In today’s quickly evolving and fast-paced market, small law firms are under pressure to build greater efficiencies to remain competitive. This requires firms to embrace technology. Large firms have a distinct advantage with this, as they have the necessary skills, budget, and time resources to implement new initiatives. Single Practitioners and small law firms, unfortunately, don’t have the same resources available to them to enable all these efficiencies. But building efficiency is more important for small law firms than ever before. This article discusses how document automation can help small law firms become more efficient and how to start implementing this in their firms to drive efficiencies and increase profitability.
Assessing your technology needs
Lawyers need to carefully assess their technology needs before investing in technology aimed at delivering the efficiency gains, they need for the firm. There are plenty of examples of law firms that have bought bad technology, which resulted in increased costs, time, and effort for the firm without any efficiency benefit. Therefore, a critical initial step in choosing new technology is to assess the existing technology employed in the firm and decide if any of it needs to be axed. It is always easier to assess whether a product is useful after it has been implemented.
Automation software delivers the best return on investment
Generally, the most useful technology for small law firms is automation and represents the best return on investment out of any other technology. That may be automation of a process – for example a workflow or case/matter management system (referred to as Document Management Service), or it might be document automation where often-used documents are converted into templates. There are many case and matter management software products on the market, some better than others, and depending on the type of law you practice, implementing such a system could indeed boost efficiency.
When it comes to document automation, there are over 400 products to choose from, all varying in capability, complexity, and price. Document Automation software is widely regarded as the best way for law firms to increase efficiency and reduce costs, which is why all the big law firms have embraced this technology.
Choosing the right document automation software
So, how do you choose the right document automation software for your practice? Arguably the most important aspect is how long the product has been on the market. You want to look for an established company with the mature product. Start-ups in the document automation industry come and go at a rapid rate, and the last thing you need is to develop several templates and then find the product is no longer supported. You would need to find out how many users they have, how long the software has been in the market and what type of clients they focus on.
Closely linked to this is the quality of support offered by the prospective supplier. Document automation software does require some orientation and learning to get the maximum benefit out of it, so you would like a company that is approachable if you need training or assistance. Another sign of established software is the amount of online help articles and tutorial videos they make available to their clients.
Next, you’ll want a product that you can learn in a few hours, which helps you to convert your often-used MS Word-based contracts and agreements into templates quickly and easily, without having to outsource the template design process to an expert. There are a number of no-code / low-code document automation systems available which simplify the template creation process. Another consideration is that you want a product which is Microsoft Word based, because you already use Word for all of your documents. The product you select should also integrate with Outlook, allowing you to send questionnaires to external users via email (for example new-client onboarding), and allowing you to work from anywhere using a web browser via the Internet.
Finally, you want a product which is reasonably priced, offers a money-back guarantee and is sold on a subscription basis without a long contract lock-in. This means you won’t have to spend a chunk of money up front, and it gives you the comfort of knowing you can cancel at any stage.
Choosing where to start with your document automation software
To ensure success, choosing where to start with your document automation software is critical. We recommend that you choose about five often-used documents, which are of moderate complexity and not too difficult to automate. If you choose to start by creating a template for a complex document, it will take all of your [billable] time, and you won’t begin to save money until the template is completed. By getting started with building templates for your often used documents, it enables you to build your knowledge of the software and automated the documents quickly to ensure you get traction.
To stay on track, it’s not critical to create perfect templates at before you implement them in your firm. Your templates simply need to be good enough to generate a usable first draft. So, it is okay to keep some highlighted text in the document that notifies the user to keep or delete this text depending on the application. You can always refine your templates later – the important thing is to get them up and running fast.
If you have other people in the firm who will also be running the templates you create, we advise that you include them in the design process so that they adopt the templates as their own. This is important because lack of adoption is the main reason document automation fails to launch for law firms. Closely linked to this is the need to start creating a standard glossary of field names that you and your team will use for all templates. This will allow you to share answer files with other templates, reducing capture time through the re-use of information. In time you might also decide to integrate your templates with data-sources such as Excel spreadsheets or SQL Server databases, which will also save time through the re-use of information.
Today, document automation software is a great way to improve efficiency for single practitioners and small law firms. It offers the best return on any technology on the market. Of course, it requires a little time to create templates, but then you will save valuable time every single time the template is run, forever. It also means that clients receive a quicker turnaround, and in the case of commoditized agreements, quicker document production means you have more time to focus on high-margin legal work.
If you are looking for increased efficiency, you’ll find that XpressDox document automation checks all the boxes. It is well-established, easy to learn and use, well-priced, and trusted by thousands of firms around the world. Book a free demo to experience how XpressDox can help you.