As the legal industry embraces automation, there’s a lot of talk about what should and shouldn’t be done by technology.
For areas such as client intake or contract generation, there is growing recognition that automation of these repetitive processes can streamline the firm. Maybe we’re not ready to automatically generate contracts, though some firms are testing options.
But what about automation of non-legal tasks?
Automating simple processes is a no-brainer for your law firm. These tasks are already automated in industries outside the legal profession — it is simply up to legal professionals to keep up with the curve.
When law firms implement these automations, they can free up the time and resources for legal professionals to focus on the high-value productive work they do best.
Here are some of the top non-legal tasks that could be automated at your firm.
#1: Email management
One of the most frustrating aspects of office-based workplaces is dealing with email.
With many law firms now operating as remote or hybrid workplaces, there is even more dependence on email — and more frustration handling email overwhelm.
Email automation can serve as a solution.
An automated email system can organize your inbox. For example, you can turn emails into tasks by searching for a specific label for emails you want to convert to tasks, then automatically adding those emails to your task manager.
You can also save attachments automatically, freeing you from the need to use your inbox as a holding area for important attachments.
Besides handling incoming emails, automation can also deal with outgoing messages.
Template-based emails can be sent out automatically to thank everyone who attended an event.
If you regularly share legal industry news with your colleagues or legal professionals outside your firm, you can set up an automated system to automatically email articles you have bookmarked.
Read up on the automations that your email provider offers. There’s probably a lot you can do to save time and energy.
Recruiting automation can serve your practice well in the highly competitive area of hiring top-notch legal professionals.
Finding quality candidates (and hiring them quickly) has always been challenging tasks for law firms. In today’s tight labor market, these challenges have only increased.
Automation can help your firm identify potential candidates by analyzing data about skills and experience, then matching them to job opportunities. Applicants can then receive automatic status updates and feedback on their applications. Even interview scheduling can be automated.
By transitioning from manual recruiting systems, your legal practice can save personnel from labor-intensive activities.
Even more importantly for busy practices, you reduce your time-to-hire and minimize the time unfilled positions stay open.
Finally, you will likely have higher-quality candidates, which will lead to higher-quality hires and a better-performing firm.
Marketing is an important part of staying competitive for modern law firms, but it can be a burdensome process.
Marketing automations streamline the time-consuming process of “getting the word out there” about your firm.
One of the first places to start is investing in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool so that you have a place to track clients and prospective clients. Use the built-in automations to track your leads and ensure designated personnel from your firm can reach out to prospective clients.
Using email and social media for marketing can also be critical, although the legal industry has been slower to embrace these strategies.
Part of the reason for reluctance is that this type of marketing pulls legal professionals away from their legal work. To overcome this obstacle, schedule your social media posts ahead of time using a dedicated tool to manage all networks.
Automation can also handle things like marketing emails, lead capture on your website, and alerting you when someone mentions your firm online.
Running live and virtual events is a great way to raise your firm’s profile and should be in your firm’s marketing repertoire. But handling registration, attendance, and other administrative tasks can be overwhelming. Automate these processes to save hassle for you and your staff.
#4: Office supply management
An office supply tracking system could be another non-legal automation tool that could serve your firm well.
Office supplies are an obvious necessity, but also a large expense. Ordering too much or too often can drain resources, but letting your supply cabinet get too low might mean emergency trips to the office supply store.
Your automated tracking system can keep an inventory of office supplies for accounting purposes, then notify you when reorders are necessary.
Manual office supply tracking is a tedious and time-consuming process, so your office manager and other staff will likely thank you for easing their load.
#5: Human resources
If there is any part of the firm that has to deal with numerous administrative tasks, the human resources department is high on that list. Many of their roles cry out for HR automation.
Consider mundane tasks such as payroll management, expense reimbursement, timesheet management, and requests for time off.
More advanced automation can extend to archiving performance reviews and handling onboarding and offboarding of employees.
For larger firms, HR might also consider using automations to collect employee feedback, give an anonymous way for team members to communicate with management, and manage training and compliance. Much of these types of automations are standard parts of human resource platforms.
#6: Facility management
While many firms are moving to remote status, there are still enough in-person and hybrid workplaces that firms need to manage physical locations.
From security access to climate control to leaky windows — most legal practices deal with these issues through phone calls and emails. Plus, it can take weeks to even discover that there’s an issue, and that delay can be quite costly for problems like roof leaks or frozen pipes.
Automated facility management tools provide response mechanisms in which there is automatic notification of any of these issues. This saves the firm time and enables it to respond to problems more quickly.
These systems are also great for managing things like key card access and conference room bookings.
Bonus: The future of automation in the legal industry
As automation becomes more prevalent, both for legal work and other tasks, some legal professionals worry about their career outlook. Will automation make legal support people irrelevant?
The answer is not a simple yes or no.
Most likely, artificial intelligence and automation will continue to get better at completing tasks that humans would normally do. It will also become more affordable, and law firms will need to adopt these technologies to stay competitive.
At the same time, we’re a long way from the possibility of a fully automated law firm.
Automation is meant to be an assistant to humans, not a replacement.
Using this kind of technology is a skill. That skill will become increasingly valuable as tools evolve and the legal industry moves towards a higher-tech model.
It’s a good idea to dive into automations now so that you’re familiar with these types of systems. You’ll gain a productivity advantage, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll build a marketable skill that will make you a more valuable legal professional in this changing industry.