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Automating Case Management Workflows: A Must-Do for Law Firms in 2019

It’s become imperative for law firms to solve the issues afflicting case-related processes. Case management via workflow automation is an answer, and can lead to better client service and bottom-line benefits.

In a prior post, we reviewed the pressures being exerted on law firms to become more efficient and responsive. Evolving to meet these demands can intimidating to some firms, but the best legal workflow automation solutions can make their first foray into digital transformation comparatively painless – and profitable.

Studies have shown how poor communication is among the biggest threats facing law firms, especially smaller ones. The busier the caseload, the more likely that matter reviews and regular communications (both internally and with clients) suffer for it. According to one report, 40% of complaints against law firms involve communication breakdowns.

Those breakdowns almost entirely owe to antiquated manual processes that can’t cope with the job of monitoring and controlling all the varied cases and legal projects underway within a firm. Human error creeps in; the tedium of dealing with repetitious tasks dulls the attention of lawyers and staff. Negative litigation outcomes can be a result, besides getting called on the carpet by an irked client.

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Lagging behind the technology curve

Unfortunately, too many law firms are still well behind the curve when it comes to digital transformation that can remedy these issues. A Georgetown Law study found that a lack of investment in productivity tools and new business strategies has hobbled law firms:

An average lawyer now bills 156 fewer hours per year than eleven years ago,
which costs firms $74,100 in lost revenue each year.

Their in-house colleagues are not, unfortunately, in a better boat. A recent Gartner report found that less than a fifth of corporate legal departments were prepared for digital initiatives, even though the same report found that:

“The 19% of legal organisations that are digital-ready deliver three-and-a-half times fewer projects with inappropriate risk taking and two-and-a-half times fewer delayed projects.”

Legal workflow automation, when implemented using a SaaS solution, can empower centralized, transparent, and highly efficient case management for law firms. By standardizing repeatable processes, it removes human error from the equation, among a flock of other benefits we’ll explore below.

For law firms, though, one of the most welcome benefits may be that adoption of a modern, best-of-breed SaaS legal workflow automation tool can be free of the integration headaches and learning curves they might have been dreading.

The benefits of workflow automation for case management?

For a law firm, the payback begins with the fact that time-intensive, repetitive tasks can now be automated, and paper is banished from the process.  Another benefit cluster? The ease of implementation and simplicity of use delivered by a top-rung workflow automation software solution:

  • The best of these can integrate seamlessly with a law firm’s legacy systems, practice management platform, and many of the other applications its staffers already rely upon.
  • Simple, easy-to-use interfaces allow them to design, track and manage a case management workflow with ease.
  • Form-building via intuitive interfaces lets them create basic or sophisticated forms with embedded business logic.
  • Each case management workflow is customizable to the needs of a certain practice area or a specific case.

Errors, delays, and compliance risks are mitigated:

  • Routing of action items to the right process participants is accurate and prompt.
  • Standardization of forms and workflows minimizes errors and reduces compliance risks.
  • Access to case items across the firm (or even by clients) can be regulated via a centralized roles-and-permissions-based application.
  • Documents and other case assets can be digitized and centrally warehoused, so they’re never lost.
  • Workflows can be automatically backed up to a secure Cloud archive, and easily accessible for review purposes.

“Evolution of the legal industry is happening faster now than ever before. Though many will survive, only the fittest – those most capable of adapting, of embracing change – will thrive.”

“Evolution of the legal industry is happening faster now than ever before. Though many will survive, only the fittest – those most capable of adapting, of embracing change – will thrive.”

Tamara Box
Managing Partner – Europe & Middle East, Reed Smith LLC

Workflow participation and collaboration are improved:

  • Stakeholders are engaged in reviews and approvals only at the points they’re needed, optimizing attorney and staff utilization.
  • Notifications and alerts ensure prompt action by participants and stakeholders.
  • eSignature integration ensures secure approvals in the proper sequence.

Analytics, reporting, and management are enhanced:

  • Reporting tools permit access to reports in a variety of formats to assure transparency and proper oversight.
  • Real-time visibility into case management workflows across teams, practice areas, or the entire firm allows superior governance.
  • Workflows can be fine-tuned to maximize efficiency.

Finding the upside (or else)

A KMPG study revealed that 85% of enterprise decision makers believe they only have a two-year window for making serious progress in digital transformation before they suffer bottom-line distress or begin lagging their competition. Their upside? Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times as likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable because of it.

That’s why the corporate C-suite is pressuring in-house legal departments and other managers to become digitally savvy. And it’s the kind of pressure that flows downhill – to a company’s legal services providers.

Obviously, automating case management workflows generates major gains in efficiency, productivity and cost savings for a law firm. That allows them to keep pace with this new reality, as clients are dissecting their outside counsel spend in search of greater value at lower cost. A law firm that’s able to pass its efficiencies on to its clients is giving itself a competitive leg up.

The legal services the client is paying for are qualitatively improved, too. That’s thanks to their seeing quicker response times, fewer errors, risk mitigation, greater client-counsel collaboration, and so on.  Resulting in happier clients.

Another benefit? Legal workflow automation is a cornerstone technology for digital transformation. How? It’s easy to implement, delivers immediate positive impacts – the kind of quick ROI that can galvanize an organization to take the next step forward in their legal tech evolution.

But as Forbes noted, there are some at law firms (“especially partners that have enjoyed an especially prosperous 2018,” specifically), who don’t feel any urgency about embracing digital transformation.

During the 1800s, there were buggy whip manufacturers and whale-oil lamp makers who probably felt the exact same way.

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