Over the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of chatter about lawyers being replaced by AI and automation. Though there’s a romantic notion of AI being able to replace all lawyers, it’s far from reality. The truth is, no AI currently available for law firms can master a law firm’s complex challenges without human input. Perhaps more importantly, firms should not wish to remove the human element.

Certainly, the knowledge and expertise embedded within a firm’s people is its biggest differentiator. Clients select their law firms precisely for their knowledge, expertise and consultation. While technology offers enormous potential capabilities to law practice, lawyers must remain part of it.

This is where knowledge automation comes in. McKinsey & Company predicts that knowledge work automation will be the most significant disruptive technology to influence the world over the next 10 years, second only to the addition of 2-3 billion mobile internet users by 2025. The business implications for law firms are enormous as firms will be able to more easily balance profitability and client service innovation. McKinsey & Company suggests that 23% of lawyers’ time can be automated. If so, firms can leverage automation to divert the time lawyers spend on repetitive tasks to strategically advising clients and building relationships.

Aside from driving productivity, knowledge automation also can help firms reduce costs, mitigate risk and drive client service innovation. Here are five strategic benefits that firms can gain from knowledge automation:

1) Protect Against Knowledge Leakage

Every time a lawyer leaves a firm, they take valuable knowledge with them. While many firms struggle to capture and sift through imposing amounts of data, those that find a way to quickly make use of their proprietary knowledge will emerge as the strongest competitors.

Knowledge automation can help close the gap created by the departure of valuable partners and staff by providing a technological framework for capturing, maintaining and sharing expertise. More still, internal and external knowledge can be integrated into a custom know-how repository that the firm’s lawyers can easily search and manage. Combined with contextual search tools to help optimize the search experience, the content the most valuable to individual users immediately surfaces.

2) Empower Lawyers to Work Smarter

As clients demand faster, more consistent and higher quality service from firms, lawyers need to work smarter, rather than harder. Automated knowledge technologies bring value, efficiency and cost-savings to the client relationship. Using knowledge automation, firms can transform frequently-used documents and forms into intelligent templates that lawyers re-use and share across the firm. By automating document assembly and workflows for transactions and litigation, firms can save time and resources while simultaneously reduce risk and increase accuracy.

3) Streamline Compliance and Risk Management

Compliance and cybersecurity is a major stress-point for the modern law firm; with increasingly complex regulations and directives, including the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive and the EU General Data Protection Regulation. This means that law firms will face greater accountability in demonstrating compliance and security. Fortunately, advances in knowledge automation are modernising the way firms ensure compliance and mitigate risk.

Governance rules often are extensive and complex, which makes them hard to interpret and implement consistently. Knowledge automation technology allows firm to model compliance knowledge into lawyers’ everyday workflows, which enables compliance and risk to be streamlined across the firm.

4) Enhance Client Value Knowledge automation technology not only helps firms operate more efficiently, but also adds value to client relationships by powering faster turnaround, increased responsiveness and higher quality service. Given that today’s clients are well-informed, self-reliant and value-conscious means they are more likely to opt for non-traditional legal service providers. As the balance of power shifts in clients’ favor, firms need to clearly differentiate themselves and communicate the premium value they provide.

By integrating legal knowledge, process knowledge and compliance into lawyers’ workflows, knowledge automation technology enhances speed, accuracy, and value. Improved efficiencies allow lawyers to deliver high quality output, while spending more time building trust with clients.

5) Modernise Service Delivery

Amidst changing market conditions, innovation in services and service delivery is crucial to firms’ future success. One way that firms are using knowledge automation to drive client service is through smart forms. Using this technology, firms can capture client data through a user-friendly online questionnaire. The clients’ responses are then later reviewed by a lawyer and mapped directly into contracts, letters and other documents, that can be then be routed for e-signing. This gives lawyers more time to address complex issues and collaborate closely with clients on strategy.

New advancements in knowledge automation are paving the way for vast improvements in productivity, risk management and client services. Ideally, automation will not replace lawyers, but rather augment how they work. Firms of the future will use automation to better leverage proprietary knowledge through easier and quicker access, deployment, and adaptation.