June 15, 2021
When talking about digital transformation, it’s natural to focus on the technology itself. Clever coding and fancy feature sets can hog the limelight when we talk about investing in LegalTech. But what’s often overlooked is that for technology to reach its full potential, the humans using it need to show a positive commitment to changing the way they approach their work.
Plus, to enable successful adoption and realise all the ROI benefits automation can bring, leaders in the more progressive forms lead by example with the right behaviours.
You only have to take a look through the Clarilis client list to see a whole range of trailblazing law firms that embrace transformational innovation at the core of their culture. Ashfords is a firm that leads by example. The speed with which they implemented a suite of Clarilis-powered precedent automations for their banking and finance practice, shows exactly how a tech-positive mindset ramps up the success of innovation and brings the most significant impacts.
We talked to Partner and Head of Banking at Ashfords, Rebecca Dury, about her mindset when it comes to innovation and how the culture at Ashfords fosters, rather than hinders, progress.
“Within Ashfords, we’re very open to tech developments and I've had huge support from the Ashfords’ Board,” she says. “One particular area of my practice was neatly suited to document automation – for independent lenders who focus on property and development finance - so we're using Clarilis automation with this particular group of lenders.”
“These clients all require a very prompt turnaround,” Rebecca goes on to explain. “Clarilis gives us a wonderful starting point where 80% of the drafting is done for us. By generating this speedy base level, we can tailor it and get an initial draft out to a client, sometimes within two hours of being instructed. This means we’re saving an awful lot of basic drafting time that no-one particularly enjoys. As a result, as well as enabling us to go above and beyond what clients expect of us, it also makes a huge difference to our working lives.”
The PSL team at Clarilis worked alongside Rebecca and her team to identify the repetitive and predictable aspects of their precedents. These elements were added to the remit of their automations, so they no longer had to build these documents from scratch every time.
Less innovative mindsets often focus on a belief that automation deprives junior lawyers of vital learning experiences. Rebecca shares her experience of this when asked if this was the case at Ashfords.
“Automation produces a base level document – you still need to read the document, and you still need to check it,” she explains. “You have to be able to take the client through the draft and explain what's in there, so key lawyer skill sets are still very much being tested. Clarilis automation serves to free up time for lawyers to focus on areas where they can add more valuable legal experience and judgment through bespoke clause drafting.”
Consequently, rather than encouraging lawyers to churn out bland documents, Rebecca sees technology as a way to make adding a lawyer’s human touch easier. And her positioning of automation has definitely helped integrate it into Ashfords’ ways of working. We see the success of this approach each month in the impressive automation management reports we share with Rebecca and her team.
There’s a universal appreciation across law firms – whether they’re Magic Circle, mid-tier or boutique – that clients won't settle for advisers who are still doing things the way they were done five years ago. They want to see how law firms are adapting and investing to support their clients better. And this is creating opportunities for smaller, more agile law firms to invest in innovation and claim market share.
“If you innovate and use tech in the right way, it can act as a really good leveller,” Rebecca says. “Automation is a great differentiator and allows us to compete with some of the larger firms with deeper pockets.”
“Our clients love the automated precedents too – we consider them to be a significant marketing tool for us,” Rebecca continues. “By offering automation to clients we’re showing we’re prepared to put the upfront cost into developing an automated precedent suite for them because we believe in their businesses. I think our smaller lender clients really appreciate this.”
“We've also been able to bespoke the documents for each different lender,” she adds. “We've added appropriate logos for some clients, and we've swapped the clauses for others, just so that everybody feels confident that they're getting their own unique document.”
As the legal sector continues to adjust to an accelerated pace of digital transformation, the question many firms have is, ‘where do we start with automation?’
“Start small,” advises Rebecca “Give it a go with a set of documents that you use frequently, essentially where you're going to get the most benefit for the least investment. Don't try and automate a big corporate SPA. Instead, start with something that you’d traditionally pass down to a junior team member.”