As discussed in the first article in this series, automation can replace lawyers when it comes to tedious tasks. Typically, these are the tasks that do not require expert capabilities. While this development is likely to be welcomed by lawyers, a transformation project will always be disruptive. Planning a project is one thing, but if you want people to actually change their workflow, you will need to have a clear plan for implementing your automation project. This plan must take into account engaging with the people who will be using the automation software. 

In this article, we will explore the key steps in implementing a legal automation project.

1: Start Small 

During the early stages of implementation, team members will need to adjust to the new legal automation technology. During this adjustment phase, productivity can sometimes seem to decrease rather than increase. This is because it takes time for people to adapt and change their workflow. Because of this, it is better to focus on a pilot rather than a full or comprehensive launch.

To frame this pilot, start with a use case that the business views as a clear winner. Doing so will mean that you are better positioned to demonstrate immediate success. In the pilot, you should also limit the users to core users. This should be a cross-section of lawyers and non-lawyers who can provide real and valuable feedback on how the automation is impacting their ability to complete the particular legal task.

In the early days, it is critical to continually review the data on your legal automation platform and use this data to drive improvements. These improvements could include adding additional:

  • functionality; or 
  • apps and tools that will continue to improve your team’s performance. 

As you build momentum and the platform starts becoming ingrained in the workflows of your pilot team, you will be able to scale it and increase your user base to others in the business. Once you have established success in the pilot, you will be able to build on that success. 

2: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When implementing an automation project, it can be tempting to focus on the day-to-day demands of the project and lose sight of the importance of communicating with stakeholders beyond the core users in the pilot. However, it is critical to update stakeholders more broadly across the business on the progress you have made. Communication is just as important here as it was when building a business case and setting realistic expectations in the planning phase. 

Communication is important for several reasons. You need to remember that stakeholders:

  • hold the purse strings, either directly or indirectly, and you owe them information so that they can assess their return on investment;
  • provide useful feedback based on the business’ needs (particularly if those change from when the project was planned), which you should incorporate throughout the early stages of implementation; 
  • need to update their own reports and likely need information on your project to do so; and
  • like to know what is going on. By keeping them updated, you can help ensure they are on your side and are more likely to back future projects to improve legal operations and efficiencies. 

3: Promote User Engagement

This kind of project does not stop once it has been delivered or implemented. In fact, arguably the most important phase of a legal automation project is ensuring users adapt their workflow to incorporate the new tools. 

How much you embrace and engrain user adoption of the platform will have a huge impact on the long term success of your project.

6 tips for promoting engagement with your legal automation tool

  1. ensure users have access to the platform;
  2. encourage users to provide feedback and make it easy for them to do so;
  3. have a dedicated member of the project team in charge of tracking and promoting user engagement;
  4. share continual updates and metrics with users, to show how their feedback and use of the platform is impacting performance (for example, you could track and demonstrate how much quicker it is for users to complete a piece of work through the tool compared to the manual processes that were previously in place); and
  5. share success stories from users with the broader business.

4: Check-in on Progress

As you roll out your project, it is critical to assess your project against the business case you initially put forward in the planning phase. This should be done both:

  • internally, among the team leading the project; and 
  • externally, when providing updates to stakeholders. 

The system you have in place to assess your progress should be built upon transparent, traceable data. You should be able to track information back to the original source and to its owner. 

For example, if you are tracking how many users reported issues with the legal automation tool, it is valuable to know:

  • the names of the users who made the reports; and
  • when the reports were made (for example, the report may have pre-dated a bug which has now been resolved). 

When it is time to check in on whether you have achieved the desired goals and met the requirements set out in your project plan, it is valuable to be able to share data on: 

  • how much time is being saved;
  • whether costs are being reduced and, if so, by how much; 
  • how the automation tool is leading to better outcomes; and
  • what the organisation has been able to accomplish that was not possible before automation.

Key Takeaways

A legal automation project does not end when you launch. Because of this, implementing the automation project will require some planning. It can take time to adjust to any new technology, but legal automation is a long term investment that will pay off over time. Start with a user group to test the product and make sure you regularly update your stakeholders. Ultimately, legal automation will only be successful if users adapt their workflows and engage with the automated process. Get involved with your users and collect, follow-up on and and action feedback. Be ready to measure that success and use it to promote future legal automation projects.

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