Though automation is a 'hot' topic among today's law firms, many firms have yet to determine how best to implement automation within their firms. According to recent research from The Briefing, there's a large divide between "how automated" legal work currently is across the business (3.1/10) and how automated they think such work could be (6.8/10).

This recognition of firms' shortcomings in the adoption of automated technologies signals broader challenges for firms ahead, especially in a time when efficiency is king. Yet, while many firms are still contemplating how to use automation, others have already successfully embraced it to improve productivity and client service.

One firm that's leading the way is Simonsen Vogt Wiig. We  recently spoke with Peter Van Dam, Chief Digital Officer at the leading Norwegian law firm, about how he's managed to effectively implement an efficiency-driving document automation solution for his firm. Below are some of his insights and advice to implementing a successful project.

Recognising the Opportunity

As the Chief Digital Officer of Simonsen, Peter is largely focused on modernising the firm and its lawyers to help them gain a competitive edge. He began to explore the idea of bringing automation to the firm when he recognised an opportunity to enable lawyers to make greater use of the firm's expansive knowledge.

"Knowledge management is fairly static – people have to search for a document and they either find it or they don't and it's often out-of-date when they do find it," Peter explains. "I saw that we needed to have an effective way of using those documents that would also save the lawyers time."

A customised document automation process within the firm's knowledge library would enable the firm's lawyers to quickly reproduce their most-used documents, saving them hours of manual work and freeing up more time to focus on clients.

Finding an Internal Champion

Peter was mindful of the importance of including lawyers early in the planning process, and as such, identified the ideal internal champion in the head lawyer within the firm's Employment Law practice. "The lead lawyer in the Employment Practice is very cutting edge, and she likes to work with automation and brings a lot of new ideas," Peter says.

By including the Employment Law practice from the start, Peter was able to make sure he gained the feedback and support necessary to make the project a success. Though he piloted the programme with a single practice, Peter feels strongly that all practice areas can benefit. "I think that all practice areas should use automation, whether it be for compliance or other purposes," Peter says. "Oftentimes, some practice areas say they don't have static documents, but they do; it's only that they don't think that way."

So, while some practice areas – such as Employment, Corporate and Real Estate – tend to be prime candidates for automation, it's important to approach an automation project with a broad view of how it can benefit the firm.

Integrating Automation into Core Processes

Following on the success of document automation, Peter plans to integrate automation tighter into the firm's primary processes and applications. From opening a matter to starting a document in the document management system, Peter feels that automation can improve many processes throughout the firm.

"There are already some documents and processes that are natural starting points for automation," Peter explains. "I think whenever we open a matter or start a new document, we should think about how Sysero's automation can apply."

To view the full interview, please click here.

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