How can robotics help law firms do less and become more?

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The case for automation and digitisation is compelling and inevitable in the legal profession today. The improvement in the value/cost ratio of traditionally high-cost administrative processes makes it almost certain that Robotics Process Automation (RPA) will be applied in legal firms.

The purpose of this article is not to contribute to the debate on automated legal services to clients, but to consider the impact of “digital operations” on the various support functions, such as finance and HR which support legal firms, and reveal how you can prepare your staff and operations for the future. 

What is Robotics Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is accelerating the digitisation of business support areas. RPA creates a virtual workforce of software robots that emulate human execution of tasks through existing software interfaces. RPA achieves a high return on investment by avoiding legacy system and process changes. Typically, RPA can be applied where the following exist: 

  • Data intensive
  • Repetitive in nature
  • Rule-driven
  • Electronic trigger to the process
  • Involve manual calculation
  • High error rates
  • Complex IT landscape 

Benefits of applying robotics to support processes

The benefits include:

  • More flexible scaling, reducing backlogs during demand spikes
  • Improved processing accuracy with reduced errors and rework
  • Enhanced focus on end users, significantly improving satisfaction
  • Frees up human capital to refocus on complex and high-impact functions

Four elements typically work to slow down change

  1. People management systems and processes can be cumbersome to navigate requiring extensive consultation and decision-making.
  2. Process stability, designed to predict performance, reduces the ability to respond quickly.
  3. Change leadership is difficult and involves dealing with challenging human emotion, disappointment, anxiety and possibly anger.
  4. Poor risk management which fails to account for the impact on business disruption and to make well-thought out decisions. 

Ways to reduce automation anxiety and engage people in preparing for the future

When it suits us, we adapt quickly to technologies such as smart phones, the Internet of Things and tablet computers. In a work environment the personal benefit of adapting to new technology is less direct so a different path is required to engage people to rapidly switch behaviours1.

  1. Build awareness of RPA and its possible impact early.
  2. Find ways to demonstrate the benefits of RPA, in how it can expand productivity, enable accuracy and remove parts of roles which are mundane and frustrating.
  3. Educate your people on the capabilities and skills that are needed to go along with these changes.
  4. Involve your people in developing the digital roadmap for your back office.

If you’d like to discuss any of the above findings in more detail, please contact Campbell Jackson, +61 3 9288 8182.

1 Heath, Chip and Heath, Dan, “Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard”, 2010