“By 2024, legal departments will have automated 50% of legal work related to major corporate transactions.” (Forbes)
Whether your firm has a digital strategy in place or not, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more legal operations and processes are being digitalised and automated. Right now, you might even consider having digital processes a competitive advantage, but it’s quickly becoming the norm and not having digital processes will become a disadvantage.
Through the work we do with legal firms, we’ve managed to identify some of the key challenges that stop law firms from properly putting in place a digital strategy. Here’s what we see time and again:
1) Discovery and case building documents
Discovery and case building documents is obviously a huge process and a vitally important one, but the challenge comes with how you receive, distribute and collaborate on the information. Rarely does it come in a simple scannable or OCR-able format that allows it to be digitised and more often than not, law firms will receive documents in a variety of formats from lots of different sources.
While this is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome, legal firms can look to provide tools and options for those involved in this process, from digital signature options for documents to encouraging collaboration through digital workflows (where applicable and suitable).
2) Outbound Communications
There’s long been an understanding that when a document pertains to a legal matter, it should be delivered in a hard copy format, with blue-ink signatures and time-stamped. In some cases, there might be legal precedence to do so, but in many cases, a hard copy document costs money to produce and takes time while waiting for the documents to be delivered.
This delays responsiveness and can even delay a case.
The challenge is often caused by the law firm sending a hard copy document, i.e. outbound comms, and the recipient then feels they need to send a hard copy back. What doesn’t help is that documents that started as digital docs are printed out, mailed out and then scanned back in again.
As noted, all of this takes time, increases the cost and generally just delays proceedings, which isn’t great in a world where other processes are going digital - from train tickets to receipts to invoicing - you name it, it’s going digital! Not to mention businesses that were born digital, like Amazon, Uber and banking apps.
By digitising communications coming in and out of the firm, we regularly see an improvement of 30% in terms of speed of responses, plus there is a huge process improvement for all those working on the case in a firm as they can easily access the document when it comes in digitally. You’ll have the whole firm thanking you!
3) Digital Court Bundling
Creating digital bundles is relatively new. This isn’t just down to the legal industry, as it’s primarily driven by the court system and judges - and let’s face it, it’s not unusual for judges to be of an older generation who have been using paper document bundles for a long time!
Unfortunately, if a court bundle is requested in a paper format, then that’s how it needs to be provided. But with the Covid-19 pandemic driving everything towards digital, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are beginning to see a future where court bundles could be digital, providing you have the right tools to do so.
When the court allows it, digital court bundling can have a cost-saving as much as 50% - learn more about how we did this for one of our customers here.
4) Case Management Integration
Investing in a great case management system is a must for most legal firms and given the high cost of investment, the last thing you want is to put time and money into a system that then doesn’t work with other systems and processes you have.
In an ideal world, every document and communication that comes into the firm should be logged and accessible in the case management system that you use and this means integrating with the different document processes you have, including the example of the digital mailroom that was previously mentioned.
Another example: PowerPDF is an easy to use PDF tool that integrates directly with case management systems, allowing you to keep working without interruption when searching for a discovery document.
By integrating documents and document processes directly into your case management system, you provide visibility to all those involved in the case and also create a contingency plan for when someone is unavailable, away from the office or even off sick. With the right integrations, it’s also possible for an OCR engine to automatically scan a document and identify and distribute content as needed.
Further to this, you can enhance compliance, essentially creating an audit trail by keeping all of the communications in one place without actually having to manually scan it in.
Having worked with law firms, we truly understand the volume of documents that can come into the business, and that’s why we’ve spent so much time developing solutions for the legal industry that help to reduce cost while allowing fee-earners to concentrate on billable work.