Intelligent Intake: Reforming Legal Forms With Tonkean

August 25, 2023
August 22, 2023
min read
Intelligent Intake: Reforming Legal Forms With Tonkean

Forms are a critically important component of legal intake. They’re often the requester’s first point of contact with an organization’s legal process, and they’re still a necessary means for legal teams to collect key information. 

But they haven’t fundamentally changed much since the days when employees filled out legal forms with pen and paper: They still fill out static fields, manually find and input endless amounts of data, submit it, and wait around for a response, with little visibility into the status of their request. 

Even digital versions of legal forms typically remain frustratingly difficult to edit and customize on the back end, and building and maintaining related workflows is typically complex, cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive. And the data integrations that organizations require to make their digital legal processes work are often subpar.

There’s a clear and obvious need for innovation around legal forms. But what should that look like?

Reforming forms

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 based on that response. 

That contextual awareness and adaptability comes from AI like GPT, which also enables users to find what they need using plain-language queries. And that only works if you have deep connections to your data, like documents, CRM, knowledge bases, and so on. 

But someone has to create and modify those forms on the back end. Ideally, that creation should be no-code so it doesn’t require IT or devs; it should be easy enough for anyone on the legal operations team to build, customize, and edit. 

Organizations that implement intelligent, dynamic forms will see faster time-to-resolution, increased process adoption, and improved cross-team collaboration. This is not to mention happier, more satisfied end users and legal ops teams alike.

It sounds like a tall task. But it’s already been solved. 

One example is Tonkean’s new AI-enhanced legal intake experience, which is centered around forms. As part of Tonkean’s LegalWorks solution, the new forms capabilities 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.

This smooth, simplified, adaptive experience leads to greater process adoption and faster time to resolution.

What should next-generation forms look like?

Consider end users and builders

When people talk about the importance of a great user experience in enterprise software, too often they forget that there are two sides to it. There are the end users, who are like customers—they need to accomplish something or make a request, and they need to use this software to make it happen. But there are also the people on the back end—the builders—who create the workflows, set up the forms, connect data sources, and so on.        

The experience for both sides needs to be optimal. You need a refined end-user experience and an easy and sophisticated builder experience. (That’s why on the back end of Tonkean’s new form builder, we made sure anyone in the legal department, like legal ops, can create and edit forms and workflows with the no-code WYSIWYG builder.)

Absent either (or worse, both), you’ll run into lower process adoption. A great user experience needs to focus on how people actually work. Humans tend to follow the path of least resistance. If following your organization’s processes is too onerous, people will find ways around it. Low process adoption is a scourge, and it creates problems; in legal, not only does it slow processes down, but low adoption may introduce risk, compliance, and auditability issues.

Following processes—and for that matter, using software or services—needs to be easier than not following them. 

Instead of forcing requesters down a narrowly defined path, forms should take a people-centric approach and seek to foster seamless integration into existing channels, platforms, and workflows, aligning technology with human behavior. And the dynamic, adaptive nature of Tonkean’s forms reduces the number of fields and steps employees are asked to fill out, helping them resolve their requests proactively.

The same is true of the builder experience. No-code tools allow non-developers to create powerful solutions quickly. Legal ops teams have to be able to create, customize, and edit forms without frustration and without waiting for IT or the dev team to help them out. That’s why Tonkean developed a WYSIWYG form builder. 

The user-friendly WYSIWYG format isn’t just easy to use, though; Tonkean gave it powerful features, too. Builders can set forms to hide or show fields depending on the needs of the requester and the flow of their input, for example, and you can break forms down into sections.

You can also use your organization’s custom branding, like color palettes and banners, to make the whole experience feel more familiar and comfortable for everyone. 

The benefits of positive end-user and builder experiences include much higher process adoption, faster time to rollout, and higher overall operational efficiency and effectiveness. Further, with these new forms capabilities, legal teams can design and deploy forms that facilitate smoother handoffs between legal and other departments, all while ensuring data consistency. 

Deep data connections

Data is such a critical part of every organization’s tech stack. When it comes to automating dynamic forms for legal intake, there are numerous data sources that need to be connected. 

There are internal data sources, like client records, catalogs, documents, and more. External data sources run the gamut and include information as varied as SEC filings, M&A transaction data, legal case and docket information, law reviews, and so on. Although some of those data sources are essentially databases, some of them are other software and services like Netsuite. 

Tonkean is integrated with those internal and third-party systems and can pull from them to surface options in drop-down forms.

Parts of a workflow will involve notifying stakeholders in those apps that they already use, so the forms need to connect to communications platforms like email and Slack, as well. As a process experience platform, Tonkean wraps around all of an organization’s existing tools, including those communication apps, so the notification and tracking components are all part of the greater whole.

The use cases that come from deeply connected forms include NDA (or any contract generation for that matter), matter management, law firm onboarding, conflict waivers, and more.

What about AI?

Here’s a question that may arise: In a world where we have automated, AI-powered, plain language-based intake experiences, why do we need these enhancements to forms for things like intake?

It’s because there are different tools for different jobs, and you always need the right tool for the job at hand. Enhanced, dynamic, context-aware forms is one; an AI -powered plain language-based chat interface is another. The key is to combine the tools and their features at the right times for the right tasks. Taken together, they’re all about one thing: intelligent intake

For example, when you have a requester who isn’t sure how to begin a process, sending them to a clean and simple interface like the AI Front Door is perfect. They start by asking for what they need, and the platform understands the context and quickly provides resolution. That resolution may be to send them on to a human who can step in when a request involves more complexity. And that person may prefer to be notified within an app they already use, like Slack.

Meanwhile, forms are typically for more complex processes—but they’re easier for legal ops professionals to make and customize on the back end. And those forms are easy for requesters to use. (Notably, Tonkean’s forms can be empowered by AI, but some of them can simply be rules-based. It depends on the needs of a given process—and makers can decide which is the right tool for the job.) 

Improving the experience around legal processes

Legal teams of the present and future have to think about ways to provide value to their organizations. To that end, improving process adoption is critically important, and to do so, you need to improve the experience of interacting with legal processes—with an intelligent intake experience that’s easy both for requesters to use and for builders to create and modify. 

Learn more about how you can leverage Tonkean forms inside your organization to improve process adoption. And dig into the LegalWorks solution to learn about the full scope of intelligent legal intake possibilities. 

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