Addleshaw Goddard’s best practice approach to document automation.
In a crowded legal technology market, how do you know what document automation solution is right for your law firm? We spoke to Addleshaw Goddard’s Innovation and Legal Technology team to learn more about their approach.
The document automation landscape has never been more saturated. There’s a wide range of solutions – from simple toolkits designed for shallow automations, to platforms like Clarilis that offer deeper levels of automation for complex suites of documents. Being spoilt for choice certainly has plus points, but a noisy legal technology market can be a confusing place for law firms.
To ensure that they choose the best possible solutions for their needs, bigger firms look to their growing teams of innovation specialists for guidance. Mid-size and boutique firms don’t always have this luxury, so here we ask James Tapscott, a senior manager in Addleshaw Goddard’s Innovation and Legal Technology team, to shed a little light on how they approach document automation.
Widely regarded as a pacesetter for digital transformation in the legal sector, Addleshaw Goddard’s innovation group is an established, 50-strong, multi-disciplinary department. Within this, James leads the document life cycle team.
“I have a fantastic team who I work with – from graduates all the way up to senior legal technologists,” he explains. “We focus on the technologies that interact with a document throughout its life cycle. A big part of our role is how we create documents and that is often through document automation – it’s one of our biggest programmes.”
The team has built an approach to document automation around the desired outcomes of using this technology. In other words, they start with ‘why’ and let this drive ‘how’ they achieve it.
“A really important part of automating is understanding why you do it,” James says. “One of the first things I did when I came to Addleshaw Goddard was set out why we automate – because this was what would drive all our projects going forward.”
Five pillars of document automation
James and his team structure and coordinate their automation efforts across the firm against five pillars.
Using automation to get first drafts out quicker to save time and allow lawyers to focus more on bespoke work for clients.
Putting in controls around format and precedents to achieve a higher level of consistency across all documents produced, whoever is drafting.
- Risk and liability
Ensuring every draft is produced using the same, accurate data so the right information is always used, in the right places.
- Education and training
Including targeted guidance within an automation to provide junior lawyers and paralegals with support and supervision in a more efficient way.
Using the data extracted from automation technology to drive continual improvements in the quality of documents and legal processes.
‘How to’ automate
The business case for automation is now widely acknowledged – most law firms can now see its potential to increase productivity, efficiency, and accuracy, while also reducing costs and risk. Yet some law firms still resist automation, fearing it won’t be able to deal with the complexity of their matters. This can often be because of a bad experience with (or stories they’ve heard about) quick and shallow automation toolkit products.
Although lighter touch automations have a place in law firms, they also have limits. Yes, you could use a toolkit-style product to lightly automate a 300-page agreement in a day, but the document produced by the automation would probably require extensive manual drafting before being ready to send to a client. You need deeper automation to remove that manual drafting.
“You can automate anything quickly,” James says on this point. “But the more complicated the documents, the more knowledge you need to download from top partners and knowledge lawyers. There isn't really a shortcut to getting a deep automation. There's a process of transferring knowledge between lawyer and technology, and that process has to happen. There's no quick way around that, even with the most experienced lawyers and the most experienced tech team.”
“We're tech agnostic at Addleshaw Goddard because we want to make sure we use the most up to date tools and the right tools for our lawyers and for our clients too,” he explains. “We've got multiple platforms for automation and each has their own unique qualities. It’s about looking at projects individually, so we pick the right tool for the right job and for the outcomes we want.”
For example, if the goal is for a junior lawyer to produce a first draft of a complex document, with a shallow automation, the efficiency gains will be less. Inevitably, senior lawyers will need to put in hours of manual drafting to mold the draft produced into something they’re happy to share with a client. On the other hand, although a deeper automation, like Clarilis, might take longer to initially implement, the rewards from this investment can be substantial, both in terms of time savings and reducing risk when delegating complex drafting to junior lawyers.
“If the questionnaire has been answered correctly, we know the boilerplate is right and the risk profile goes down,” James says describing the benefits of a deeper automation, like Clarilis. “It gives the more senior lawyers reviewing drafts a safety net – the reassurance that a draft has gone through an automation system that has been signed off by the partners and the document owners in the firm. And all those extra hours can be put into more chunky aspects of a matter or less routine parts of it.”
Navigating choice in the LegalTech market
An important thing to take from James is that the question for him has never been ‘whether’ to automate. For him lawyers using automation to ease the burden of producing drafts is a given. But with such a huge array of document automation options on offer, it’s important law firms pick out the right solution for their firm, the type of work they’re using automation for, and the goals they want to achieve.
For advice on navigating your journey into automation, please arrange a consultation with the Clarilis team.
"One of the first things I did when I came to Addleshaw Goddard was set out why we automate – because this was what would drive all our projects going forward."
"There isn't really a shortcut to getting a deep automation. There's a process of transferring knowledge between lawyer and technology, and that process has to happen."
"Although a deeper automation, like Clarilis, might take longer to initially implement, the rewards from this investment can be substantial, both in terms of time savings and reducing risk when delegating complex drafting to junior lawyers."
Senior Manager, Innovation and Legal Technology, Addleshaw Goddard