The Pros and Cons of Automating Legal Documents


Creating legal documents is time-consuming and frustrating. It’s also an inescapable part of the everyday law office experience. However, new technology is changing that paradigm. Legal document automation is not just possible today but is increasingly common. Not sure whether automating legal documents is a smart move? Curious about the technology behind the trend? In this post, we’ll discuss what legal document automation is and the pros and cons you need to know about it. 

What is legal document automation?

Before we talk about the pros and cons of automating legal documents, let’s define it. In a nutshell, it’s just creating standardized versions of frequently used legal documents and then implementing a system that automatically generates customized versions of those documents when necessary.

How does legal document automation differ from the standard process?

The standard process of legal document generation is pretty old-school and time-consuming. You begin with a similar document to the one you need. Then, using find/replace, you customize it to the current situation by swapping out names, dates, addresses, and other variables. 

While this sounds simple enough, chances are good that you’re familiar with the problems inherent in the process. It takes a long time to do this manually. It also leaves a great deal of room for errors. Those range from typos to forgetting to change names, dates, places, and events from previous versions of the document.

How does legal document automation help?

Automating legal documents offers some pretty substantial benefits. For instance, it takes just a few seconds to create a single, standard contract, like an NDA. It takes mere minutes to create a set of mortgage documents, rather than having the process take up to 10 hours. 

It’s not just the time-savings, either. There’s also the fact that automating legal documents helps reduce some of those errors that manual processes introduce. And because you start with a template rather than from an existing document with information that needs to be changed, there’s no chance that artifacts from the original document will remain to cause problems down the road.

Speaking of potential errors, few processes are as prone to this as having to enter information into different apps more than once. Each time, there’s the chance for typos or other errors. With document automation, the data for each document is pulled from your CRM, so the information only needs to be entered into the system one time to be used on any document in the future. As long as that initial entry is error-free, each subsequent use will be, too.

Yet another benefit of automating legal documents is that it streamlines the training process for new associates. With the conventional method, administrative staff control business processes and retain proprietary knowledge. 

When they leave, they take that with them. If they leave without training a replacement, you’ll face some significant challenges trying to train a new associate. With legal document automation, there’s no need for some of this training, because most of your forms and documents are stored as templates that can be customized quickly and easily.

Automating legal documents doesn’t just benefit your associates. It lets attorneys focus on high-value work while ensuring that important tasks that require little creativity are handled correctly. 

How much time do you spend on administrative tasks? Imagine if all the documents required for those tasks could be created in seconds or minutes rather than hours. How much more productive would you be? How much more high-value work could you complete?

Perhaps the single most important benefit of automating legal documents is the boost in efficiency it brings to law firms. Document automation can dramatically boost office productivity levels and ensure that everyone from associates to attorneys can make the best use of the single most valuable resource they possess – their time.

The drawbacks of automating legal documents

While there’s a lot to love about automating legal documents, it’s not without its cons. The list is pretty short, but it’s important to understand them.

  • Transactional documents – Legal document automation is best used with transactional documents like business formation, personal injury, trusts and estates, or family law. That’s because the focus is on creating a standard contract that can then be modified to fit a range of situations. It’s not so helpful for bespoke situations.
  • It alters your billing – If you’re tied to the traditional model of hourly billing, then document automation will change things. Yes, it allows you to focus on high-value work, but it reduces the overall workload for your team, which will change your cost structure.
  • Government offices – If you do a lot of work with government offices and agencies, you may not be able to use automation. It depends on the office in question, but government entities are notoriously slow to evolve.
  • Skill loss – Creating legal documents requires skill and knowledge. Reliance on automation can erode those skills or even prevent associates from developing them in the first place. That can lead to challenges when there’s a need to create non-standard documents that aren’t possible through automation.

Automating your way to success

Automating legal documents offers some pretty substantial benefits, particularly in terms of saved time and improved accuracy. With the right software in place, your team can focus on more important work. 

However, don’t forget that you’ll still need people to handle lead intake, appointment setting, billing, and all the rest. You also need to ensure that every client entry in your CRM is completely accurate. When you choose as your legal answering service, you can rest easy knowing that our virtual receptionists can handle all those tasks and more. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to

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Written by Mike Graner

Mike Graner is the Marketing Manager at He focuses on engaging content, company updates, and in-person events.

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