Legal automation in 2024: opportunities, advice and the role of AI

September 6, 2023
Learn more about legal automation, how it works, and how AI will shape legal automation going forward.

What is legal automation?

Legal automation describes the use of software to automate the manual or routine tasks typically performed by legal professionals

Since lots of legal tasks can be automated, various technologies can be used for legal automation, from AI assistants through to eDiscovery and document management tools.

In this guide, we’ll explore what some of these legal automation tools are, when they should be used, and the role that AI will play in legal automation in years to come. 

When should legal automation be used?

The lawyer’s role can be seen as a mixture of advice - applying their knowledge and judgment to a given scenario - and of process, taking on the routine tasks (often around paperwork) that are necessary to fulfill legal requirements in a robust and compliant way.

Legal automation is aimed mainly at the process part of a lawyer’s job. Nobody works incredibly hard and pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to get through law school to find themselves copying and pasting text hundreds of times, or printing off PDFs to be signed and scanned. 

Legal automation exists to free up lawyers’ time from low-value process work and enable them to focus on more important tasks. 

This means different things in different settings; for lawyers in law firms, it might mean automating the document review process required for due diligence, to avoid associates having to manually search through emails.

For in-house lawyers, it might mean streamlining the contract generation process using contract management software, or using AI contract review software to automate the review phase of the contract lifecycle. 

If you’re signing dozens of contracts a week, it’s helpful to automate your contracting process as it can end a repetitive process that often becomes a bottleneck to the business - Damian Bethke, General Counsel, MessageBird

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Types of legal automation

There are plenty of opportunities to automate legal processes, and different tools will enable you to automate different tasks. Let's run through a few different types of legal automation, and how they are used.

  • AI legal assistants. AI assistants can automate legal tasks like research and document review. These usually take the form of an AI chatbot, like ChatGPT for lawyers.
  • Automated workflows. No-code automation platforms can streamline manual processes, improving tasks like inquiry handling and triage.
  • Automated risk and compliance. This type of legal automation can assist businesses when tackling risk and compliance. It can quickly identify these risks and highlight them to the relevant stakeholders.
  • Knowledge management. Legal automation can automate research processes, compiling and delivering knowledge and precedents to busy legal teams. 

As legal automation continues to evolve, staying informed about innovations and providers is crucial for lawyers seeking to take full advantage of automation.

Legal automation in practice 

Let’s explore a popular use case for legal automation for in-house legal teams in more detail now: contract automation for simple agreements. 

Legal document automation for NDAs

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are some of the most common contracts in the world and can be a real headache for small legal teams. This type of business contract often receives low or no negotiation and doesn’t create much risk. 

Yet, in-house legal teams still find themselves deluged in requests for NDAs, digging out the latest version in a Word document or correcting the copy and paste mistakes that their colleagues have made.

This is why NDAs are often one of the first workstreams considered for legal automation. In an automated workflow for NDAs, the steps are as follows:

  1. The legal team creates the master template for the NDA. This templated document represents the current best version of the legal team’s thinking when it comes to the contract terms. The template lives in Juro’s AI contract collaboration software and is hosted in the cloud.‍
  1. Others in the business are then empowered to create new NDAs by self-serving them from the automated contract template. They do this by answering a series of natural language questions, in-browser, to generate a compliant NDA that has been populated with the relevant data (like effective date, counterparty name, and so on).
  1. They can collaborate on this document internally, in-browser, with colleagues. This eliminates the issue of version control because all stakeholders can view and work on the same copy of the contract.
  1. They can also negotiate the document externally, in-browser, with the counterparty. This means there’s a full digital audit trail of who changes what and why.
  1. Once the terms are finalized, the counterparty can eSign the document, securely, on any device.
  1. The fully signed document is emailed to all stakeholders, and stored securely, with OCR functionality that means it can be queried and reviewed with ease in the future.

With an automated workflow like this, the legal team needs only to invest the time up front to set up the template, plus any control measures like an approval workflow. Then they are free to focus on other tasks. 

Colleagues can self-serve on the dozens or hundreds of NDAs they might need in a year from this template, without needing to involve the legal team.

What are the benefits of legal automation?

The main benefit of legal automation is an increase in productivity and a significant time saving. This can have several obvious benefits, depending on what the lawyers in question choose to do with the time they win back:

  • More time for high-value work: when they don’t need to spend hours on admin and paperwork, lawyers have more time to do the strategic, commercial work they are trained for
  • Less duplication of work: once a process is codified and automated, it’s off a lawyer’s plate for good. No need (for example) to draft up the same NDA day after day - once it’s automated, it can be generated instantly from a template
  • Better client experience: if low-value work is automated then those cost savings can be passed on the the client (whether internal or external) in some way, giving them a better experience dealing with legal
  • Access to data: heavily manual processes, like manual due diligence reviews, or signing with a wet signature, usually capture no data - making it hard to learn from the process, or to integrate it with something else. Automated processes can capture data, providing greater visibility for the legal teams using it
  • Do more with less: automating a process like contract creation can mean a team can avoiding needing to hire additional headcount. This allows legal’s support to the business to scale, even if its team doesn’t.

When should businesses consider legal automation?

Businesses should consider legal automation when they encounter the following scenarios:

  • When tasks are repetitive. When legal tasks, such as contract review, document generation, or compliance checks, become repetitive and time-consuming for legal professionals, it's time to consider automation.
  • When workload has become overwhelming. If your business deals with a high volume of legal documents on a regular basis, automation can help streamline processes and increase efficiency.
  • When they’re attempting to scale. If your business is growing rapidly or expanding into new markets, legal automation can support with scaling by handling increased legal work without a proportional increase in resources.
  • When you need a competitive advantage. Implementing legal automation can give your business a competitive edge by helping you to deliver faster response times, quicker contract negotiations, and improved client satisfaction.

How can AI help with legal automation in 2024?

Recent developments in legal AI will offer businesses even more opportunities to automate their routine admin tasks.  

While the first generation of AI has made some strides in recent years, it’s advances in LLMs that will change the game for in-house legal teams.  

As we prepare to enter 2024, lawyers can automate a wider range of tasks, and with more accuracy.

Juro’s new AI legal assistant is a great example of this. Juro’s AI Assistant helps you draft, summarize and review contracts ten times faster than with human-led processes.

With Juro's AI assistant, you can automate routine contract tasks, all from within Juro's contract collaboration platform. To find out more, fill in the form below to book your personalized demo.

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