31/05/2017

Quality Contracts Faster than Ever – Kicking Our Services into High Gear with Automation

There has been a lot of talk lately about the changes facing the legal services industry. In Finland, both the Talouselämä and Kauppalehti newspapers have run articles about how artificial intelligence will take over a major part of the time-consuming, routine work that currently takes up a great deal of a lawyer’s daily workload. We, too, are piloting artificial intelligence at Castrén & Snellman this summer.

Our review of AIs led us to the conclusion that the credible AI applications currently available for our field still have a long way to go from the perspective of providing our clients with efficiency benefits. The technology as it stands today still requires a great deal of manual work by lawyers. Many firms have opted to wait and see how this technology develops.

The discussions we have with our clients have made it clear that the demand for efficiency and new ways of working is already here. We also looked into other options and found that document automation has a great deal of potential across our firm. We piloted automation in our M&A service, and the early results impressed us even with our already high expectations. Following this rapid pilot stage, the automation tool has been widely adopted in our other services.

Skipping to Added-Value Work

Clients are less and less willing to pay law firms for routine work, and instead expect high-quality, added-value legal services to support their own operations.

Our M&A team drafts a wide range of legal documents for our clients, such as sale and purchase and other transaction agreements, due diligence reports and corporate minutes. Producing these documents has traditionally started with a laborious drafting stage that involves a great deal of routine work. For example, drafting a sale and purchase agreement involves choosing whether the agreement is for the buyer or the seller, what the purchase price mechanism will be, what representations and warranties the seller is willing to give and so on. These kinds of individual choices affect the form and contents of the entire document. Language and content review has also required a lot of work, particularly from younger lawyers.

These kinds of choices are exactly what the automation tool automates. In practice, it works by having the lawyer fill out a short questionnaire based on which the system produces a template that is as close to ready as possible. Thanks to careful coding and testing by our lawyers, this kind of automation works not just for simple documents, but equally well for complex agreements that can have as many as 30–40 variants.

Handling such extensive variables manually always involves the risk of human error. Automation helps reduce these risks while saving time: in our timed tests, we were able to produce the first draft of a sale and purchase agreement in half the time as before. Automation allows us to skip more quickly and cost-effectively to the stage of the project that produces the most benefits for our clients.

Up-to-Date Model Documents Are the Foundation for Automation

Given all of the above, why is document automation still relatively rare in the Nordic countries? We think that one of the main reasons besides the required investment is that firms haven’t done enough ground work.

We have invested a great deal of time in creating and developing high-quality model documents long before beginning the automation process. For us, this work and the up-to-date models it has produced have been an essential factor in successful automation.

The results and experience we have gained have been so impressive that we are even discussing how we could help our clients adopt similar systems to automate their own documents. The demand is clearly there, and we are ready and willing to take this step with our clients.