Legal industry commentators have been consistent in their views over the last couple of years – the legal sector is undergoing unprecedented transformation but is hampered by the traditions of working practices, business structure and commercial arrangements.
Despite the considerable strengths of top law firms, such as existing relationships, reputation and high-quality work from high-quality people, these might not be sufficient to defend against more nimble, technology-savvy and process-focused competitors from within and from those new to the legal sector.
One transformational tool that is getting increasing visibility in the legal sector is Robotic Process Automation, a recent technology getting more and more traction in other industries, and a sector of focus for Virtual Operations.
In the delivery of legal services there are elements of predictable, repeatable work that can be undertaken whatever the matter type or practice area. Even in highly specialist practice areas there will be elements of matter management (e.g. file opening, interim and final billing, client reporting) and legal process (e.g. due diligence, searches, e-disclosure) that can be delivered more routinely and are therefore candidates for process automation.
Taking some typical activities from the management of a legal matter, Virtual Operations has identified a number of areas where process automation generates improvement:
While the business case is usually based on direct benefits (such as FTE reductions), the indirect benefits are where the real liberating impact of process automation can be felt:
In an increasing buyers’ market with intense downward pricing pressure there will be continued prominence given to commoditising as much legal and support work as possible. The legal sector is at a stage that other industries have found themselves in over recent years, with the potential to take advantage of a low-risk and liberating technology.