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Eliminate the Legal Bottleneck with Document Automation.

Byline: Geoffrey Goldberg

This is the third in a series of articles about document automation. The previous articles centered on a basic definition and how document automation can improve compliance and reduce risk in the corporate legal department. This article shifts to more practical considerations for this emerging technology.

By way of a brief recap, document automation allows the generation of standard legal documents from automated templates. It does so by presenting business and legal users with a questionnaire that collects data and guides them through the document creation and request process. Groups within the legal department responsible for drafting contracts can also take advantage of power-user features like automated playbooks.

In addition to automating high-value, configurable agreements like sales contracts, document automation software can reduce the time spent drafting a wide range of paid-time-off requests; charitable activity or pro bono work documentation; standardized engagement documents for outside counsel; matter budgets; marketing documents; and more.

Newer document automation products enable lawyers to easily build complex, rules-based, approval-driven processes that limit their involvement in creating standard contracts.

Efficiency is defined as the ability to accomplish a job with the least waste of time, materials and effort; or competency in performance.

In corporations, document automation software can increase efficiency by automating the generation of standard contracts. Legal is freed to focus on nonstandard contract requests and other high-value matters, because businesspeople can acquire standard contracts from the system by simply filling out a self-service questionnaire. This eliminates the delays, costs, bottlenecks and risks inherent with traditional manual drafting.

Increased Productivity

Perhaps the largest efficiency gain is the ability to produce higher volumes of work product with limited resources. A document automation system can generate thousands of fully compliant and consistent documents per hour, because the content is predefined. No time is spent creating or re-creating the underlying precedent for each document.

In addition to the efficiency gained through the pure drafting power of the automation system itself, implementation of such systems brings many other efficiencies. This is because the project forces the organization to examine its contract request, drafting, negotiation and management processes. Otherwise, many organizations never take a close look at the policies and processes necessary to move a deal from start to finish--and therefore are plagued by the inefficiencies and other consequences of a poorly defined or ignored process.

Once implemented, the system has helped define (and refine) those processes and ensures adherence to the new standard, guaranteeing productivity gains.

These efficiency gains free attorneys for higher-value negotiations, nonstandard matters and in-sourcing of work formerly assigned to outside counsel. This increases productivity and significantly improves the bottom line by reducing legal spend.

Eliminating the Legal Bottleneck

In companies without a document automation system, the legal department must draft, or at least review, every single agreement. This creates a request queue and delays the legal processing and approval for each deal--the legal bottleneck. Obviously, this bottleneck slows the flow of business and harms productivity.

Document automation addresses the legal bottleneck in two ways.

First, for standard deals, automated contract creation coupled with approval workflows can entirely eliminate the legal bottleneck. Document request questionnaires are designed for and presented directly to business users, who can instantly create fit-for-purpose and signature-ready documents without the need for direct involvement by Legal if their answers to the questionnaire are complete and compliant. An approvals engine constantly monitors answers to the questionnaire and routes only incomplete or nonstandard requests for review.

Second, even nonstandard deals benefit from document automation because standard contracts no longer overwhelm attorneys. The department can respond to nonstandard requests at a much faster rate, increasing throughput and shortening turnaround times.

With legal department budgets being trimmed and organizations moving to a leaner staffing model, streamlining document creation makes better use of the legal department's time, allowing it to manage larger volumes of contract requests without increasing headcount.

The result is faster, easier, more efficient, more consistent and more compliant legal services that make the legal department more responsive to the needs of the business it supports.
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Publication:Inside Counsel Breaking News
Date:Nov 18, 2015
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