The increased pressure faced by law firms to provide their services quicker and at a lower cost for customers means there is a significant demand to adapt the way they work, and even become more efficient. As one of the longest established professions, the legal sector has previously been resistant to adopt technological change, for cultural, competitive, and economic reasons, but the industry is taking steps to catch up.
Vasile Tiple, Deputy General Counsel, UiPath.
In 2014, investment in legal technology amounted to £1.5 million; in 2019, the figure has exploded to £61 million. Just two years ago, only 10% of the top 100 law firms were using artificial intelligence (AI) technology (opens in new tab) to improve the accuracy and speed of processing large amounts of information. This has increased to 40% - which shows that whilst the sector has made huge strides with new technologies, there are still huge benefits that are yet to be unlocked. Results from Gartner this year back this up: only 2% of current legal budgets are being spent on technology, even though it has been revealed that RPA in legal sector work can cut costs by 20-40 percent, whilst reducing human error and increasing compliance.
Legal robots are the perfect technological ally for legal departments and law firms because they can handle repetitive and tedious operational tasks – given that 63% of in-house legal work is repeatable, fact-based decisions that involve no need for human judgement or interpretation. By taking on these tasks, in place of human workers, RPA frees up legal advisors to spend time with clients – creating more billable hours and enabling law firms to become more competitive.
Reaping the benefits of RPA
The main advantage of RPA is the reduction in time and costs, especially when considering that the most common method of charging used by law firms is by the hour. Software robots can complete tasks up to five times faster than human workers – and in light of this, Deloitte Consulting LLP has joined an alliance to jointly develop and deliver RPA solutions to its clients at a global level while also establishing a more focused and innovative collaboration (opens in new tab) to automate legal and compliance.
The first solution was a robot that can search for information in public records, which is common in due diligence processes – and which takes approximately seven minutes, as opposed to the three and a half hours it takes a person to do the same task. Software robots also reduce errors – which can be very costly to businesses. This year a mistake in drafting a contract cost a leading London law firm nearly £2 million.
There are many daily time-consuming, repetitive processes that are mandatory, but do not necessarily need to be performed by a lawyer and that RPA can handle. Considering the trademark registrations or verifications of disputes made by law firms and reviewing and processing high-volumes of stored documents (opens in new tab) as part of a large transaction or due diligence process, are just some of the processes that are suitable for automation. By automating these repetitive tasks to software robots, lawyers’ time is freed up to focus on what really matters: the complex legal issues that these transactions may raise.
Public sector law and RPA
RPA can also help with legal functions in the public sector, which faces problems that require easy-to-deploy, low cost-solutions: from a high volume of work that blocks productivity (opens in new tab) to employee shortages, cost optimization, frequent changes in regulations and policies and department siloing. Bureaucracy, waste of paper, inefficient or obsolete systems are the most common problems that can be improved through automation with minimal costs, compared to a more complete digital transformation (opens in new tab) program. There are a number of RPA solutions that public sector law departments can use, as well as private firms and professionals:
- Export control robots – which reduce business risk and improve legal productivity, whilst automating the validation of new parties and partners.
- Regulatory robots – which compile regulatory changes, as well as automating the monitoring and updating of changes within the European Union (EU Parliament, European Commission) and the United States legal and regulatory requirements databases.
- Conflict of interest robots – which automate conflict of interest disclosure and verification within an internal, searchable database (opens in new tab), and reduce the time needed to identify conflicts from weeks to minutes.
- Contract robots – which automate the identification of agreements that require legal review, accept or reject changes on standard templates and common clauses and allow law professionals to focus on reviewing and negotiating complex contracts.
- Robottorney – which is a legal enquiry chatbots that respond to common queries over email (opens in new tab) or internal chat tools and provide answers in real time, freeing up legal counsels to focus on more complex and strategic requests.
What does the future hold for the legal sector?
Deloitte forecasts that by 2025, the quickening pace of technological developments, shifts in workforce demographics, and the need to offer clients more value for money, will force a profound transformation of the legal sector. Professionals must keep up with the fast pace of change, and rapidly adapt to the needs of their clients.
Adopting an ‘automation first’ mindset, whether in-house or outside council, will undoubtedly transform the way the legal sector works. Addressing its business challenges with a hybrid human/software workforce, using software robots to automate daily processes and freeing humans up for more creative, strategic tasks is destined to make a huge difference. Taking an automation first approach and providing a clear path forward for organisations to embrace a new dynamic will ultimately result in legal success – and change the way the legal sector works forever.
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