At the recent Sysero Summit Oslo, we looked at the growing and imminent need for law firms to operate more efficiently. Pricing pressures, increased competition and evolving client demands are challenging today’s firms to find new ways of delivering better client service with fewer resources. According to 2016 Law Firms in Transition report by Altman Weil, 93 percent of law firm leaders agree that efficiency is a permanent trend.

Surprisingly, in the same report, most law firm leaders admitted that they were doing very little to adapt their strategic approach. However, today’s technologies have made it easier than ever to improve operational efficiencies and provide superior legal service delivery. Here are three ways that forward-thinking firms can embrace technological innovation to gain a competitive edge.

1) Build Once, Replicate Many Times (Without IT Support)

According to a recent report, lawyers spend about 48 percent of their time on administrative tasks, such as reviewing and drafting documents and configuring technology. However, automation offers new possibilities for how legal processes can evolve to minimise the time lawyers spend on repeatable, less-value add tasks.

Document assembly is a prime example of how automation can help reduce internal inefficiencies. Manually drafting new contracts and other documents for every matter requires a painstaking amount of time and is often prone to human error. Using automation, firms can reduce the errors, costs and overall inefficiencies associated with traditional drafting methods.

For example, leading Finnish law firm Castrén & Snellman recently transformed the way the firm’s lawyers work by implementing a customised document automation process designed to ease lawyers’ workloads. By automating some of the firm’s most-used documents, including its Share Purchase Agreement and Legal Due Diligence Report, Castrén & Snellman was able to shift lawyers’ focus from drafting documents to focusing on client needs.

Customised workflows that define who needs to do what work, and when, can also increase internal speed and accuracy by automatically prompting the appropriate team members to complete specific tasks. In the context of document assembly, firms can alert subject matter experts to review the quality of clauses or documents at specific intervals to ensure automated models stay relevant.

2) Automate Risk-Based Business Acceptance

Compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation, Anti-Money Laundering regulations and Know your Customer requirements continues to be a key focus for the modern law firm, and firms must ensure they are following appropriate compliance procedures. At the same time, they need to be able to easily accept new business and quickly on-board clients.

By creating an automated risk-based business acceptance process, firms can accelerate the acceptance of new clients, while quickly identifying potential risks. We recently partnered with a top Swedish firm to standardise and automate the firm’s business inception process, which subsequently reduced the associated risk. The client intake process includes a client scoring system that formalises the evaluation of new business opportunities based on a pre-defined set of rules determined by the firm’s priorities, including professional risk, terms alignments, and Anti-Money Laundering regulations. A risk profile is then created for each new client, allowing the firm to escalate high-risk clients for further review.

Through a streamlined approach to client intake, firms can not only improve efficiency and reduce risk, but also sharpen their focus on providing an exceptional client experience.

3) Digitise Internal Processes

In today’s legal market, expertise, technology and process are integral service delivery components. That’s why innovative firms have started to re-engineer the law firm delivery method using automated processes and workflows. Business processes across the firm are ripe for automation, from contract review to client collaboration.

Workflow is a widely beneficial way to centralise, standardise, and scale up processes while improving compliance and gaining efficiencies. For example, firms can use workflow to streamline the contract lifecycle – from automating contract creation and review to securing e-signatures and automatically archiving completed contracts.

Workflow automation makes up an important part of driving internal efficiencies and can be customised to adapt to the unique nuances and processes within any firm.

As competitive and pricing pressures increase, the demands for efficiency in legal shows little promise of easing. If anything, these pressures are likely to increase in intensity and challenge firms to become innovative in legal service delivery. Law firms that take the opportunity to explore new technologies and processes are the ones that are getting a head start on the competition.