Lawyers are under increasing pressure from clients to boost efficiency while streamlining workflows, and automation is the key to doing more with less. By automating routine processes, firms can perform more billable work without hiring more people. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) isn’t just a way of cutting costs, it is also a largely untapped avenue for law firm growth.
Matthew Wojtkowiak, general counsel, and Arup Das, chief executive officer and founder, both of Alphaserve Technologies, discussed how law firms can benefit from automation in the webinar There’s a Bot for That: How to Competently Evaluate and Implement Automation Tools in the Practice of Law.”
To use RPA, first analyze how your firm functions by looking at how often it uses processes that are highly manual and repetitive. These are the areas where automation can deliver the biggest bang for your buck, Das said.
The goal of RPA is to simplify firm processes using either attended automation or unattended automation. Attended automation frees employees from performing repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Unattended automation eliminates the need for human intervention in back office processes, such as data management or client onboarding.
Every firm regularly performs necessary but routine tasks that are accomplished simply by following a set of prescribed rules, which are excellent candidates for RPA, Das said. Invoicing, for example, is a routine task that a bot can handle by following the same set of steps that a human would take to generate bills.
Other prime candidates for RPA are new client or matter intake, as well as employee onboarding and offboarding. RPA can also be applied to more case-oriented work, like basic legal research. A bot can be programmed to look for designated terms, collect the relevant results, organize them as PDFs into a folder and deliver them to the assigned associate.
“There is often some level of human error, [and] automation can eradicate human error,” Das said. Another benefit of using RPA is that it allows law firm staff to focus on high-value billable work. “It frees up capacity,” he said.
RPA can also be used to screen and process data about potential new clients. Bots can perform online and social media research on prospective clients, using a scoring algorithm to validate the information and save the processed information in your firm’s database.
Lawyers have an ongoing duty of competence in the representation of their clients, according to ABA Model Rule 1.1. In the context of RPA, it is important to understand the benefits and risks involved, know the automated processes and supervise the application of RPA. Lawyers must also periodically review and update RPA tasks and have someone monitor the final output of the system, Wojtkowiak said. “There is some obligation on the lawyer’s side to be able to demonstrate competence in the use of these tools,” he said.