Document automation and process mapping underpin a new flexible client services offering from DWF, as the top 30 firm rolls out a structured paralegal, contract lawyer and client consultancy service and automates its key precedents across the firm.
Led by national head of employment Andrew Chamberlain, who joined DWF in September 2014 from Addleshaw Goddard, DWF is using ContractExpress automation software from Business Integrity, which now counts Allen & Overy, Linklaters, Eversheds, Dentons, Mishcon de Reya and Nabarro among its clients.
Chamberlain, who at Addleshaws introduced a Transaction Services Team of paralegals for the commoditised element of deals, told the Legal IT Insider: “There’s been some up-front investment in terms of going through our documents and building in a menu of questions, which allows you to automate.
“By the end of the financial year, all key precedents will have been automated. It may sound challenging but there is a lot of goodwill in the business.”
DWF has brought in former Pinsent Masons lawyer Catherine Bamford, a director and founder of Bamford Legal Engineering, to assist with the document automation process. Chamberlain said: “Catherine is a lawyer but can also code. The problem if you leave lawyers to come up with questions is that it’s disjointed and quite often doesn’t happen. Now, in 48 hours you get the automated document back.”
The move comes as the 1013-lawyer firm has simultaneously launched a Manchester-based paralegal Legal Support Centre; a contract lawyer business called DWF Resource; and DWF Consultancy for in-house teams.
The exercise is underpinned by a process mapping exercise – an end-to-end look at how best to deliver client services – which has been finalised across the employment, M&A, litigation and real estate departments. It includes working out which portion of a transaction will be undertaken by paralegals and Chamberlain said: “We are identifying tasks that paralegals can do and how we can build that into the process so when it goes to a paralegal it does so in a structured way and comes back in a structured way.”
Meanwhile Chamberlain will spearhead the consultancy business and has already begun helping in-house teams to restructure their legal function, including how to replicate DWF’s own initiatives by setting up a paralegal centre and implementing automation and process mapping. Chamberlain said: “It’s led quite quickly to paid consultancy work.”
The move by DWF follows the creation by a number of law firms of their own contract lawyer arms, including Allen & Overy’s Peerpoint, Eversheds’ Agile and Pinsent Masons’ Vario.
However, DWF’s intention is to make its own offering wider, more comprehensive and, as a result, “much more powerful”, according to Chamberlain.
“Clients are increasingly demanding that their lawyers agree fixed or capped fees and we are doing our best to deliver that in the most efficient way,” he said.