Automations can be a great help to any law firm. They can reduce errors, decrease needed effort, and even manage workflows. Yet, most offices don’t automate as effectively as they would like. Often, they are overwhelmed by the possibilities or don’t know where to start.

Although they can get complex, firms only need to create basic automations to realize the benefits. Something as simple as filing an email can save hours of work. And products like Gmail and Outlook are making it easier and easier to do so.

Even moderate automations, however, are usually within the skills of a modern lawyer. Many technology products have been focusing on no-code automation capabilities. This means it’s unnecessary for a programmer to create these systems.

Basic Concepts of Law Firm Automation

Law firm automation often conjures up images of complex Rube Goldberg machines running our offices. Yet, the basic concepts behind automation are quite simple. A trigger starts the automation, and it results in an action.

A Trigger is a predefined event that initiates an automation. It can be the passing of a date, the creation of an email, or the entry of data into a form field. Often, it’s the manual click of a submit button. But it can be as simple as receiving an email from a certain address.

An Action, on the other hand, is a step taken based on the trigger. Each time the trigger event passes it initiates the actions. For example, an email arrives, and then an out-of-office response sends. Or, commonly, in law firms, an online form is filled out and a task is created.

To automate a process, these two things need to be connected. The Action has to have a way of knowing the trigger event has passed. Usually, this means that the trigger exists in the same piece of software in which the Action happens. However, platforms like Zapier and Power Automate are helping firms connect platforms without needing to write any code.

How to Use Automations in a Law Firm

It’s one thing to know how to automate tasks, and it’s another to know what to automate. Once people understand the basics, they can see triggers and actions everywhere. Smart firms will have a plan for where to start and how to manage and maintain their automations for the future.

The best place to begin is to look at the firm’s documented processes. Once there, the team will likely begin to see places where they can trigger actions automatically. These potential automations will vary in their implementation difficulty and in their effectiveness. Obviously, they should start with the ones requiring the least effort and having the most significant impact.

Once created, an automation must be maintained and revisited on a regular cadence. Automations are an integral part of a firm’s documented processes. Written documentation of triggers and actions helps avoid untangling a labyrinthine mess in the future.

Learn More about Implementing Systems

Part of running a Healthy Firm is creating and maintaining Healthy Systems. In our resource area, lawyers can learn how to document their processes, manage their projects, and build and maintain their legal tech stack. Head to Healthy Systems to get started, and check out some of our related Podcast episodes.

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Last updated July 13th, 2023