How Lawyers Can Use Document Automation to Reduce Overhead Costs

Every law firm has overhead costs to consider. That’s true whether you’re part of a large firm or a solo attorney. Overhead can be defined as the expenses you incur that aren’t related to the production of goods or services. In this case, it would be all the expenses beyond lawyer salaries. This includes line items like rent, technology, equipment, advertising, accounting fees, and more.

Overhead costs are frustrating. They’re seen as part of the inescapable costs of doing business, and that’s true to an extent. Operating a business will always come at a cost. However, there are ways to reduce the overhead costs your firm incurs. Document automation is one key way of doing that. 

What is document automation?

Document automation is pretty much what it sounds like: the automatic creation, formatting, and customization of documents you use or create each day. We’re talking about things like letters, pleadings, invoices, motions, and more. 

These are documents that most law firms create by hand and can take hours, days, or even weeks to produce. The process is laborious, time-consuming, and filled with the potential for error. It also involves a lot of hard costs — staff members (whether paralegals or legal assistants) that are needed to handle the creation process, and places to store the documents.

Document automation stands the conventional process on its ear and offers some pretty impressive benefits. Each of those benefits also has the potential to help you reduce your firm’s overhead costs.

Some examples of legal document automation software include:

  • Contract automation
  • Dictation software
  • Case narrative automation
  • Client intake automation
  • Litigation document automation
  • Compliance policy automation
  • Estate planning automation

What benefits does document automation offer?

So, what can document automation offer your law firm? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and how they tie into overhead costs.

Saving time

Perhaps the most important benefit of document automation is the amount of time it can save your team. Automation can reduce your document creation time by up to 82%. Your team can then use that time for other billable work. You may even find that you need fewer staff members entirely, which reduces your payroll costs, but also overhead in terms of the supplies and equipment those staff members would require to do their jobs in the first place.

How does document automation save you so much time? It’s all about integration. The right document automation tool integrates with your CMS or practice management system, allowing you to associate documents with existing client records. Then, it’s a simple matter of populating preexisting information from those records into the fields within the right documents. And because there’s no manual input of information, there’s much less chance of error. 

With fewer errors, you can reduce your overhead in other key ways. For instance, you’ll save on toner and paper because you’ll have fewer documents that must be thrown away. That in turn lowers your need for trash disposal. 

New hire training

Even if you’re a solo practitioner, chances are good that you have at least one or two people to handle administrative work in your firm. That might be answering phones and setting appointments, or maybe you have a paralegal who works with you a few days a week. In a larger firm, you’ll have a wide range of staff on hand to complete various duties. 

The thing about staff is that there’s always turnover. People leave jobs all the time, which means you’ll need to hire new ones and then train them in your office processes. Document automation allows you to systematize this process, ensuring that no employee has proprietary knowledge over a crucial process. 

For instance, document automation allows you to script every process a new hire might need to follow, from creating invoices to collecting client information. But how does improving your new hire training reduce overhead costs?

Improved training can reduce employee churn, which cuts the costs associated with hiring and training. Better training and replicable scripts can also improve employee productivity and efficiency. And when new employees see that you’re investing in their success, it improves morale, which also drives enhanced productivity and efficiency.

More efficient workflows

Let’s think about some of the overhead costs you experience. How many of them are tied to your workflows? We’re talking about things like printer paper, printers, toner, desktop and laptop computers, and other requirements to run a paper-based office. 

Those are major costs and many of them are ongoing. They also don’t mesh with the modern drive toward a paperless office. Document automation allows you to start shifting away from paper and hardcopy records and towards digitization. Yes, cloud-based storage and other technologies come at a cost, but you’ll find it’s generally lower than what you pay for supplies and equipment needed for older ways of doing things.

Cut costs without sacrificing client-facing communication

Document automation can offer some pretty impressive benefits and help you reduce your overhead in multiple ways. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to save money while delivering better client experiences. Working with a legal answering service is one example.

At, our virtual receptionists have deep experience working with law firms large and small. We offer customizable phone answering, appointment booking, payment collection, and email and SMS follow-up. We can also transform client relationships by providing call intelligence and metadata, capturing important client details, and entering them in your CMS to support accurate document automation. From custom greetings to 24/7 answering, our virtual receptionists help you reduce your overhead, focus on high-value work, and build trust and loyalty with your clients.

To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to

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Written by Tom Armitage

Tom Armitage is a Senior Marketing Manager with

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