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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) In The Legal Sector

By - Aurelia Menezes on August 20, 2022

Robotic Process Automation is an aspect of technology that makes use of software robots or ‘bots’ which can learn and execute business processes, that are rule-based and can interact with applications and digital systems. These robots are capable of handling repetitive work like copy-pasting tasks, filling in forms, connecting to APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), routine document checks, opening and moving files and folders, extracting, copying and inserting data, logging into systems and applications, etc.

Users can train these bots on such work and they can do the same work that humans do except that these bots can work round the clock with no need for breaks, with the highest degree of speed and reliability, and precision. Since these bots are adaptable, they can adapt and work on various business systems, processes and applications and can work on any interface or workflow without needing any extra aid to automate the bots. Also, the usage of these bots does not need any coding or programming skills and is user-friendly.  

The process of robotic automation can help speed up a lot of monotonous work in the legal department. Accuracy, speed and efficiency through secured automated tasks are the key factors that RPA can contribute toward legal services. A lot of legal compliances and services can be automated and will help legal departments work faster since a lot of burdensome and repetitive work can be assigned to bots.  

  • Contract management can be made much easier through RPA once contract managers recognise the repetitive rule-based, data-driven actions of tasks and contracts. The bots can work on contracts in bulk once they are trained.  
  • Bots can optimize the relevant regulation search for research purposes. Research that can take hours manually can be done at a much faster pace with RPA.  
  • Also, RPA can have high-security features due to data encryption, keeping the information dealt with highly secure. Privacy and security issues are also automated through data encryption algorithms. Attorney-client privacy can be maintained.  
  • Automated notifications and regular updates on all compliance-related regulations can be achieved by the use of these bots, reducing the burden of advocates and attorneys to keep cross-checking for new updates and amendments from time to time.  
  • Data analysis can be made extremely efficient since data extraction through RPA can be carried out from various multiple sources about the same issue simultaneously.  
  • RPA also helps in the management of unstructured data with optimization through digitisation with the help of other software which can help in segregating similar types of files from a group of different types of documents. Such tasks can pace up work tremendously. For instance, due diligence for extensive organisations with large tracts of data can have various documents and agreements analysed. If a bot can scan through these documents and segregate them into different folders based on a few common characteristics, it would save significant time before the due diligence work begins.  
  • These bots are capable of data entry without any errors that may happen in case of manual entry, leading to a reduction of errors while dealing with huge databases. For instance, making an excel sheet of all the lease agreements, with the party names, term of the agreement, and expiry dates---ensuring an organised repository of information.   

RPA And Humans

There is a misconception that the use of robots and automation can affect the status of humans negatively. The fear of humans being replaced by robots, leading to lesser employment opportunities is something to be considered seriously. While it is true that bots can do a lot of the clerical and repetitive work faster and more efficiently, it is also true that currently, they have to be instructed and trained by humans on what work is to be done and the process of the work itself, especially when it comes to legal tasks.

For example, they must be manually updated whenever there's a shift in the routine processes being automated. At present, they cannot replace lawyers. They are only helpful in assisting and processing manual tasks faster. RPA without human oversight can lead to problems and automation itself must be taught by humans; a bot cannot presently do the same, although this is subject to change as our technology advances. Legal clerks, however, are at risk of being replaced by RPA.  

Although the majority of the benefits provides aid to legal services, there are a few drawbacks concerning RPA. Bots without human management can cause huge errors which may cause severe legal repercussions and major disciplinary actions to be initiated. Bots cannot trace some errors that humans very obviously and easily notice. Another issue would be that of a reduction in employment opportunities concerning clerical jobs. Paper or handwritten documents are also another challenge that RPA is facing.  

RPA coding and implementation are customised based on the needs of the organisation. A Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) would make it clear as to what the requirements and expenditures of the organisation in the use of RPA are; bots can be coded accordingly. The initial investment can be expensive based on requirements but once implemented, the benefits from the use of RPA, in the long run, are significant for big organisations, firms or companies. Established law firms and legal associations can afford this initial investment.  

Wrapping Up

Advocates and attorneys can save time and put their legal expertise to work in analysing the actual legal concerns that matter while onerous tasks can be carried on by the bots through RPA with human guidance. Every technology will have its advantages and disadvantages. How we put it to use to meet our needs while mitigating the negative aspects of it depends on the effective implementation with constant management from time to time. Without that structure and governance, RPA will fail. For broader and sustainable deployment of new-age technology, meaningful oversight by all relevant parties is necessary. 

Contributed by Aurelia Menezes, Partner and Swetha Sampath

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