Transaction Management (Process Management)
Processes have become a key element of operational and strategic development in the legal industry. Whether in-house serving internal clients, or at a law firm serving external clients, legal professionals work on transactions both big and small. These transactions are made up of many steps forming a process. Processes have traditionally been manual and analogue, often with highly skilled legal experts participating in perceived purely operational or “lower-value” tasks. With the adoption of digitisation in the legal market, the positive economic impact of Process Management and the growing role of legal operations, there has been a clear and growing trend to standardise and automate legal workflows.
What is a Process?
A process, or a workflow, involves multiple procedural steps that combine with legal expertise and decisioning to achieve a desired outcome. For example, a legal workflow or process might include collecting and storing documents, reviewing documents, analysing risk, automating document production, signing documents and triggering approvals. All of these are actions, but they also require decisioning – what legal or business logic you apply at each stage of the transaction to achieve the correct result. Processes can be internal within an organisation or they can be external in delivering services to clients.
Traditionally, processes have been manual, analogue, often with little streamlined, non-structured collaboration and heavy on resources. In many organisations processes have grown organically, without design, managed structure or optimisation. This results in a number of negative consequences.
First, these manual processes require highly skilled (and costly) legal subject matter experts to perform time-consuming, repetitive tasks. For in-house counsel this is challenging given the rising workloads, without the corresponding rising headcount. For law firms, this results in fee-earners’ time spent on non-chargeable work.
Second, these disparate processes are based on multiple legacy systems, often not communicating to each other, which may live offline and in multiple locations. This results in an elevated risk of “blind spots”, poor communication and an increase in legal and business risk. A significant amount of manual work is required to patch digital, often siloed processes together, with increased efforts for maintenance and change management.
Third, disparate, unconnected and often legacy systems, as well as (parallel) paper processes, lead to a lack of insight and performance metrics, which prevents decision makers from having access to the data necessary to assess risks and take informed decisions. General Counsel need access to data to facilitate conversations with decision makers in Lines of Business (LOB), and the current state of available processes fails to provide them with that required data.
Finally, manual, analogue processes have often lead to silos and cannot be scaled across the organisation. This results in a lack of consistency, and ultimately an increase in risk, cost and lower-quality outputs. Many advancements of project management and increased budgets for digital units, as well as innovation teams, are blocked by the analogue framework.
What is Process Management?
Process Management involves modelling and understanding processes with a view to identifying which elements can be standardised and automated, to improve operational efficiency. Process Management can apply to any process – simple or complex – but the largest economic gains are realised when you apply Process Management to transactions that are high-volume, frequently occurring, complex, and therefore costly in terms of resource required.
There are multiple technologies that exist to support legal teams in Process Management, from point solutions like e-signature or contract review tools, to broadly applicable technology like no-code platforms that enable teams to build applications to automate these manual, analogue, recurring workflows and decisions without any coding required.
Economic impact of Process Management
There is a limited period of time remaining where clients are willing to pay for work that can otherwise be automated. Process Management has become a critical aspect of legal operations – used by global law firms to better service their clients, and used by in-house teams to demonstrate they are value drivers, not perceived cost centres. Further, by digitising legal services, Process Management enables law firms to diversify their service offering to their clients, and meet the growing client demand for technology-enabled legal solutions.
Examples of Process Management
Process Management has the largest benefits in frequently occurring, manual and time-consuming processes. Examples of Process Management include the following.
Complex document automation
Most transactions involve the creation of documents, often complex involving legal and business logic. Document automation seldom exists in isolation, and rather is part of a broader legal workflow that can be standardised, and therefore automated. The most significant benefits in this area occur where legal teams do not just focus on the automation of one type of document but consider the entire workflow as a whole: the underlying legal logic and the document automation.
For example, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are one of the most frequently entered into contractual agreements, and therefore capable of being standardised and automated. However, it is not just the document that requires attention, it is the entire workflow.
Using no-code technology, legal teams use a visual, drag-and-drop editor to quickly and easily create a workflow that automates the creation and signing of NDAs, end-to-end, incorporating other technologies like e-signature and upload to the relevant document management system.
The team uses their legal expertise to define the logic behind the decision-making, ensuring each NDA drafted comes with the most relevant paragraphs, using the proper format, with the correct styling, all without having to manually check each single NDA, unless of course they included an escalation process for certain NDAs.
Automating this entire process, rather than simply the document automation, translates into huge time savings on the part of the legal team, and facilitates a better service to clients through a user-friendly, accessible interface to access the document and the legal team.
Virtual legal assistant/intake management process management
Legal departments need to filter, manage and respond to dozens of incoming requests for assistance. Often, these requests are frequently recurring. From creating and reviewing agreements to addressing compliance questions, responding to these requests is manual and time-consuming. And yet, there is a huge potential to standardise and automate this work, enabling the legal team to manage large volumes of work and respond to requests quickly.
By understanding the process, through Process Management, and building a virtual legal assistant using a no-code platform, legal teams build their own self-service tool to reflect their processes, service levels and risk appetite. Through a customisable and interactive interface, the legal team specifies exactly what information they need about a given request. Non-legal colleagues, employees or any other end-user can provide the information, and the decisioning logic is then applied to filter, manage and, where applicable, respond to the request.
Through this workflow, the legal department maintains full visibility over all documents created and, once approved, can integrate into signing flows like DocuSign for a true end-to-end solution.
Large-scale repapering exercises
Macro-economic events, like Brexit and the phasing out of LIBOR, have resulted in the need to review and amend thousands of contracts across hundreds of jurisdictions. This work is complex, time-consuming, and for many law firms and legal departments a relatively low-margin exercise.
By modelling, standardising and then automating this workflow using a no-code platform, and integrating it with other technologies like text extraction and a document management system, legal teams can complete large scale repapering exercises in a fraction of the time it would otherwise have taken.
The key to achieving this is having the ability to easily customise the workflow to the given risk threshold and company requirements, and easily being able to integrate it with other industry technologies to provide a single interface that can act as both a review platform and a reporting software.
Process Management enables legal teams to streamline existing processes and workflows, saving time and enabling them to provide a better service to their internal or external clients. By combining technologies – from no-code platforms like BRYTER to e-signing tools like DocuSign – legal teams can achieve significant economic benefits through improving operational efficiency: saving time and increasing profitability.
Contributors: Michael Grupp, CEO, BRYTER; Joanna Sidhu, Director of Marketing, BRYTER