Most attorneys can cleanly split their work week up into two sets of tasks: billable items like research or arguing cases in court, and non-billable tasks including generating invoices and following up on client emails.
Completing non-billable administrative tasks is necessary for firms to function, but these time-consuming items can decrease revenue potential and boost costs. What if there were a way to get administrative tasks off your desk entirely, instead of letting them eat away at your billable hours?
Good news: the future is here, and legal process automation is the answer.
Non-billable hours and automation: by the numbers
According to Bloomberg Law, attorneys spend between 298 and 556 hours per year (that’s 7.5 to 14 full work weeks!) on non-billable tasks.
Most firms agree that these numbers are a problem, with 74% of smaller firms reporting they spend an outsized amount of time each week on administrative tasks, according to Thomson Reuters. The research firm McKinsey estimates about 23% of a lawyer’s daily tasks could be automated with currently available technology.
Let’s take a look at what legal process automation could do for your firm and how to update your current practices with legal automation tools to increase efficiency and grow your business.
How does legal process automation benefit law firms and their clients?
Legal process automation doesn’t just help firms make more time in the day for billable hours. It provides tangible benefits to individual attorneys, clients, and law firms as a whole.
More efficient and accurate work
At the most basic level, automating legal tasks minimizes the need for trained attorneys to spend valuable time on repetitive tasks like data entry. Automating these types of processes reduces the potential for human error, such as transposing numbers or filling out court documents with incorrect case information. By getting documents completed correctly the first time, attorneys save time and minimize their risk of compliance violations.
Automation tools can also help increase attorney utilization rates, which in turn increases revenue.
More competitive rates
Automation tools help you deliver more competitive rates to clients. By increasing your capacity for billable work, you may find that it is easier to right-size your rates for your clients (and your attorneys). They also reduce costs by minimizing the need for ancillary staff or administrative task outsourcing.
By maximizing profitability and minimizing expenses, firms can ensure their financial health in the years to come.
Better client experience
Legal process automation, when used effectively, can capacity to improve the client experience in powerful ways. Automation tools that streamline client communications or make your firm more accessible online, like online intake forms or a secure client portal, can make the process of working with your firm more user-friendly and convenient for clients.
These benefits not only translate to satisfied clients but also to increased retention and referral rates.
Ways to implement legal process automation at your law firm
No matter the size of your law firm or the practice areas that you serve, there are many ways you can implement automations into your legal practice. Consider the following aspects of running your office that can have a major impact on efficiency and profitability.
Legal document automation
Compiling and preparing legal documents can take hours of your work week. But with legal document automation, the process of preparing error-free documents is completed in minutes.
Automation tools allow you to create original document templates suited to your particular practice area. If regularly complete client contracts, motions, pleadings, and more, document automation tools help you create custom templates that automatically populate with client information, saving valuable time and minimizing mistakes.
Cloud-based software like CosmoLex also automatically stores all client documents, notes, invoices, and other relevant data in one easily accessible location, so legal documents are always organized and available when you need them. This intuitive matter-centric format helps attorneys meet case compliance requirements and easily stay up-to-date on client matters.
Onboarding new clients is an essential task for law firms, but the manner in which it’s handled can greatly impact the attorney/client relationship. Automation tools simplify the process while ensuring clients don’t get left behind during their trip down the intake pipeline.
Automation tools like legal client relationship management software, or legal CRM, can automate client follow-up during the intake process with customizable phone, text, or email messaging that boost the attorney-client relationship without coming at the expense of your billable time. What’s more, they can nurture (or revive) client relationships by providing timely, relevant content to leads and existing clients.
Fully automating the client intake process with online intake forms, secure file-sharing, and eSignature can also speed up the client intake process and allows attorneys to begin working on client matters in hours instead of weeks. Thanks to custom workflows, you can ensure each step of the client intake process is correctly assigned to a team member, so clients can access support every step of the way.
Billing and invoicing
Legal process automation tools get attorneys paid faster with less effort. And more money on hand in less time means more possibility for revenue generation. To put it simply, legal process automation and legal billing and payments are a perfect match.
Legal automation tools use existing matter data to populate monthly invoices with client information and itemized billing points. Detailed invoices can be generated in a batch with a few clicks and mailed or emailed to clients. By creating custom invoice templates to populate for each client, you can ensure all invoices have a personal touch while minimizing the effort required to create them.
By pairing billing automation tools with payment automation tools, like past-due reminders, low retainer reminders, and retainer replenishment reminders, you keep clients up-to-date on legal bills and increase your chances of getting paid in full.
There’s a wealth of project management tools available to law firms today—chances are, you have a few running in the background at this very moment. But project management tools that take tasks off your desk, instead of just keeping you organized, can revolutionize your work day.
For instance, automatic time-tracking tools that integrate with your firm’s billing and documentation systems can save attorneys time on multiple fronts. These tools run in the background while you perform everyday tasks, tracking your productivity and ensuring all billable work completed is accurately recorded for each matter. When it comes time to submit monthly invoices, this data can be used to automatically populate client invoices in a click.
Integrated automation tools also help attorneys automatically document case files with notes on client conversations, email exchanges, and more. These tools use time-tracking data, messages sent from the system, and even calendar items to populate each case file with relevant activities and notes, saving you time and ensuring you meet legal documentation requirements.
Increase your capacity for billable work with CosmoLex
The benefits of automation are clear, but implementing new tools can be intimidating for even the most seasoned law firms. That’s why CosmoLex supports you every step of the way with turn-key data migration services and completely free customer support. Our benefits don’t come with strings attached—we exist to make your firm more productive, plain and simple.