BLP offering clients bespoke document automation service

Berwin Leighton Paisner has hired a document automation manager who has rolled out ContractExpress in place of HotDocs and is offering a new service to clients, automating the documents they themselves draft most regularly.
Robert Lankester joined in March 2016 from Irwin Mitchell, where he managed the document automation team and also rolled out ContractExpress, delivering 250 automated documents in the first year of implementation.
He has already automated around 50 documents at BLP and told Legal IT Insider: “We’ve done some analysis across the documents launched with ContractExpress and on average we’ve achieved an 84% efficiency saving on the time it takes to produce a first draft.
“We’ve launched one document suite that takes the average time to first draft from six hours to half an hour. It’s a commercial construction document suite which enables the user to produce one deed or 50 – as many as needed. There are other documents where the time saving takes the first draft from 30 minutes to just six.”
While many firms have taken the step of offering their own automated precedents to clients, Lankester is using his experience to automate the documents that clients themselves draft habitually, also helping them to build a business case for investment from the business.
One of the earliest firms to undertake automation of complex in-house standard documentation was Dutch independent Stek in 2014, led by Thijs Lommen, who is now replicating the model at Clifford Chance in Holland, having joined in 2015.
Client documents are made available over a secure online portal and Lankester says: “Clients log in to the portal and can produce their document or suite of documents more quickly and easily, so leveraging our investment and expertise.”
He adds: “There is also scope for additional approval workflows to be added, as well as integration with software such as DocuSign, to add further value (in terms of reduced risk and increased efficiency) for the client.”
The client’s needs in terms of the type of documents, volume of usage and number of users will dictate the commercial arrangement reached. Lankester says: “Those factors will lead us to come to a commercial arrangement that works for the client, which could be on an annual or fixed-fee basis. People in general want to know what their legal spend will be. We have to work out what our costs are but there is quite a lot of scope for imaginative fee arrangements.”
One of the challenges for in-house counsel can be making a business case for investment and getting buy-in from across the business. Lankester, who wrote the business case for automation at Irwin Mitchell, says: “With my background in change management, I can help with this. Clients can utilise my experiences, from writing a successful business case through to overcoming barriers to change both pre and post implementation – I’m keen to pass my knowledge on to help clients and lawyers to get the most out of the software.”
In other words, it’s all very well offering a service, but it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot if the in-house team can’t get sign off for it.
Lankester adds: “Everyone is looking at how to improve efficiency and facing broadly the same challenges, so this is about us as a law firm being able to do more than just offer legal advice – it helps us to understand our clients and deepen relationships. There is a much bigger demand for this service than we perhaps even realise.”
This article first appeared in the October/November Legal IT Insider – register for free your copy here