Delegating to Robots: Document Automation for Lawyers

As the cost of office rent and salaries continues to increase while in-house budgets continue to shrink, how can law firms and in-house legal departments cope with the financial squeeze and enhance profitability? The answer – according to a recent presentation at an AmCham Taipei workshop – may be automation of the preparation of legal documents.

On July 13, Peter Davies of Thomson Reuters gave a presentation in AmCham Taipei’s Lincoln Room on “Delegating to Robots: Document Automation for Lawyers.” A former private equity lawyer, Davies now works with corporates in North Asia to determine how new technological models can assist in bringing efficiencies to the legal profession.

From left to right: Speaker Peter Davies with Don Shapiro, Chamber’s Senior Director

Davies stressed that several preconditions are necessary for documentation automation to be feasible:

  • The existence of a good set of templates that computers can draw on to compile a document
  • Sufficient volume for each type of document to create economies of scale
  • A willingness to invest the money and especially the time to create an effective automation system
  • The market power to devise documents based on the office’s own determination (not possible, for example, if a law firm must work on the client’s own template)

Given the right conditions, however, automation brings the advantages of faster speed – manual preparation takes 80% longer on average – and greater accuracy, reducing the incidence of typos and other errors. Davies asserted that automation does not mean robots taking away lawyers’ jobs. Rather, it should free up lawyers’ time for more productive activity.

From attendees’ comments during the interactive presentation, it appears that the automation of legal documents in Taiwan is far less common than in markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore. The main reason may be the lesser volume here of any given standard document.

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