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As discussed in part one of this series, legal automation can help streamline, automate, manage and measure legal tasks. If you have decided to shift towards automation, you will now need to start thinking about planning a transformation project. Of course, you will need to tailor the project according to your specific needs.

In this article, we set out the five key steps involved in planning a successful project to implement legal automation. 

1: Build a Business Case

Legal departments that wish to invest in technology must request additional budget. Typically, these requests are decided based on metrics

The benefits of an automation project may well be clear to you and your team. However, the business will likely need a little more convincing. You will need to get your facts in order and make it as easy as possible for the right decision-makers to approve your planned projects. 

To start building your business case, you should consider: 

  • how the automation project will help to generate more revenue for the business;
  • how the project will reduce existing costs in the business; and
  • whether the project aligns with any other initiatives or strategic objectives within the business.

You will need to quantify each of your answers using benchmarks and metrics. This step is crucial, because it also allows you to report back on the success of the project further down the track.

2: Get the Right Team Together 

Technology is complex, and tech-driven solutions can be outside lawyers’ comfort zones and expertise. A legal automation project will need the support of both legal experts and tech experts to be successful. 

You have several options to put your team together.

Use your internal tech team The advantage of this solution is that the internal team is already familiar with your business processes. By deploying existing team members, you may be able to avoid the additional costs of consulting experts outside of your business. However, this option potentially means shifting resources from other projects and deprioritising those projects. The key risk is that the internal team may not have specific expertise in automation implementation. 
Engage an external vendor The advantage of this option is that you will be working with subject matter experts who will likely do all the heavy lifting for you. However, the risk is that it might be more expensive than staying in-house.
Work with a tech-driven law firm

 

An experienced tech-driven law firm already has the automation tools in place. This means that they can act as an extension of your team through an integrated offering combining legal services and customised technology. The law firm can  leverage their existing knowledge from delivering legal work to develop customised technology for your team.

 

3: Know Your Scope and Stick to It

When planning an automation project, it is key to determine the scope of your project and communicate this scope to stakeholders.

Examining the manual processes that underpin how team members currently undertake legal tasks can help with scoping. Analyse these processes by considering: 

  • how long is spent on the activity (automation is more likely to be worth the investment if a relatively large amount of time is spent on a task);
  • how many steps or people are involved (if there are many steps or people involved, automation will likely generate a good return on investment by freeing up those people to focus on other tasks);
  • which systems are already in place to perform these steps (sometimes targeted automation is sufficient to supplement existing workflows, rather than automating the entire system); and
  • whether members of the business have previously voiced concerns about an inefficient process (the best automation projects are ones that solve real needs. Identifying real needs is easiest if you speak to people who are dealing directly with a legal process and stand to be directly impacted by its automation).  

Once you have a clear idea of the scope of your project, identify any quick wins. By addressing these issues first, you will be able to report on success to stakeholders almost immediately. 

4: Fix a Broken Process Before Automating 

Importantly, automating an inefficient process will not make it more efficient. Improvements to the business process must occur first, well before technology gets involved. Simply automating an existing flawed process would make it difficult to deliver on the intended benefits. 

At the start of your transformation process, map out how you will tackle three key phases:

  • Analyse (get a good grip on the process or problem you are trying to solve); 
  • Optimise (make the process better and more scalable. This is a crucial opportunity to fix an ineffective process before going further in the transformation process); and
  • Automate (make the process more efficient). 

5: Set Realistic Expectations

It is key to set realistic expectations and communicate these to stakeholders. Most importantly, you should accurately communicate how much of an impact the automation may have. This is particularly the case if the automation will affect a specific legal task, rather than transforming an entire workflow. 

You should also expect to encounter a few problems along the way, such as changing priorities and different business pressures for stakeholders. 

For example, your automation project may be a priority at the outset but gradually get taken over by other projects (most likely those that are directly generating revenue). In this case, you will need to adapt your stakeholder management strategy to generate fresh commitment to seeing the project through to completion. 

How you tackle these hurdles will depend on the: 

  • knowledge you have around different relationships; and
  • needs of each stakeholder. 

If you can pre-empt any issues you may face based on how key stakeholders have responded to related projects or initiatives in the past, you may be able to improve the likelihood of your project being a success. 

Key Takeaways

Planning a legal automation project can be intimidating. However, following the five key steps set out above will help you set the project up for success. Once you have convinced stakeholders with your business case, you will need to find the right team. Determine the scope of the project and take the time to analyse and optimise existing processes before jumping into automating them. Try and set realistic expectations with stakeholders, and then continue to manage these expectations throughout the project, so that the implementation of the project goes as smoothly as possible. In the final article in this series, we will look at the actual implementation of the project.

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