2017 in Review: From Robot Lawyers to Results-Driven Innovation

Results-Driven Innovation

2017 has been a transformative year for law firms and legal technology. At the start of the year, many legal sector commentators and professionals were debating whether ‘robots would replace lawyers’ and if ‘robots would end the legal profession.’

However, nearly 12 months later, the fear of robots seems to have subsided and we’re seeing forward-thinking law firms embrace cutting-edge technology to benefit their lawyers, rather than replace them. Firms have shifted their focus from the visionary ideals of AI to the practical, tangible benefits of automation technology that are here and now. From researching and contract assembly to compliance and risk management, automation is transforming today’s law firm. And more firms are shedding their traditional ways to drive real change for their firms and their clients.

This year will be remembered as the year when legal automation went from being merely a topic of interest to a tool deeply embedded in the modern law firm. Here are just a few of the ways that we saw law firms embrace innovation this year and help usher in a new era of legal automation.

Driving Greater Client Value

Automation redefined - and continues to redefine - the tasks and functions lawyers perform, as well as the business models delivering them. This year brought stronger client demands for faster and consistently higher-quality service, and automation helped firms bring value and efficiency to the client relationship.

Over the course of the year, we saw many firms start to approach knowledge management in a more strategic way, and start to incorporate automation to re-invent legal service delivery.

For instance, when Vinge, one of Sweden’s premier law firms, noticed clien needs shifting, it turned to automation to help drive greater value for its clients. The firm built a document automation system, called Vinge Dox, where lawyers could quickly and easily create new contracts directly from it knowledge management system and automatically save the final work product in the firm’s document management system. Using automation allowed the firm to reduce inefficiencies, increase accuracy, and more importantly, aid clients even if potential revenue was limited.

Reinventing the Way Lawyers Work

While the business of law hasn’t changed much over the past few years, evolving client demands have pushed firms to re-evaluate how their lawyers work. Efficiency and timeliness are of utmost importance to today’s assiduous clients, and throughout the year, we started to see more firms - and lawyers - begin to embrace automation as a way to enhance value and service.

Finland’s oldest law firm, Castrén & Snellman, served as a reminder of how firms are using automation to deliver greater value to lawyers, as well as clients. After launching its comprehensive knowledge management system, aptly named Transformer, in 2016, the firm continued to expand its automation efforts and uncover new ways of working.

The firm used automation to merge multiple model versions, such as languages and buyer and seller side, into single automated model documents to further increase drafting efficiency. And, as the firm continued to automate high-profile documents, such as its Share Purchase Agreement, the pipeline for automation continued to grow by request of the firm’s lawyers.

So, while many lawyers started the year fearful of what automation might hold for their futures, many others are ending the year with an appreciation for how automation can improve the way they work.

Redefining the Client Relationship

This year also was marked by a significant shift in the firm-client relationship. Mounting pressure from clients for greater efficiency, quality and transparency pushed many firms to rethink their service delivery models.

Throughout the year, we witnessed firms moving towards the digitisation of contract management and incorporating smart forms and contracts as part of their contract process. By tapping into automation technologies to streamline contract management, firms were able to more easily share routine tasks with clients and leave more time for lawyers to deal with complex matters.

Client portals also saw a re-emergence this year, as more legal clients sought easier collaboration with their providers. Fortunately, hybrid hosting solutions paved the way for law firms to house processes developed internally in-house, while sharing external data with clients through cloud solutions.

The Year Ahead

While 2017 ushered in a new era of legal automation, the year ahead promises to bring even more innovation to the legal profession. We’re excited to see firms taking a more aggressive approach to rolling out new technologies, and hope to see the trend continue through the new year. Moving forward, firms have the opportunity to bring the advantages of automation closer to their clients to enhance collaboration and reinvent client service delivery.

Summary

This year will be remembered as the year when legal automation went from being merely a topic of interest to a tool deeply embedded in the modern law firm. Here are just a few of the ways that we saw law firms embrace innovation this year and help usher in a new era of legal automation.