to administrative assistants to focus on billable tasks without constant supervision. 

And, thanks to the centralization of the documents, it’s easier to collaborate on and review documents created by other members of your team—even if you’re all in different locations. You can access your documents any time, anywhere. 

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff 

Document automation software frees up time for attorneys and paralegals to focus on important or exciting tasks. By automating the bulk of legal drafting, you can spend more time focusing on exciting, big-picture issues instead of endless paperwork. It may even free up time for professional development and life outside of work.  

Attorneys and paralegals don’t go through years of study to spend their days reviewing standard letters. Whether you want to make a difference or focus on the intellectually-challenging aspects of your work, document automation software can help streamline your day. You can spend more time focusing on the work you were trained to do and better serving your clients with their legal matters. 

5. Access to accurate court precedents

Document automation solutions like Clio Draft provide you with access to thousands of up-to-date federal, state, and local forms. 

With document automation and templates, there’s no need to search for these documents online, convert them into a usable format, and fill them out yourself. Or worse, accidentally rely on an out-of-date form saved in your law firm’s database. These forms are accurate, up-to-date, and ready to be completed and filed. 

Common misconceptions about document automation

A photo of someone using an iPad to automate documents

There are many benefits to using document automation software in your practice, but it’s also important to understand the common misconceptions about the technology. 

Robotic, generic templates

Generic documents have no place in automation or in a law firm—lawyers are expected to use their experience and expertise to help clients with their legal matters. A quality document automation solution will help law firms use their knowledge when creating templates, rather than handing over generic, pre-made templates created by people who don’t share your deep understanding of your clients and practice area. 

Document automation solutions like Clio Draft are built for lawyers by lawyers. Using software built by industry professionals who understand the needs of their profession ensures that the program works for your firm rather than making your job more confusing. 

Simple “find and replace” technology 

Most people who use Microsoft Word and other word processing software are familiar with “find and replace.” While this technique has its uses, it is not always user-friendly and can lead to inadvertent errors. For example, sometimes searching for “the” will inadvertently pick up other words that contain “the”, such as “their”, and incorrectly replace those portions of the word with another letter or word. With document automation software, the areas that have changed in a document can be highlighted in yellow, so that you know exactly what text has been replaced. 

Technical and complicated

The right document automation software will work seamlessly with existing legal technology. While some setup and customization is necessary to ensure the software meets your practice needs, it is overall intuitive and easy to use. Clio Draft allows you to import templates and automatically populate and assemble document sets with contact and matter information from Clio Manage. 

Document automation for your law firm 

Document automation software helps law firms streamline routine tasks and focus their attention on more important matters while maintaining control and accuracy over documents. While implementing new technologies and processes can be daunting for law firms, the right software integration will make the transition much less challenging. Moreover, the overall benefit for law firms and their clients is undeniable. No matter what area of law you practice in, adopting a document automation software solution can help save time, avoid errors, and improve profitability.

Categorized in: Clio

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