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Unlock Greater Efficiency With Legal Workflow Automation

Nearly 90 percent of legal departments expect to either reduce or hold their in-house headcount steady, according to a Gartner survey.

That’s not necessarily because companies are looking to cut costs. Instead, proactive organizations see new opportunities to replace manual work with automation. Legal departments are using tools like legal workflow automation to offload day-to-day rote tasks so their team can focus on high-value work.

Legal departments use automation technology to enhance accuracy, streamline work, and improve strategic decision-making. This approach simplifies legal spend management and unlocks opportunities for cost savings and more effective budget management.

What Is Legal Workflow Automation?

Legal workflow automation represents the intersection of legal tech and legal operations. It’s about taking those repetitive, time-consuming tasks like invoice review and data entry that have traditionally consumed hours of a legal professional’s day and automating them for greater efficiency and accuracy. This technology isn’t just about doing things faster; it’s about fundamentally transforming how legal departments operate.

By integrating document automation into their workflows, legal departments see dramatic improvements in their administrative work. Routine tasks like document filing, invoice processing, and contract management are streamlined, significantly reducing the time and effort involved. Automation tools minimize human error, enhancing the accuracy and reliability of legal operations.

The most significant impact of automated processes is their ability to free up legal professionals. With the burden of mundane tasks lifted, attorneys can redirect their focus toward more complex, high-value aspects of legal work. This shift improves job satisfaction for legal team members. It also ensures your corporate legal department is a strategic asset that’s proactive, innovative, and aligned with broader goals.

Zillow's Mark Allen explains how automated invoice review has resulted in significant cost and time savings.

What Legal Workflows Can You Automate?

Structured, repetitive administrative tasks bog down a legal professional’s day. Here are some activities that are prime candidates for automation:

Invoice Review and Approval

Legal invoice review software like Brightflag automatically rejects non-compliant invoices and flags concerning line items. That makes it easy to ensure only legitimate expenses are approved. Once an attorney approves an invoice, workflow automation seamlessly routes that invoice to the accounts payable department.

Accruals Collection and Reporting

Automation software prompts vendors to submit their unbilled estimates directly, reducing back-and-forth client communication and increasing efficiency. Once received, the system facilitates an optional review step for internal scrutiny before you share these figures with the finance department. This automated workflow helps you stay on top of accruals to maintain accurate financial forecasting and reporting.

Spend Reporting

Legal workflow automation drastically simplifies spend reporting. Advanced dashboards instantly present data that once took weeks to collate. These dashboards track key performance indicators (KPIs), generate detailed reports, and highlight trends and insights. Finally, you can automatically send these real-time reports to relevant stakeholders like your executive or finance teams so everyone is informed and aligned on legal spending.

Budget Tracking

Legal departments can set up integrations with their finance tools to automatically request budgets, track spend against these budgets, and receive alerts if spend is tracking over budget.

This proactive approach to budget management helps maintain financial discipline and ensures effective communication with the finance department regarding budget status and projections.

Timekeeper Rate Approvals

Timekeeper rate negotiations are notoriously time-consuming, often requiring deeper analysis and significant back-and-forth.

By having vendors submit timekeeper rates and rate changes directly through a centralized platform like Brightflag though, the system cuts down on much of the work. From calculating requested rate changes to highlighting the experience level of timekeepers, it makes it much easier to review, adjust, and take actions in bulk.

Legal Intake

Legal client intake processes become significantly more efficient with workflow automation. A centralized onboarding portal welcomes all incoming legal requests, where users input all relevant information about their matter. The system then automatically routes these requests to the appropriate in-house staff member and notifies them. This ensures quick and organized responses to legal inquiries with less work from your team.

Document Generation

Legal workflow automation reduces manual work, minimizes errors, and speeds up the document management process. For instance, workflow automation tools can automatically generate a contract template, populate it with relevant client information, and then route it for necessary approvals.

Scheduling

Legal workflow automation software makes scheduling and keeping track of important deadlines easier. The system can track critical deadlines and automatically send reminders to the relevant parties. This ensures that legal teams stay on schedule, meet compliance deadlines, and avoid last-minute rushes.

Why You Should Automate Your Legal Workflow Management

Legal workflow automation helps legal departments take advantage of the opportunities that technology offers to manage their workloads and finances better. Here’s just a few ways automation is transforming legal departments:

Reduce Time Spent on Repetitive Tasks

The most significant benefit of automating your business processes is the considerable amount of time it saves. Legal professionals, who previously dedicated hours each week to meticulously examining invoices, can now use this time for more strategic, higher-value legal tasks.

This shift is not just about saving minutes on the clock; it’s about enhancing your legal team’s overall productivity and effectiveness.

Only Pay for Valuable Legal Work

Automated invoice review employs predefined rules to automatically identify and flag any discrepancies, overcharges, or non-compliant billing entries.

By automating the verification workflow process, each invoice is meticulously checked against your organization’s established billing rules without burdening your legal team. This automated scrutiny significantly minimizes the risk of non-compliant charges and fosters an environment of transparency and accountability with your legal service providers.

A consistent, automatic compliance review safeguards against overpayment, so you can better adhere to your budget. It also leads to positive behavior change because firms learn to bill better to get paid faster.

Identify Opportunities for Cost Savings

Above and beyond billing compliance insights, automatically collecting invoice spend data in one system allows for all sorts of reporting, such as spend by practice area or vendor and spend-to-budget.

In-house counsel can generate reports on metrics like spend by matter, vendor performance, and compliance with billing guidelines for detailed analysis of legal spending. These reports help you spot trends and unearth insights critical for effective budget planning, vendor negotiations, and strategic legal management.

For example, insights gained from automated invoice review can inform negotiations with outside counsel for better billing behavior, resourcing, rates, or alternative fee arrangements. Comparing law firms against each other also introduces healthy competition to retain your business. You can also compare internal practice areas for billing efficiency to find areas for improvement.

Streamlining Approval and Accounts Payable Processes

Legal workflow automation saves you time on invoice approval and ensures your firms get paid faster.

Invoice approval workflows automatically route paperwork to the right approver every time. The responsible attorney receives a notification and can review, approve, reject, or adjust the invoice. That way:

  • Invoices you never requested don’t land on your desk
  • You aren’t searching for phantom invoices a firm swears they sent you, but you know you haven’t seen
  • And you don’t have to waste time chasing down lost invoices.

Once you click approve, automation routes the invoice to the next approver in the workflow, or if you’re the last approver, it’s sent directly to accounts payable for payment.

Brightflag Helps You Get Started With Legal Workflow Automation

By 2024, half of the legal work required by corporate transactions will be automated, according to Gartner. Invoice review is a prime place to start that transition, and you can use the same system to automate accruals, budgets, reports, and more.

Learn how Brightflag’s invoice review tools make your team more efficient, improve visibility into legal spend, and help you save time and cut costs.

Barry O'Melia

Vice President, Product at Brightflag

Barry has 20 years of experience as a legal technology product leader. Prior to joining Brightflag, Barry spent four years at Relativity, the $3.6 billion leader in e-discovery and compliance software, where he led product for the legal hold, information governance, and data integration verticals.