Document Automation: What Is It & Why Do Small Law Firms Need It?

//Document Automation: What Is It & Why Do Small Law Firms Need It?

From the typewriter to the smartphone, word processing has come a long way over the last 30 years. Document automation is just one step in the evolution, but for small law firms, it’s an important step.

So what is document automation?
In the legal field, document automation is a process where standard legal documents (for example forms and letters) are automatically populated using a database. It removes the need to manually type the same information over and over again.

This isn’t necessarily the same thing as ‘document assembly’, although sometimes the two are used interchangeably. What’s the difference? Document assembly typically refers to the creation of complex contracts or forms by stitching together templated text. Document automation on the other hand, uses a database of information to fill details within a document. These details might be a client’s name, their address, dates, phone numbers etc; the type of information pertaining to a matter that is repeatedly keyed into documents.

Both are useful, but for small law firms that produce a high volume of standard forms and ‘less-complex’ documents, the biggest benefits lie in document automation. So, what are these benefits?

Increased productivity
The manual process of typing (or cutting and pasting) information into documents is inefficient; a firm can save hours using automation. It also enables small firms to get through more work with the same amount of staff, reducing labor costs.

Time savings = productivity increase = competitive advantage = greater profitability. Ultimately, this is the equation that counts!

Reduced risk of error
Document automation greatly reduces the risk of human error, and potentially malpractice suits. As information comes from a database, the opportunity to mistype or enter the wrong details is removed.

Greater consistency
Your documents are your brand, particularly in document-intensive practice areas like family law and real estate. Document automation helps you keep a level of consistency across your forms, letters and templates; which in turn maintains your professional image.

Want to see document automation in action? Watch the Smokeball demo video.

By |February 21st, 2014|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.