Automating Legal Operations - A DIY Model

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Legal department automation may be top of mind for you like several other legal operations professionals, however, you might be dependent on IT or engineering resources to be able to execute. Or perhaps you are struggling with change management and not able to implement something new. You are not alone. These were the top two blockers to building out an efficient process within legal departments as shared by recent CLOC conference attendees. The good news is that off-the-shelf technologies have advanced to the point where you may not need any time from those resources and may be able to manage automation without needing to change user behavior. With “no code” automation, you can execute end-to-end automation for your legal operations department, yourself!

What is “No Code” Automation?

As recently highlighted in Forbes magazine, “no-code platforms feature prebuilt drag-and-drop activities and tasks that facilitate integration at the business user level.” This is not “low code” automation that has been around for decades. Low code refers to using existing code, whether from open source or from other internal development, to lower the need to create new code. Low code allows you to build faster but still requires the knowledge of code. In “no code,” however, you do not need to have an understanding of coding. What this really means is that no code platforms are so user-friendly that even a lawyer, or legal operations professional, can create automated actions…I know because I am a lawyer that has successfully done this!

But, How Does this Apply in Legal Operations?

The short answer is that it lets you, the legal operations professional, automate workflows with little external help. There are some legal departments already taking advantage of this technology. At a recent CLOC conference, Google shared how they had leveraged “no code” automation to remove the change management process for ethics and compliance in the code of conduct, conflict of interest, and anti-bribery and corruption areas. With respect to outside counsel management, Google was similarly able to remove IT/engineering dependencies for conflict waiver approvals, outside counsel engagements, and matter creation. For more details, watch Google describe their no-code automation use cases.

Google’s workflow automation is impressive and more mature than those of us who are just starting, so I wanted to share a simple example. A commonplace challenge for smaller legal teams is to manage tasks – ensuring all legal requests are captured and assigned to someone on the legal team. Many teams are dealing with dozens, or hundreds, of emails and it can be cumbersome to look through those to determine who is working on what. Inevitably some of those requests get missed. It is also challenging to then later report on legal requests – e.g., what types of requests the legal team receives daily, how long they take to resolve, and how many requests each person can work on. A “no code” platform can help. For example, you can connect your email to a shared Excel spreadsheet that captures all legal tasks. You would do this by creating a process that has the tool log each email sent to a certain address (e.g. legal@insertconame.com) on an Excel spreadsheet in a shared location (e.g. LegalTasks.xls). You would “map” parts of the email to columns in the spreadsheet. For example, you would want to capture the sender, the date, the time, the subject, and the body. You can even ask users who are sending requests into that email to put the type of request in the subject line. Your legal team can then check the shared spreadsheet daily and “check out” tasks by putting their initials in another column. Once complete, they would also mark that on the spreadsheet. Capturing all this information will allow you to see who is working on what, ensure that all requests are being worked on, and use pivot reporting on all legal tasks later on. Although this is a really simple use case with basic tools, it is also one that takes only a few minutes to set up and can measurably improve organization among legal team members.

You can use “no code” automation in most areas of legal operations department automation. Some of the most common things to automate with “no code” are as follows:

  • Legal Approvals
  • Document Generations
  • Evidence Collection
  • Tracking of Policy Acceptance

Many “no code” companies work with legal departments, so they may have experience with legal operations use cases. Be sure to ask how they have seen their technologies deployed in other legal departments.

Can I Really Do This Without Other Departments?

About 90% of the work can be done by you or your team, and in some cases, even 100%. However, sometimes connecting the tools or even installing the software has to be done by your IT and development teams. This is particularly true if you are connecting to proprietary software or have a complex infrastructure. This 10% of work required by these teams, however, is much smaller than if you were asking for those resources to create the automations from scratch. In addition, you often do not have to change user behavior so change management is removed as a blocker.

I encourage you to explore using “no code” automation in your legal department. Once you start, you’ll be glad you tried. I would be excited to hear your experiences with “no code” in legal operations.

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