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How to Save Time and Money with Legal Document Automation

Dana Moran

Written by

Dana Moran


November 2, 2022

How to Save Time and Money with Legal Document Automation

Document creation takes time, no matter what area of law you specialize in. Legal documents are dense, technical, and without legal document automation, they’re one of your most time-consuming daily tasks. While incredibly important, legal documents eat up your time, and therefore, chip away at your bottom line. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way for your firm. Today, technology can streamline this document creation and filing process and eliminates manual document preparation. You no longer need to create these commonly used documents from scratch. 

Legal document automation tools that leverage extensive form libraries now enable lawyers and legal staff to save basic templates of their most-used files. You also can automate data entry and dynamic document assembly into custom templates. Either way, the legal software can automatically populate matter information, such as case numbers, contact details, or important dates to create a matter-related document. 

What is automated document creation for legal professionals?

Legal document automation is the powerful concept of entering data once, then utilizing that data many times in many documents, ensuring important information stays organized. Whether sending an email or taking notes on a client’s case, document automation can draw from existing data to reduce human errors. Your chances for mistakes are very small, and your firm will spend less time creating documents, and even less time correcting them. 

Document automation pulls data entered into practice management software and adds that data to a “smart” formatted template to create custom, matter-specific documents. A document automation tool can draw from existing data to minimize mistakes, whether sending an email or taking notes. 

Legal document automation involves creating templates that have predefined, custom fields or document schema. Those fields are then overwritten with the data from your matter when you create a new document. This means you and others at your firm will spend less time preparing documents — and even less time correcting them. 

As a lawyer, your reputation is paramount to success. It speaks to the quality of your service and how much clients can trust you. Incomplete information or incorrect filing can result in a case being thrown out. If there is an issue with the statute of limitations, you may even face malpractice lawsuits. Errors waste valuable time and strain client relationships. 

While traditional methods of creating legal documents may seem tried and true, they can often result in errors, wasted time and frustration. Lawyers must take every measure necessary to ensure accuracy and prevent mistakes. It’s time to embrace technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the law firm.  

Automating legal documents: an overview

Client service expectations are at an all-time high. Manually copying and pasting or keying in your customers’ information is inefficient and prevents you from meeting those expectations. Firms that use legal document automation software can create documents in seconds – allowing them to focus on their clients instead. 

 What type of documents can I automate?

Document automation can be used in a wide variety of practice areas, such as family law, estate planning, and real estate closings. Within these specified fields, document automation can assist in the creation of blank letterheads, client letter templates, motion templates and more.   

Smokeball has a growing form library of over 20,000 documents that are already automated and ready to use. We have a team of attorneys and paralegals who work with expert automation specialists to keep our forms updated and add new ones on request. 

These tools will ensure that your small law firm stays on track to make a profit, have a better work-life balance, and have a better relationship with your clients. 

 Let’s walk through one area-of-law-specific example faced by every real estate attorney: Closing statements. Instead of spending hours hunting down and double-checking client details and data, Smokeball’s legal document automation allows you to generate a closing statement with a few quick clicks. 

Step 1 —When you first open a Smokeball real estate matter, you’ll enter all relevant property details, including address, pin/lot size, legal description and property type. The matter also will house your specific closing details and dates. 

Smokeball property details

Step 2 — When it’s time to close a sale, hop into the Smokeball matter and all the information you need is ready and waiting! Select the Closing Statement template from Smokeball’s forms and templates library, and your statement will open in Microsoft Word, populated with the related matter details.  

Smokeball closing statement details

Step 3 — That’s it! Your closing statement is now ready to print, save to the matter and convert to a PDF. 

Smokeball closing statement example

Document assembly versus 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 repeatedly. This auto-population isn’t necessarily the same thing as “document assembly,” although the two are sometimes used interchangeably.  

What’s the difference?  

Document assembly typically refers to the creation of complex contracts or forms by stitching together templated text. Legal 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 and so forth. 

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 speed and productivity

With automation, firms of all sizes get through more work with the same number of staff, in less time. The outdated, manual process of creating, filing and managing documents is inefficient. You might still be sifting through desktop folders, “D” Drives and emails filled with templates, then manually inputting data (by typing or copying and pasting) and making necessary edits. In some cases, legal staff use mail merges to extract information from Excel documents. Your firm can save hours using automation.  

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

Reduced risk of error 

Automated documents pull their information from a database instead of relying on humans to re-enter the same facts and figures. The process greatly reduces the risk of human error — and potentially malpractice suits — because the opportunity to mistype or enter the wrong details is removed. 

Greater consistency

The quality of your documents affects your reputation, particularly in document-intensive practice areas like family law and real estate. Legal document automation helps you keep a level of consistency across your forms, letters and templates, maintaining your professional image. 

Easy collaboration

Document automation software doesn’t just make it easier to create documents — it makes it easier for everyone in your firm to access them, thanks to standardized folder structures. Because automated documents are created within the related matter, they’re saved and managed there, too. Every member of your firm can perform a full-text search to find the document they need in seconds. No more combing through a separate drive or your email inbox to find what you need. 

Ready to start experiencing the benefits of document automation at your firm? Check out these free resources:

Next up: How to Prepare Your Firm to Adopt Legal Document Automation

Ready to learn more?

Read online or download our free e-book, Tips and Tricks for Legal Document Automation

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