Autto blog:

How to overcome the barriers to legal workflow automation


by Ian Gosling

Whether you are in a General Counsel’s Office (GCO) or working in a law firm your colleagues and clients are asking you to do more without a commensurate increase in resources. GCO’s are being asked to bring work in-house with little extra budget and increase productivity. Law firms are facing an increase in fixed and contingent fees and this is driving a search for greater efficiency. The obvious answer to this pressure is to increase use of technology to save valuable and expensive human resources from being bogged down in routine work and improves consistency.

There are some areas of law where technology has already made a significant difference in increasing efficiency – e-discovery, research and precedents for example – but Workflow automation is not yet one of those. Automating or semi-automating part or all of a legal process has been little utilised. This is surprising given the extent that other professions – accounting for example – have adopted automation to deal with routine tasks.At Autto we have identified four key reasons why workflow automation has not yet been widely adopted in the law and have sought to solve them:

  1. Many lawyers are interested in experimenting in workflow automation but the current solutions require a big upfront commitment of budget and technical resource. Lawyers are simply not ready to make that commitment. At Autto we are offering a cloud-based Software as a Service solution with no upfront cost and no installation. It is easy for lawyers to try our service and try automation.
  2. When the software is installed and the lawyers seek to automate their workflows they find themselves looking at an interface that is designed for software developers not lawyers. This means the time commitment to automate their first process is so great it is simpler easier to keep on doing it the old-fashioned way by hand.
    We have developed an interface for lawyers not developers. It is an area we are constantly seeking to improve as we get feedback from our customers.
  3. There is a mistaken perception among lawyers that automation has to mean the complete end to end running of a process by computer. That is simply not the case.
    At Autto we are advocates of what we call micro-automation. The incremental automation of small parts of an overall workflow to build it to greater efficiency over time. We think this approach is far better suited to law where processes are much more varied than in accountancy for example where the overall process is much more standardised.
  4. There is no doubt there is a cultural barrier to adoption of workflow automation in law. We find that about half of lawyers find it difficult to conceive that any part of their workflow can be automated. We believe the way to address this is to demonstrate the benefits in real life.

We are often told by our customers that we are at a turning point in the legal profession – that the use of technology is about to become integral to the law. At Autto we are committed to being the automation part of that solution.


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Meet The Author

Ian Gosling

Ian Gosling


Ian Gosling has worked for leading firms in technology, product and venture development.

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