How firms can use automation to increase billable hours

How firms can use automation to increase billable hours

01 June 2021 By Leigh Pullen
How firms can use automation to increase billable hours

When lawyers save time on a repetitive process, they can boost their billables, writes Leigh Pullen.

It sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? Automation, which is meant to make things faster, can actually increase your billable hours. When applied intelligently, automation can assist clients by making it easier for them to create and submit documents your firm needs. It can reduce the time spent on repetitive, internal administrative tasks that stop your firm from being the most productive. And automation can enable legal professionals to find relevant case law relating to a specific matter faster than ever before.

Here are three ways your legal firm can leverage the power of automation: 

Client onboarding

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When a new client chooses your services there are a series of steps and processes that are followed. This can include setting up payment systems, creating, sending and signing letters of engagement, and collecting and filing relevant documents. Typically, these tasks are carried out manually and require someone to coordinate the collection of pertinent information, correct filing and checking that everything has been received and distributed appropriately.

When you look at those processes, the same steps are followed each time. Repeatable processes like this are perfect candidates for automation. The process is known and well understood and there is ample internal expertise to ensure the automation is created with appropriate exception handling for cases that fall outside the norm.

When the onboarding process is automated, you can get to work with the client faster. It means you aren’t spending time chasing up missing documents. Your accounts team isn’t checking back with you to ensure they have the correct payment details and your administration team has the information they need to ensure they don’t need to spend time following up. It provides a faster, more efficient and elegant client onboarding experience. 

Sourcing information

Each year, Australian courts process in excess of half a million cases. It is impossible for legal professionals to be across every single case that may be relevant to a matter they are engaged in. 

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Automation, aided by artificial intelligence, can make finding relevant case law easier. For example, when you engage with a client, you can enter information pertaining to that case. Automation can search relevant legal databases and records to find the most relevant matters and draw them to your attention. This can save significant research time allowing you to devote more effort towards servicing the client rather than trawling through hundreds or thousands of potentially irrelevant records.

Workflow automation

A significant part of legal work is operational. There’s the passing, processing and matching of documents. Financial transactions such as managing trust monies and passing invoices back and forth between different parties involved in a matter also take up considerable time. These processes are typically manually carried out via email or there’s time-consuming data entry across a combination of legal applications. The result can be confusion, higher back-office costs and lower output.

Instead of looking at the back office as a series of independent tasks, reconsider it as a process and then look for how the flow of information can be streamlined. Automation ensures the legal team gets the right information at the right time to serve their clients. It minimises confusion and allows people to focus on what’s important.

As a further benefit, automation can enhance information security as only the relevant parties can see specific information at any stage of the process. This can avoid instances where incorrect information lands in a client’s hands or a document is accidentally emailed to the wrong person.

When you save time on a repetitive process you boost your billable time. You are giving yourself the chance to work with more clients and to apply your skills, knowledge and experience more often. When your firm can onboard clients more effectively, you can potentially work with more clients as your sales funnel isn’t bottlenecked. You can spend less time on research and more time helping clients directly. And you can reduce the time spent shuffling papers and reduce the risk of confidential information landing in the wrong hands.

Leigh Pullen is the co-founder and chief executive of CiGen.

How firms can use automation to increase billable hours
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