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Workflow of the Week: Stop Repeating Yourself with Legal Automation

Emily Bogin |

Smoothing out repetitive, non-billable tasks and reducing lawyer burnout through workflow.

Like the rest of us, lawyers spend too much time at work interrupted by the mundane, menial parts of their jobs, and not enough focusing on what really matters: optimizing billable hours.

A recent survey revealed that 30% of lawyers are interrupted 6-10 times per day. That doesn’t just take time away from the task at hand, but also detracts attention and focus, which never bounces back as quickly as we might like. Critical thinking and deep analytical work require the focus that incessant messaging and out-of-the-blue, urgent requests make practically impossible. Constant interruptions— especially interruptions for repetitive requests— prevent employees from completing the critical tasks– the work that keeps them engaged with their clients and engaged with what it means to be a lawyer. 

This work too often recedes into what Virginia Woolf once called “the cotton wool of non-being.” In her autobiographical essay, she writes how “being” only bursts forth when one has time that stands out of ordinary monotony: time to see the patterns before us and draw connections to things that stand to be connected. Unfortunately, this time is hard to come by when you are constantly drowning in urgent notifications for repetitive requests. 

Do More (and be More) with Less— Legal Automation can Help

Savvy lawyers are familiar with the DRY principle— the edict that you “Don’t Repeat Yourself.” You find repetitive work everywhere once you start drawing boundaries between the critical thinking you enjoy and the dreary, burnout prefigurations of daily tasks:

  • The back-and-forth emails and escalations of contract management
  • Document drafting
  • Requests for spreadsheets with information gaps

It’s not that you must always fill work with spontaneity, but dragging and dropping duplicate files to your email every day for repetitive requests and follow-ups can be easily avoided.  

The solution? Workflow automation for non-billable tasks. 

Picture a high-volume transactional case review workflow, where documents get routed, approved, and signed without manual escalations or follow-ups. Instead of receiving countless pings from your colleagues, or being the ping-er yourself, legal automation would allow you to execute your part of the workflow and then begin your more complex tasks in earnest– without being bothered by this one down the line. 

Legal automation is a great option whenever you recognize that you are repeating yourself and shouldn’t be. Workflows not only standardize and streamline tasks, but requests as well. 

A high-volume transactional case review workflow would not just give you back 10 minutes per day that would otherwise be spent tracking down approvers, but also change how your colleagues interact with you. It gives form and structure where there was previously only formlessness, void, and more emails than anyone could keep up with while remaining focused on their higher-priority tasks.

When you and your colleagues have a more structured way of interacting with a task, it recedes into the background. You find more time to spend on the projects that jump out and call for your attention. The rest start to be taken care of on their own.