It’s exciting to think about the possibilities of legal workflow automation. Happier, more empowered employees! Energy and time recaptured! Business value: delivered. But the idea of implementing it in real-life scenarios in your organization can seem intimidating. How do you even get started?
The good news is that it doesn’t need to be complicated. Especially if you use no-code tools, which give non-developers the ability to use automation—even AI—in powerful ways.
One key is to pick a specific use case, need, challenge, or problem and work from there. Intake is a great place to get started; every legal team needs to deal with it, and improving those processes is low-hanging fruit for a workflow automation solution.
For example, enabling users to fill out a dynamic form inside Slack—and to submit it to Legal right from there—is actually very simple. And that counts as workflow automation!
Once you get the hang of how to automate simple legal workflows, you can scaffold from there, personalizing processes such that they work for every employee, and ultimately automating increasingly complex personalized workflows across teams and across your legal tech stack. Then you can begin to orchestrate those processes, like they're instruments in an orchestra, directed by a conductor to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
This is what’s known as process orchestration. Process orchestration is a way to coordinate, streamline, consolidate, automate, and centrally monitor workflows and business processes across multiple applications and systems within an organization. Process orchestration platforms help legal operations teams better execute, automate, manage, optimize, and track business processes.
When you started automating workflows with this level of sophistication and strategy, that's when you begin to see big results, like vastly increased process adoption. But let's back up.
Start automating workflows with legal intake
Although you can use a no-code process orchestration platform to automate myriad processes across your entire organization, you don’t have to go that big. You can focus on one area within the greater scheme of things.
Take legal intake, for example. Every legal organization has to deal with it, but if you’re like most legal ops teams, you likely right now manage intake predominantly through email and spreadsheets. (Most legal operations teams, even if they have a ticketing system like ServiceNow, end up managing intake this way, because they have trouble connecting all their systems in order to automate workflows seamlessly.) That’s just not very efficient.
But with process orchestration platforms like Tonkean, you can so seamlessly connect your systems, such that you can begin automating and unifying intake in earnest.
For example, you can tie an email inbox automation to a department-level inbox and, from there:
Monitor emails sent into the shared legal email inbox
Detect when emails have an attachment that needs review
Automatically run the attachment through GPT
Extract exactly the values you're looking for
Automatically send that information to the appropriate human inside whatever system they enjoy working in—Slack, Teams, Gmail, etc.
Track and document progress in a centralized portal
Dynamic legal intake forms and AI
But let's talk about how you empower employees to submit intake requests. If employees aren't doing that by sending in rogue emails presently, they're likely doing it through provided forms. Which tend not to be intelligent or efficient, either.
Legal forms have long needed to be reformed, but they haven’t fundamentally changed much since the days when employees filled them out with pen and paper: They still have to deal with static fields, manually find and input data, submit it, and wait around for a response, with little visibility into the status of their request.
Even digital versions of legal forms are often hard to edit and customize on the back end, and the data integrations you need to make digital forms work are often subpar.
Organizations need an easy-to-use self-service solution with a personalized end user experience that adapts to their needs contextually and in real time. In other words: intelligent, dynamic forms. That means when you answer a question in a form, it will then ask you the next related question or provide you with the next item based on that response. This eliminates unnecessary and distracting fields, and helps requesters get through the task much faster.
Good news! With the right sort of workflow automation technology on your side, you can vastly improve this initial aspect of the intake experience for employees, as well. (And, yep, that counts as workflow automation, too.)
Tonkean helps you do this with its AI-enhanced legal intake experience, LegalWorks. The legal intake forms capabilities therein are dynamic, with real-time data enrichment and adaptive user guidance. Requesters can ask for what they need with plain-language prompts. And the interactive interface is familiar and app-like, with customizable branding, so it’s intuitive and easy for requesters to use.
Non-developers can create and edit workflows and forms with Tonkean’s no-code capabilities. They can drag and drop premade action blocks to make the workflows they need. And the dynamic forms pull data from the organization’s own sources, like Salesforce, Google Drive, and more.
This smooth, simplified, adaptive experience helps legal ops teams automate intake processes in a way that leads to greater process adoption and faster time to resolution.
And just like that, you provide the power of AI to your employees at the process level at scale.
The benefits of workflow automation in legal
When we talk about the benefits of workflow automation, the “loud” part is all about how it helps legal ops professionals in their work. But the “quiet” part is helping those teams understand how to sell this need up the chain to get their organizations to buy in.
There are obvious benefits, like increasing the efficiency of the legal ops team by saving them hours of manual work. And certainly that results in cost reductions downstream, because other members of the legal team can spend more of their time on tasks that require their actual expertise, rather than on data entry, or filling out documents, or chasing down a signature.
But the biggest benefit is all about reducing risk. The primary role of a legal team, historically, is to protect their companies from risk. And sometimes that means protecting them from themselves. Reducing risk is a significant motivating factor for decision makers in an organization. Automating legal workflows helps you reduce risk.
When you automate legal workflows through a platform like Tonkean, you also get tracking through a central dashboard. The dashboard is not only a great place to check on the status of a given request or matter; it’s also a place of record. It gives you full transparency and auditability into all of the steps in every workflow. That means you can stay on top of errors or other issues and proactively address them before they become big problems.
Process adoption leads to the biggest benefits
In order to take advantage of the benefits of legal workflow automation, people need to actually use your processes. That’s why process adoption is so critical. And it turns out, achieving high process adoption is the biggest challenge of all.
Other stats he shared in the webinar include that 76% of legal teams find it challenging to manage workloads; less than 5% of general counsels say they’re “very confident” in their ability to manage complex tasks; and half of sales leaders say legal process obstacles have resulted in lost business.
“When I talk to legal ops professionals, I see heads nodding in agreement around this idea,” he added.
Too often, requesters are already overloaded with software, and they may use your processes infrequently enough that they don’t even remember what a given application is called. Usually, there are too many redundant workflows, requiring form data entry into tools that aren’t connected to each other. “All these little indignities create friction,” said Aronson. “Friction in isolation shouldn't be a huge deal, but when you add up all the little things, they do, in fact, act as a deterrent to adoption.”
That can lead to a process-adoption death spiral. “The adoption death spiral is a culmination… into a really sorry state where people stop using the official intake channels because they don't meet their needs,” said Aronson. “And then we stop maintaining them because no one's using them. And then really no one uses them, because the last time they did, it sent an approval to a VP that left the company six months ago.”
So how do you boost process adoption? You give requesters an experience that’s easier to follow than not. That’s what workflow automation, dynamic forms, and process orchestration provides.
They also lead to faster time to rollout and higher overall operational efficiency and effectiveness.
All of the above results in a huge reduction in risk. That’s always music to the ears of any organization, especially those within legal departments.
Legal intake is inevitable, but managing it doesn’t have to be a slow, painstaking, manual process. With AI, automation, and intake orchestration, you can streamline intake processes and reclaim hours of time and effort.