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Will technology steal my paralegal job?

will technology steal my paralegal job?

The rise of digital technology and automation in legal services is transforming the industry. Not only is legal tech helping attorneys and firms become more efficient, but it can also improve access to justice for the disadvantaged.

But many in legal support may be concerned that technology will make their services unnecessary. Their main question is this:

“Will technology steal my job as a legal support professional?”

The good news? While technology will continue to change the day-to-day activities of legal support professionals, there is little evidence it will eliminate their roles.

In fact, if legal professionals upgrade their tech skills and continue to stay abreast of new legal technologies, they may actually make themselves more valuable.

Here we examine some of the emerging legal automation technologies, as well as how legal support professionals can turn the rise of automation to their advantage.

Legal automation technologies to watch

The legal industry is slowly but surely moving away from manual paper-based processes and toward automation. The following are some key areas where legal automation technology is making an impact.

Document automation

The creation of legal documents is one of the most time-intensive facets of the legal industry. Document automation can streamline this process.

A common form of document automation involves a user filling out a questionnaire, with the automation technology inserting that information into a document template for review by a legal professional. Moreover, the information from the questionnaire can be saved for use in other documents in that same case.

In addition to reducing document creation time, often from days to minutes, document automation reduces the chance for human error.

And automated document templates can ensure that a firm retains knowledge, even if a legal professional leaves for another firm.

Contract automation

Contract automation is the use of software to streamline the process of contract creation. It is most effective on routine contracts that often need to be generated in large numbers, such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Similar to document automation, contract automation often relies on questionnaires and contract templates.

Automated contracts also benefit from digital innovations such as electronic signatures (eSignatures), which allow contracts to be signed remotely, even on mobile phones.

Much of the impact of contract automation is being made outside the legal industry, in areas such as finance, operations, and human resources. Automated contracts can also relieve in-house attorneys at large companies from a great deal of low-level, mundane work.

Legal research

Legal research might appear to be a difficult area to automate, since it presumably requires so much analysis and independent thought.

However, new advances are being made into legal research automation. One method is using technology to analyze successful legal briefs and judicial opinions to determine the legal citations they rely on, then point the researching attorney toward those citations.

Other technologies can analyze and summarize relevant areas of the law.

By combining automation with artificial intelligence (AI), legal research automation is streamlining another time-intensive process within the legal industry.

Client intake and communications

Client intake and ongoing client communications can both benefit from automation.

With client intake automation, clients can provide their intake information online in response to automated questionnaires customized to that type of legal matter (such as a divorce filing or personal injury action).

Routine client communications, such as the arrival of a settlement check, can also be automated, giving clients peace of mind while lessening the burden on both attorneys and legal support pros.

eFiling

Another high-impact area of legal automation is electronic filing of court documents, or eFiling.

Many courts are now allowing eFiling, even mandating it in some instances. eFiling can remove much of the friction of the traditional manual system of court filing.

Even more impactful is integrated eFiling, where your eFiling software can integrate with other legal management software.

If your court filings are automatically pre-populated with information from your case management system, this can drastically cut down on the number of administrative errors that often result in rejected filings.

How to turn legal automation into an advantage

The trend toward legal automation is likely to continue. Automation technologies are being implemented in many industries, so it makes sense the legal industry will be no different.

In addition, automation can result in some laudable benefits for society, such as increased access to justice for those with trouble affording legal assistance.

For legal support professionals looking toward long-term career success, it is important to understand the limitations of legal automation and the opportunities it affords for the legal support industry.

The limits of legal automation

The current shift toward legal automation still faces its limits.

The legal industry is historically resistant to change, and many small and mid-sized firms may not believe they have the time and resources to introduce new technology. After all, any automation system will require human effort to implement and manage, as well as to provide training to attorneys and staff.

Furthermore, software algorithms can still make mistakes in more complex areas, such as legal research. We are far from a world where robots can replace human minds.

Opportunities for legal support professionals

Recent research reveals that most legal support professionals are not concerned with automation eliminating their jobs.

There is good reason for this. Any automation tool will require human management, and a legal support professional is in an excellent position to meet this need.

Also, consider areas such as document creation and court filings, where legal support staff members often do the bulk of the work.

A legal support professional with technical knowhow and savvy can serve as the linchpin who ensures the automated systems perform properly.

As a legal support professional, you should look for advantages in the inevitable acceleration toward legal automation. Remember, you may not be able to control the weather, but you can certainly set your sails to take advantage of prevailing winds.

Author

  • After a fifteen-year legal career in business and healthcare finance litigation, Mike Robinson now crafts compelling content that explores topics around technology, litigation, and process improvements in the legal industry.