AUTOMATING THE MUNDANE
When firms use AI and other modern technology to gather useful data and insights into matters, they gain the benefits of eliminating data silos and creating a centralized data repository. This shift also underpins increasingly successful business development efforts, faster conflicts clearance, more effective execution of client requirements, and improved pricing models. No longer do LAAs, paralegals or junior lawyers need to manually comb through reams of data to check for conflicts and client billing constraints. AI-enabled software handles that work quickly and efficiently, alerting firms to problems or issues early in the matter lifecycle. Thus, clients never see an incorrect bill or discover too late that their counsel is conflicted out of working the matter.
“Smart law firm leaders quickly realized that elevating the LAA function to a strategic partnership in client service delivery helps their firm demonstrate to clients a commitment not only to efficiency but also to deep collaboration and comprehensive service.”
While the idea of software automating the rote tasks that can fill a legal assistant’s day may worry some, it actually complements the work they do and augment it in a way that enables growth.
Automation is not just a way to increase productivity and save money for the firm and its clients. In many ways, LAAs are now empowered to handle many of the duties traditionally handled by paralegals –– including the duty of answering phones and speaking with clients before they meet with the attorney. This new role makes intricate matter knowledge and people skills, especially the ability to patiently interact with a frustrated client, more important than ever for LAAs, as it can determine whether that client chooses to stay with a firm or take their business elsewhere. And, in turn, it creates relief for paralegals and lawyers alike. Paralegals are enabled to up-level their skills to perform more of the high-value non-legal work that many lawyers were doing in the past, and lawyers can focus keenly on legal matters and producing the best client outcomes possible.
IMPROVING THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE
In the face of increasing client demands for more competitive pricing, firms feel pressure to cut costs and provide exceptional service on every matter. By using automation to perform the repetitive matter-related tasks and freeing up legal assistants to handle higher-value work, the senior lawyers can provide superior service to the client.
As one example, when a matter crosses a given milestone, multiple activities are triggered: standard documents may need to be drafted, internal and external email communications may need to be sent, calendar events may need to be scheduled, and items may need to be filed in the firm’s document management system. Forward-thinking firms are automating these types of activities, minimizing several hours of administrative work to just a few minutes. Not only does the matter become more profitable, but clients benefit from improved experience and outcomes.
The human touch of an LAA — a quick reply, an expedited meeting or even warm conversation — often bolsters clients’ positive impressions of the firm, providing a competitive advantage. Adding complexity to their responsibility, today’s legal administrative assistants may now serve as many as seven lawyers — almost doubling their workload from what it was just a few years ago. Scheduling, coordinating and confirming the work of the firm at such a scale requires the use of modern tools that help administrative assistants stay ahead of the volume while producing superior work and ensuring an excellent client experience.
ADVANCING LAAs AND THE FIRM
As automation continues to change the role of administrative support staff in law firms, these critical members of staff will need to develop new skills to become more mobile and tech-savvy. Although proper career development will undoubtedly require training and education, many firms are investing in certification programs and up-skilling because they help deliver stronger outcomes for their clients, boosting repeat business and the firm’s overall reputation.
During these rapidly evolving times, firms have adjusted to meet general counsels’ demands for greater efficiency, billing flexibility, technology adoption, transparent communication and efficient matter coordination. Smart law firm leaders quickly realized that elevating the LAA function to a strategic partnership in client service delivery helps their firm demonstrate to clients a commitment not only to efficiency but also to deep collaboration and comprehensive service. In turn, LAAs gain a growth path focused on modern technology, higher-level thinking and client-facing service.