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Thomson Reuters
Document automation

Beyond document automation: the next generation

Lucia Sandin

04 Dec 2018

Back in the early days of document automation, there was a need to be part hacker/part lawyer to automate your documents, or perhaps worse, relinquish your precious legal documents to programmers with no understanding of the law or contracts.

These days, however, through tremendous developments, document automation is almost seen as the default way to create your standard documents. The acceptance of other legal technology is improving, too, but it hasn’t historically been the case in the legal industry.

Let’s not forget that even email wasn’t initially accepted into the legal process, but legal professionals eventually came to terms with this tool of efficiency.

Not only is technology easier to use than it has ever been before—everything is pointing to an exciting future ahead.

This momentum was made clear at the Legal Geek conference in October, where we heard of some key developments. Included was a significant amount of integrations and collaborations which are taking place across the legal sector. Stuart Barr, from HighQ, examined the reasoning behind this approach during his talk, using Lego as a metaphor to illustrate his point.

The ethos being—yes you can always follow the Lego instructions and build a beautiful ship or castle—or you can take the building blocks of Lego, unleash your creativity and make something completely new and inspired that solves your needs in more innovative ways.

If we look at document automation as one Lego block, technology providers know that they need to keep adding value, and finding more blocks, to solve the variety of issues that lawyers face in their drafting process.

This can be done by adding features such as electronic signature or document storage, which are just some of the gaps that legal professionals look to fill in their drafting workflows and client service. As an example, Thomson Reuters aims to do just that by working with Synergist, the Berlin-based negotiation cloud platform. This integration will mean that law firms are able to provide their clients a more seamless means of collaboration and negotiation of their legal documents, and ultimately a better service.

Another reason to collaborate, which has been demonstrated by the rise of open-source legal technology, is that it enables solutions to scale and serve more people. At Legal Geek, Nina Kilbride from Monax, the platform that uses legal engineering and blockchain technology to code contractual obligations, said: “Legal technology has existed for years, but hasn’t had the opportunity to scale and serve greater communities. So, what we can do now with blockchain technology is to privatise some of our knowledge as lawyers, and deliver it to the market, that enables our clients, the small start-ups, to build smart contracts, deploy them, operate them at scale, deal with due-diligence and scale faster”.

It seems that the technology the law tech start-ups are building will not only help law firms, but also allow themselves to grow faster and do more.

Whilst technology is impacting the legal market and new developments are constantly emerging, it is important to be aware of the basics.

Despite the all the proven benefits, legal professionals are increasingly pressurised to provide more sophisticated business cases when seeking investment for technology solutions. For more information, about document automation technology—for law firms, please click here. For in-house, please click here.

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