There has been a lot of talk on document automation in the legal industry, but what does it mean for you as a legal professional? In the run-up to our practical Document Automation Workshop, I thought it would be great to get the theory out of the way.
Today with Avvoka , let us unpack it for you, now what are you waiting for? Have a look below.
What is document automation?
Automation is using technology to reduce the human assistance required for a specific task or process. In document automation, the drafting of a document is automated. Bespoke documents are created using answers to a questionnaire or data imported from another system.
In document automation systems, users build what are known as ‘template’ documents. These templates incorporate rules that dictate the inclusion, transformation, or deletion of text, based on particular inputs (like questionnaire responses).
Some document automation tools also include workflow management functionality. Document workflow management allows other processes, not relating to the document’s drafting, to be layered into the template. For example, users can configure documents, so approval requests or follow-on tasks are triggered where specific document terms or properties are included.
Automation is mostly about efficiency. Automation helps users to create documents faster and makes sure they’re created perfectly every time.
The two main categories of document automation benefits are: functional and commercial.
Here’s a run-down of some of the functional benefits that automation brings:
- Speed! It’s why most people think of automating documents in the first place. Automation speeds up drafting single or several documents at once:
- Creating a single document from an automated template is made rapid because the provisions that may, or may not, need to be included are curated for you ahead of time. No more square bracket tinkering!
- Authoring multiple documents using document automation is faster because automation tools can create bulk batches of similar documents. Some tools can even mass generate many different types of documents at once – invaluable for big deals.
- Consistency. In document automation, you can restrict users’ edits to predefined fields (which can also contain validation). Computerised documents have fewer errors than free-drafted ones. Fewer mistakes mean less review!
- Minimise re-keying. Most commercial documents are completed using data from other sources like term sheets, excel files or other software. A well-structured automated document can automatically import such data from elsewhere. Automated data importation means less double-entry of data, fewer mistakes and better productivity.
- Data. Document automation helps you to keep your documents orderly and their commercial variables structured. The result is a living, breathing due diligence report! Run reports on your documents anytime and see summaries of their commercial terms they contain and what’s becoming market.
- Audited approvals. Your automated documents can be configured to incorporate (and speed up) your internal approval processes. Suppose someone tried to input a particularly aggressive interest rate into your automated loan document. In that case, you could set up your document to automatically send a warning notification to finance. Automation paves the way for safe, compliant and auditable documents.
Many of the functional benefits come down to saving time and generating documents in a safe, audited manner.
The more commercial reasons to automate your documents are:
- More time for complex work. Teams with more time can work more on complex and high-value tasks. More high-impact work empowers employees to add more value to clients. You’ll increase your organisation’s efficiency, and your teams won’t be stuck doing the more repetitive work.
- User self-service. Business users can assemble automated documents themselves quickly, safely and auditably. Legal involvement can be reserved for only where drafts go ‘off-piste’. Self-service limits internal back-and-forth and leads to quicker deal negotiations and less stressful lawyering!
- Improved client relationships and experiences. Clients expect work to be completed quickly and correctly, which is a hard balance to strike when you are manually writing documents from scratch or copying and pasting the content. Automation provides a very cost-effective method of rapidly delivering quality documents.
- Meet the expectations of prospective clients. Legal Tech and document automation software have developed rapidly over the past couple of years. Many clients are beginning to expect a smooth user experience as a result of tech advances. Having an easy-to-use online platform they can use to generate their documents will ensure they keep coming back.
Where Does Document Automation Fit in the Legal Tech Landscape?
The world of Legal Tech is continually evolving and growing. While the innovation rate has been impressive, figuring out the technology that will work best for you can also be an overwhelming prospect. Before we dive into covering document automation in further depth, we think it would be useful to explain how it fits into the broader Legal Tech landscape.
Selecting technology for document automation
We can’t tell you which technology you should select (because we’re a little bit biased). Instead, we can tell you which questions you should be asking your software vendors, and internally:
- How easy is it to automate my document? The most critical question you should be asking. Every platform you see will tell you that the automation is ‘easy’ or ‘no-code’ – but both terms can be a bit deceiving. The easier the tool to use, the more people will learn how to automate. Therefore, the more documents you will end up automating. Even if you have decided to outsource the automation, you will have to make quick changes yourself. With that in mind, ask the vendors if you can try the software and get them to walk you through adding some automation on screen with a live demo. If they won’t do that, it’s probably too hard to use!
- Features – all tools will have different feature sets, but there are a few key ones to look out for you will probably need on your automation journey:
- Loops – ability to dynamically add more answers to a question. E.g. Please add the name of the directors.
- Formatting – custom numbering styles, tables, headers and footers, and so on!
- Calculations/Operations – think of these as similar functions to excel, transform the case of an answer, change numbers to words, format dates etc.
- Integrations – it’s critical that the document automation software you select can integrate into your existing processes. Even if you don’t have anything now, as you add more and more tools, you will want to ensure that integrations are covered. Check if the tool has a modern API, and ask for examples of integrations that have been already done. Common ones include pre-populating a questionnaire from another system or taking data out from signed documents.
- Costs – Ask whether there be additional costs such as customer support or server maintenance fees. You should also establish whether you will be paying a fix monthly price or whether the price you pay will be based on the extent of your usage of your document automation tool.
- Hosting – Ask if your document automation tool will be hosted by your provider in the cloud or whether the vendor will be making an on-premise installation.
Avvoka is a document automation, negotiation and analytics tool designed to help law firms, in-house legal teams and businesses (of all sizes) draft documents, negotiate them, and leverage data insights from that process to draft better documents, and get to “yes” faster.
Unlike legacy tools, with Avvoka you can rapidly build automated versions of your most complex documents using our intuitive automation builder. This means no more tricky coding within Word documents. Our customers reach agreement fast by collaborating on documents with colleagues in real-time and negotiating with counterparties via the Avvoka online platform.
Avvoka has a range of sophisticated reporting tools that allow businesses to monitor push-back against their standard contract clauses, track key commercial terms and compare individual negotiator performance.
What makes Avvoka different?
Avvoka is a complete end-to-end document automation tool, which unlike other document automation systems, allows the user to take a document from precedent, through first-draft, collaboration, negotiation, execution and analysis.
Avvoka’s editor is deceptively simple – by doing away with the requirement to ‘code’ word documents, users with no prior technical knowledge can automate powerful documents using our plain-English, visual template builder. In spite of this, our numerous partnerships with the world’s most prestigious law firms and financial institutions plainly demonstrates that Avvoka can handle even the most sophisticated documents with ease.
With Avvoka, users can take their contracting journey beyond the first draft, with the platform facilitating real-time collaboration with colleagues, workflow and approvals management and task allocation. Once the home team has prepared their draft, users can then invite counterparties to negotiate via the platform, at no extra cost. Negotiating online stops email-Word document ping pong to allow contracting teams to reach execution faster; while the editor collects all the data in the background on how the text is changing during the negotiation.
Once the document is signed (via native integrations with Adobe Sign or DocuSign) Avvoka allows users to surface structured data from entire document portfolios to analyse on platform or via connectors with other reporting tools.
If you found this interesting, you will definitely enjoy the practical side of this, we are hosting a practical document automation webinar here on the 5th of March 2021, you can find out more and even register for it for free here: Avvoka Academy
See you there!