Legal Technology Improves Efficiency – But Not by Itself
Legal technology is a red-hot market where new solutions are constantly emerging, putting pressure on law firms to put them into practice. Since legal tasks have traditionally included routine tasks and static working methods, many believe that early adopters of legal technology will have a significant edge over their competitors. However, the media often oversimplifies the implementation process of legal technology, giving the impression that innovative IT-based solutions immediately eliminate routine tasks and even replace legal expertise.
These expectations usually lead to firms not spending enough effort on integrating legal tech tools into their existing processes. As a result, lawyers often find their traditional working methods preferable and stick to them.
Dumping money into the latest tools and expecting them to do the job right away is hardly a recipe for success. Instead, the firms that manage to effectively incorporate new solutions into their existing processes will have a huge advantage in the future.
Properly Trained AI Allows Lawyers to Focus on the Essential
AI can enable law firms to work at less cost and higher quality, but only if the technology is implemented efficiently into existing workflows. Most legal problems are complex and involve hidden risks that require comprehensive legal expertise to detect. Machine-learning algorithms have no legal expertise — they only observe patterns and regularities in data. Therefore, lawyers need to work alongside AI and develop these tools continuously, rather than relying on them straight out of the box.
For instance, before algorithms can detect relevant information and raise red flags in due diligence reviews, lawyers have to identify the relevant information and train the algorithm to detect this information. When algorithms are given enough examples of red flags – say, certain types of contractual clauses – they start flagging such information automatically in future reviews. Lawyers no longer have to spend time finding the information in the due diligence materials, but can focus on how the clauses detected by the AI tool affect the transaction.
Document Automation Saves Time and Helps Avoid Errors
As most businesses, legal services involve manual tasks that can be removed or at least reduced by technology. For instance, when drafting documents, lawyers may spend hours modifying old templates and writing new contracts from scratch. Automating contract-drafting takes care of these steps, allowing lawyers to spend more time on analytical tasks.
In document automation, various versions of a given document type – for instance, a share purchase agreement – are stored in a system, enabling the lawyers to create the template they need just by combining different choices in a user interface. Based on the choices, the system generates a valid contract including all the required elements. For instance, the automated share purchase agreement might contain different options for price mechanisms, provisions and other key clauses, and be available in several languages.
Automation not only improves efficiency, but also minimises the risk of human error when contracts need to be delivered on a tight schedule. However, it serves this purpose only when any contract version acquired from the system is legally accurate. Both legal and technical issues must be taken into account, which requires cooperation between people with different skillsets.
At Castrén & Snellman, document automation is based on close collaboration between our lawyers, IT department and Knowledge Management. Moreover, our firm employs people with diverse backgrounds, for example in both law and computer science, who focus mainly on legal tech, such as document automation and training algorithms.
Meet Signe, the Accessible Legal Tech Solution
After putting hours of legal and technical work in automating our document templates, we wanted to bring high-quality document automation within the reach of our clients. This is why we launched Signe.
Signe is a platform where clients can log in and use their own automated contracts and documents through a simple user interface. It offers a way for in-house teams to adopt legal technology quickly without having to make large investments or spend resources on implementing new software.
When approached realistically and strategically, legal technology goes from being pure hype to a tool enabling law firms to provide legal services faster, more effectively and at less cost.
Written by Linda Björkenheim,
Legal Tech Trainee