Traditional document automation projects in banking are either too long to contemplate or produce shallow automations that provide such minimal benefit in respect to the time and effort saved per transaction, that they never gain traction within the department or quickly wither on the vine.
But at Clarilis, we have a solution that takes away these complications for our clients. Yes, our automation platform is specifically designed to reduce the time and effort required for us to build deep, complex automations, but that’s not enough. Technology on its own is never enough. To tackle the technological paradox, at Clarilis we’ve learnt that the role of our PSL’s (yes, we employ real, experienced, human lawyers) is critical to successfully building, implementing, and maintaining automated drafting solutions. In this post, we’ll hear from Rachel McGough and Nicky Ellis, two of our banking and finance PSLs, to explain why document automation needs lawyers as much as lawyers need document automation.
Both Rachel and Nicky have more than 10 years’ experience in private practice. Before joining Clarilis, Rachel was with Clifford Chance (in Banking and Project Finance) and Nicky was with Slaughter & May (in Finance and Restructuring).
Automating banking agreements
Banking precedents and legal opinions are popular candidates for Clarilis automation. Using Clarilis, our customers draft complex banking facilities agreements (and ancillary documents) from scratch in less than two hours.
The standardised LMA* documentation in particular offers a fantastic launchpad for our intelligent drafting approach. For example, Rachel and Nicky work with firms in relation to their leveraged and real estate finance suites to create customised Clarilis automations to meet an individual firm’s style and preferences. These automations are extremely easy to use. But while they make drafting simple, behind the scenes our lawyers have crawled tirelessly over precedents to identify all the different variations we need to build into the platform.
“I think having experience of private practice is invaluable when you're building and testing an automation,” says Rachel. “You need to know what to look for and what questions to ask. If you don't have this background, I think you'd be completely lost.”
With lawyer expertise built into the customisation of every Clarilis automation, the system creates an accurate and reliable first draft. This allows our clients’ lawyers to get straight into adding any bespoke elements, such as freehand drafting necessary to capture the nuance of the particular transaction they are working on – in other words, the parts they’re most interested in and that add the most value to clients.
“The automation doesn’t aim to replace you as a transactional lawyer – the bespoke element is at the heart of what lawyers do, or should be doing,” Nicky says reassuringly. “It replaces the repetition and the admin – the hours spent changing a multilateral precedent to a bilateral one – or searching around for that rider from the tax department you saved somewhere on a previous transaction.”
PSL support throughout an automation’s life cycle
Clarilis PSLs don’t just come into a project part way through, offer some advice, then leave again, such as you might find if you were trying to get time with your own busy lawyers. For our banking clients, our specialist banking PSLs, including Nicky and Rachel, are there throughout the lifespan of a project. This includes everything from helping identify candidates for automation, discussing requirements with clients and maintaining the automations day-to-day after they’re launched.
“We’re often involved early on, demonstrating automations to potential clients with the wider team and then later helping project management put together the project plan,” Rachel says. “Once the project is initiated, designing the questionnaire and marking up the precedents is our responsibility. When we have the working questionnaire and automated document from the automation team, we review and amend it with the client before it goes onto the live server.”
The key benefit of enlisting PSLs to build automations, is they can think like our client’s lawyers. So, while structuring questionnaires, Rachel and Nicky will also identify opportunities to build additional support into automations to guide more junior lawyers through the drafting process.
“I love the way we can incorporate know-how and guidance into the automation platform,” Nicky says. “It means an automation doubles as a teaching tool, which is brilliant for junior lawyers who don’t want to admit they don’t know what a financial covenant cure rider is, or how a hedge counterparty fits into the transactional structure. The guidance PSLs tirelessly put together can be put right in front of the fee earners, who can’t pretend they missed it because they couldn’t navigate the firm’s know-how system.”
And our PSL’s involvement doesn’t stop once the automation is built. They also manage any ongoing maintenance and changes.
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve helped a lot of clients update their precedents as they transition away from using the LIBOR Interest Rate benchmark,” Rachel explains as an example. “Some clients know exactly what updates they want to make. Others like to talk through the options with us first and work with us to adapt their automations when changes like this are required. Our background as practising lawyers means that we can talk through the legal concepts as well as the practicalities of automation.”
What do you like best about the role?
In an era when machine learning and AI is an increasingly hot topic, Clarilis believes substantive PSL input into building automations is here to stay. At least until the robots come for us all. Luckily, automating precedents is a twist on legal work that both Rachel and Nicky embrace.
“It’s like all the good bits of private practice – the academic rigour – but with none of the negotiation side of practice,” Rachel says. “I've also described it to people as like analysing a much-read novel with maths. It's nothing like the way you deal with documents when you're in private practice. You examine the documents in much more detail – we have to see the bigger, structural picture but we also get into extreme detail.”
The ability of our PSLs to dissect documents and explore every angle is a unique skill. They look at documents in a different way to a transactional lawyer negotiating an agreement.
“As a disruptive sort of person, I’ve always liked challenging processes and authority figures, and by happy coincidence I work in an age when being a ‘disruptor’ can be a badge of honour,” Nicky adds. “I was really struck when I heard James, our CEO, explain in a panel discussion that no, we arent’t doing lawyers out of a job, we are helping to restore the role of the lawyers to what it should be – the thinking and the negotiating and the sophisticated legal drafting, and reversing out the admin and the late-night repetitive drafting and copy-and-pasting..”
A great way to start may be to read more about what we’re already doing in the banking sector and by reading the why deep automation is a big deal for banking and finance lawyers. Then, when you’re ready to see it in action, you can book a demonstration.
* Clarilis is a member of the LMA and automates LMA documentation exclusively for and provided by member firms. Clarilis automations are not endorsed by the LMA.
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“I think having experience of private practice is invaluable when you're building and testing an automation”