Legal Ops Digest #3: Can You Automate the Physical Legal Mailroom? Really?

February 12, 2024
January 26, 2024
min read
Legal Ops Digest #3: Can You Automate the Physical Legal Mailroom? Really?

The idea of automating parts of your processes is enticing, but we tend to think only about automating digital processes. Can technology make things like communications and document retrieval and database population (and extraction) automatic? Sure. But we don’t usually think about automating physical processes, because it seems inherently impossible.

But that’s just a lack of imagination—especially because, truth be told, plenty of physical processes include digital components. These days, the physical and digital are intertwined.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid that phenomenon, because the digital has become ubiquitous. Even something as simple as scheduling an in-person meeting, for example, still requires digital tools. There will be some combination of text messages, emails, calendar invites, a Google Doc with the meeting agenda, and perhaps a spreadsheet or slide deck.

The legal mailroom is a terrific example of an ostensibly physical process that can benefit from automation. Physical documents come into the mailroom, and they have to be opened by hand. And then someone has to scan and upload each one to some cloud folder.

Then, someone has to read through each one, extract relevant data, enter that data somewhere, decide who else in the organization needs to address it, and make sure any relevant stakeholders are in the loop.

And, of course, there’s also effort required in making sure a given matter is moving through the pipeline once it’s been through the intake and triage process.

Tonkean’s LegalWorks has a solution for that. Once documents are scanned and uploaded, Tonkean can automate the rest of the process. We’ll get into the details of how all that works below!

But first: The latest news from around the industry.

Latest in Legal Ops

  • “The future of technology enhanced lawyering is going to turn less on the technology than on the ability of lawyers to look inward and truly understand their own processes and how to apply existing technology in ways that actually serve clients.” -Joe Patrice | Above the Law
  • Explaining how to recover legal technology costs from clients | JD Supra
  • 5 niche areas of legal tech primed for startup disruption | Forbes
  • Jenn McCarron, director of legal ops and technology at Netflix, is the new president of CLOC | Bloomberg Law
  • A hot take on whether generative AI poses a threat to attorney-client privilege. | Bloomberg Law

If you have some insightful news or knowledge about the world of Ops to share, let us know!

Legal Ops in the Field

Let’s talk about automating the physical legal mailroom.

The act of digitizing legal documents is nothing new. Mail comes in, and someone scans and uploads it. But the process from there has long remained manual and time-consuming. But with Tonkean’s LegalWorks, you can automate away most of the manual work involved in legal mailroom intake.

Once you scan and upload documents, Tonkean takes over, and the magic begins.

Tonkean monitors the uploads you make to your document repository of choice (like Google Drive, OneDrive, or SharePoint). Whenever there’s a new upload, Tonkean uses optical character recognition (OCR) and AI to automatically extract necessary specified details such as claimant names, Social Security numbers, and effective dates.

Tonkean will even automatically change the file name appropriately. That’s a seemingly small thing, but anyone who’s had to slog through opening each file with a character salad of name to figure out what’s in it, then rename it manually, knows what a relief it is to no longer have to do it.

Tonkean then automatically creates a matter, notifies the parties who need to be in the loop, and kicks off relevant workflows. (You will have predefined the appropriate processes and policies for your organization.)

The legal team can find all processed documents in a centralized dashboard. The real-time dashboard allows attorneys and other stakeholders to track each matter through its lifecycle. For example, you can click into each matter and view a “pizza tracker” that shows what’s happened with each one and where it currently is in the progression.

All of the extracted information is there in an organized view, as is the scan of the document itself. That way, you can check the scan and compare it to the extracted info and edit as needed.

When you finish approving the entry, Tonkean integrates it into the workflow. For example, Tonkean could automatically create a matter inside of an application like SimpleLegal.

One of the roadblocks to implementing a new technology tool involves waiting for IT or dev to create (or edit) all the things you need on the back end. But that’s not the case with Tonkean’s LegalWorks, because it’s 100% no code—made explicitly for non-technical users.

That means anyone on the legal ops team, for example, can set up and customize the workflows. The workflow builder allows users to create automations with drag-and-drop tools. You define steps and sequences and connect to all the relevant applications and data sources.

You can see in a video below that the workflow for the aforementioned legal mailroom intake is composed of premade components, including the Drive folder, an OCR module, an AI tool like GPT to extract text, as well as commands like Update Fields, Move To Folder, Rename Document, amd Create Pizza Tracker.

There’s also a One-Click Approve button, so attorneys can quickly and easily move a matter along.

And you can even define what parameters the LLM (eg, ChatGPT) should look for and extract in the documents you upload.

And that’s that. To get a little more depth on this use case, check out this page and the accompanying blog post. And if you want a free demo of LegalWorks, head here!

Tell us about clever solutions and success stories you want your Ops peers to know about for future newsletters!

Modern Business Operations

On this episode of Modern Business Operations, host Seth Colaner is joined by Brendan Raybuck, Chief Revenue Office at Clearlaw, to discuss using AI to extract data from contracts and make it accessible across organizations.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • The legal tech space is still wide open, with many companies taking different approaches to enhancing the legal experience.
  • Legal professionals could become orchestrators of legal operations across an organization with the right data and automation.
  • Legal tech has the potential to transform legal teams from being an expense into being strategic partners and thought leaders.
  • There will likely be clear winners and losers in the legal tech space within two to five years.
  • AI has created opportunities to transform contract language into standardized data for automation.
  • It’s important for young professionals to politely challenge assumptions, as it builds confidence and creates innovation.

Subscribe to the Modern Business Operations podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Maestro's Minutes

Here’s everything we did in this month’s Tonkean release notes:

Module Builder:

  • Intake statuses: We've overhauled the Status functionality in Tonkean, separating statuses into two categories: Intake and Triage & Coordination.
  • Thank you page redirect configuration: We've enhanced the When Form Answered action with additional configuration options for the "thank you" message displayed after a form has been submitted.

Custom Item Interfaces and Workspace Apps

  • The Detailed Items widget provides a detailed view of an item from a list, ideal for showing additional fields for inner items that might not fit inside the Line Items widget table.
  • Line Items widget: Date range validation has been added to the Line Items widget, enabling you to restrict user input and ensure date information coming into your process is correct.
  • Dropdown options from a data source: In addition to values from your own fields, you can now include options in your dropdowns from connected data sources.
  • You can now customize the color and select a transparent background for your widget icons, providing even more options to align your workspace app page or item interface with your branding.

Enterprise Components: Users can now integrate the following new data sources: Google AI, Mistral AI, Sensible, and Workday Strategic Sourcing.

Bug fixes: User source settings in Board Settings were not saving correctly when switching between Manual and Identity Provider options.

Thanks for checking out Legal Ops Digest! To learn more about who Tonkean is or what we do, we have a few different kinds of trials that you can sign up for. They walk users through our most salient solutions, including Legal intake, Purchasing Approval, Invoice Intake, and Email inbox automation. Sign up for one here!

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