Published On: Thu, Oct 25th, 2018

Robotic Process Automation and The Legal Profession

Like any longstanding industry, the legal profession can be slow-moving. While we have seen great strides with the use of technology to improve legal research, client communications, and law firm management – there is still room for growth.

Robotic Process Automation

We are seeing impacts on the way court reporters do their jobs, how legal researchers conduct thorough research, and with the flexibility in hours and location for law firms, but the legal profession still has a long way to go to fully embrace technology.

One area that is a hot and controversial topic is that of robotic process automation (RPA) and its impacts on the legal profession. In this article we explain RPA, look at the benefits for the legal profession, and provide some ways you can effectively implement RPA in your law firm.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

The official definition of robotic process automation (RPA) from the Institute For Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence is:

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. Any company that uses labor on a large scale for general knowledge process work, where people are performing high-volume, highly transactional process functions, will boost their capabilities and save money and time with robotic process automation software.

So, what does this mean for the legal profession? The use of RPA within the legal profession is a prime example of how technology can be used in the legal profession to make real change. Today’s legal clients have access to a bounty of legal data and content – all thanks to the Internet. It’s this change in access to information, that is forcing the legal profession to take a focused look at RPA.

Many law firms spend a great deal of time on tasks such as contract generation and review, completing forms and other paperwork, responding to correspondence, updating records, and searches such as those looking at land titles or bankruptcy claims. This is the kind of work that can be shifted to RPA and be fully automated.

Doing so frees up law firms to better attend to the needs of clients, ensuring that the firm remains vital and relevant. Consider these two examples of how RPA can be implemented in law firms:

  • Complete automation: the robot does all of the work and generates an output file that is sent to the lawyer for final completion or is sent directly to the client.
  • Hybrid automation: the robot is a silent observer, watching and monitoring for example, the work of a paralegal. After a determined amount of time, the robot will have enough knowledge to take over and complete the repetitive tasks, freeing the paralegal to focus on more involved tasks.

What Are the Benefits of Robotic Process Automation for the Legal Profession?

It’s a fact that law firms are under pressure to streamline and improve their bottom lines. This means that most people working in the legal profession are working intense and long hours – all in the name of speed and efficiency.

This is a small snapshot of how RPA can benefit the legal profession:

  • Improving the accuracy of routine tasks. Humans can be very error-prone, particularly when tired, this is not the case with RPA.
  • Better attention can be spent on clients. Rather than spending time reviewing contracts or signing routine forms, legal professionals can meet with clients, answer their questions, and find the time to go above-and-beyond.
  • A shift in where employees focus their attention. RPA frees highly-skilled legal employees from tedious and routine legal work and allows them to better use their skills.

How To Effectively Implement Robotic Process Automation

Implementing RPA is not going to be easy, it takes planning and a strategic approach. When preparing for an RPA implementation in your law firm, think of these key strategy points:

  • Set the expectation level.
  • Be realistic about how it can improve your law firm.
  • Make sure your IT team is on-board and committed to supporting RPA.
  • Remember that more data is not necessarily better.
  • Have a back-up plan should there be a failure, outage, or loss of data.
  • Educate everyone in the law firm about the facts on RPA.

RPA is slowly but surely making itself known in the legal profession. It’s key that everyone including the court reports you work with regularly, your legal research team, your administrative team, and all law firm employees are educated on RPA and understands how it can and will improve their day-to-day professional life.