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What Lawyers Should Know About Document Automation

You may have heard of document automation, which is on the rise in the legal field—but what is it, and why does it matter? Document automation, also known as document assembly, is the automation of the process of document creation. For example, if you are a lawyer that often creates intake documents, Service Agreements, or NDAs, document automation would facilitate the creation of the first draft of these documents. It is important to note that document automation is not the same as simply using a template, since, unlike a template, it results in a customized document every time.

So why is document automation so important? As we all know, document creation can be extremely time consuming, repetitive, and error-prone. Traditionally, when lawyers wished to create documents, they often looked to their existing templates and made adjustments. In my Ph.D. research, I conducted a questionnaire of 600 legal professionals who admitted to copy and pasting an important part of their contract; namely the dispute resolution clause. Unfortunately, this process is flawed, as often the resulting document contains mistakes or is not personalized enough. When contracting is flawed, there is the potential for legal conflict.

Document automation reduces the potential for human error while saving lawyers immense amounts of time, thereby enabling them to focus on more substantive and meaningful tasks. According to Real Automation Solutions, through document automation, lawyers can spend 70% less time to get the document ready. Moreover, document automation improves lawyer-client collaboration.

How Does Document Automation Work?

There are various approaches to document automation. The most common method involves a questionnaire at the start, which leads to a document template that incorporates the necessary information and ensures the necessary formatting/style. It is important to note that the questionnaire can be created by the ultimate user of the document and is thus extremely personalized to each user’s needs. There are also more advanced document automation systems that empower the user to create their own data and logic without the need to know how to code. Moreover, document automation empowers the use to incorporate automatic calculations in their final document.

According to Dorna Moini, the CEO of Documate, a document automation solution, there are four aspects to document automation: (1) Variables, (2) Conditionality, (3) Looping/repeating items, and (4) Math/Numbers.

Here, it is important to note that document automation can be used in both internal and external situations. For example, a law firm can use document automation to onboard new clients or make an offer letter to a new employee. Externally, document automation can be used to create contracts for a client or for an in-house counsel team.

Do You Need Document Automation in Your Legal Practice?

If you answer yes to all of the following questions, you should seriously consider the need to incorporate document automation in your operations.

  1. Do you repeat the same type of documents?
  2. Do you create documents that do require little to no negotiation?
  3. Do you currently use document templates or model clauses for document creation?

Through document automation, the process of creating a legal contract can take mere minutes. This is essential to healthy business operations, as there is no delay in sales or procurement.

Not only does document automation save lawyers an immense amount of time, but it also reduces the potential for errors. By utilizing software to assist in document creation, there is no longer a need to rely on only the user’s memory or skill. The questions that inform the final product function as a checklist to ensure that documents are comprehensive

In short, document automation empowers you to quickly create accurate and customized documents.

Should You Learn How to Automate Documents?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, you should look to existing no-code document automation services to facilitate document creation. No, you should not learn how to code in order to take charge of the technical aspects of document creation. Lawyers are busy people who can not realistically write their own code to document their documents. However, they can learn to use document automation software fairly quickly.

What Should You Look for in a Document Automation Platform?

To determine which software is right for you, you should ask yourself what your end goal is. For instance, do you want to speed or quality? Or perhaps both? Moreover, it is important to ask yourself if the documents you wish to create are simple or complex. An additional question that is important to consider is where you are looking for point solutions such as those that simply enable document automation from intake to approval workflows or end-to-end solutions such as those that can be used in the entire contracting and negotiation process from “intake through to contract management.” Lastly, it is important to set a budget. An example of a point solution software is Documate, while an example of an end-to-end solution is Ironclad.

Regardless of your specific need, if you are a lawyer, it is your duty to yourself to consider the potential incorporation of document automation in your administrative and legal tasks. Automation has managed to prove itself as a true ally to legal practice.

Author

  • Maryam Salehijam

    Maryam, a forthcoming book author, currently holds an LLB, an LLM, and a PhD in law. She has spent the last ten years dedicated to the study of law and has consequently developed a passion for changing the law for the better. Her research focus is on contract formation, dispute resolution, and technology.