What’s Under The Hood Of Some Of The Best Document Automation Solutions For Legal Companies?

Alex Siryi
By Alex Siryi, Tech writer with 8 years of experience in helping the business audience better understand the complex and ever-shifting world of software development.
19th August |
Person choosing best legal drafting software

The new online era has raised a new generation of clients who expect a much more consistent quality of services from law firms. This shift forces lawyers to work smarter, not harder. So how can your law firm save precious time and valuable resources while reducing the risks as well as increasing the accuracy of work?

On average, an attorney spends as little as 1.9 hours a day on billable work. What happens to the remaining six? In the best case scenario those hours go to administrative tasks, manual, repetitive data entry, sales and marketing activities, etc. 

Why is this the best case scenario?

Because in the worst case your lawyers will be spending more hours on these tasks — just like 75% of their colleagues who work outside business hours.

Average hours legal professionals spend on tasks

Source: Legal trends report by Clio

This dilemma is forced forward by the paradox that “77% of lawyers want to hire more staff,” even though “58% want to reduce spending” leaving room for as little as two options: outsourcing or automation. 

Let’s focus on the latter and explore ways your attorneys can shave off priceless hours from their daily routines by automating one of the most irritating and repetitive tasks — drafting. 

Explore how law firms are saving thousands of dollars with automation over the course of but one year. Let’s show you your ROI.

Thomson Reuters

Being used in more than 85% of Fortune 500 legal companies, Thomson Reuters is probably the largest and most renowned solution we will be looking at today. Given the company’s size, scale, and market presence, defining the nature of the services they provide in a couple of words is nothing short of a Herculean feat.

We will try it anyway.

On a higher level, Thomson Reuters is — as they themselves put it — an Answers Company. They use content, insight, and software to provide their clients from the accounting, law, and finance industries with feasible answers from trusted sources. This devotion has made them a major player in the present decision-economy. 

That said, we don’t have neither the time nor room to focus on the higher level as this article is about something a bit more specific — accessible automation for legal companies.  

So how can Thomson Reuters help your legal practice operate more effectively?

In many ways, actually. A fine example of this would be a case when the Detroit Police Department used Thomson Reuters CLEAR to find a baby who was abducted without her life-saving medication. 

Narrowing the plethora of use cases even further, we will discover their legal suit of products and services from caselaw to market leading legal technology, designed to provide information with integrity. 

This suit is composed of:

  • Legal research and guidance
  • Trial preparation and procedure case management
  • Drafting software and services software
  • Investigation, fraud and risk software

Drafting assistant

Thomson Reuters drafting assistant

Drafting assistant interface

Let’s take a look at one of the most handy solutions in the suite — the drafting assistant. It is a solution designed to reduce errors and save time with integrated drafting, review, and analysis tools, model documents and automated templates.

The way the assistant works is really simple — at least on paper. You add a toolbar to your Microsoft Word and have quick access to analysis and review tools in the place where you actually need them. A couple of quickly accessible settings will help you personalize the experience. Further analysis of the draft is done with a press of a button. The system will then automatically scan the document pointing out common drafting mistakes. 

This seemingly simple façade hides a remarkably powerful and potent tool because, unlike many other SaaS companies, Thomson Reuters is quite open with what’s under the hood of their service. They offer access to advanced customization via use of their APIs. Alternatively, those of you who are a bit more tech savvy can make a lot of customization. In simpler words, you can transform a Grammarly-like drafting assistant into a powerful solution capable of conditional calculations or advanced levels of automation. 

Key features:

  • Review and analysis tools
  • Quick formatting
  • Easy citing to authoritative sources

Pricing: Custom pricing based on use cases and needed functionality

Open source APIs

Looking further into Thomson Reuters’ suit can take up the rest of this review article, but that simply wouldn’t do justice to some of the other products in the lineup. As such, let’s focus on one aspect of the company’s technology that gives it the edge over the competition – open source APIs. 

Access to all of the company’s data feeds and potential “answers” was simplified with the introduction of the Elektron API family. Elektron can be extended to provide access not only to Thomson Reuters’ content, but also to third-party and proprietary content and systems. The APIs also meet customer requirements for APIs that are easier to use than Thomson Reuters’ existing UPA Ultra-Performance API and RFA Robust Foundation APIs.

Brennan Carley, head of platform and analytics, financial and risk, at Thomson Reuters, says: “We expect in-house developers in both buy- and sell-side firms and third-party application developers to use the Elektron APIs. These APIs lower the bar in terms of making it easier and quicker for developers to innovate and create new applications. For example, our existing APIs use 500 to 600 lines of code to consume market data, while the new APIs use 20 to 30 lines.”

The drawback of flexibility

From simple drafting improvements to advanced Big Data analytics – one can do a lot with the set of solutions from Thomson Reuters. If they know how to use the strengths of the software and its open nature to their advantage. 

In reality, most lawyers lack the technical skills and coding experience to make the real magic happen. Yes, you can teach them the simplest formulas and equations but this will still take a lot of time turning what was meant as time-saving automation and transform it into more unbillable hours of tasks. 

This is one of the primary reasons why they are so widely spread among larger legal companies who have both the necessary budget and a dedicated IT department. And it is also one of the primary reasons why smaller companies shy away from the complex solution. 

Luckily, this doesn’t have to be the case for you. Here, at Catware, we work with several law firms who came to us with a similar challenge. And, using the openness of the Thomson Reuters platform, we have managed to do most of the technical heavy lifting while our clients enjoyed simple and effective automation solutions in an intuitive user interface. 

VQ legal

VQ Legal is a Swedish company that tries to bridge the gap between digital assistants and digital associates. The company has designed a bot that works in a similar fashion to a telegram or Facebook bots. 

They base their bot’s work around the work of some of Sweden’s foremost experts in each legal field. You also receive ongoing information about changes in laws and practices and news in the service.

For instance, when you are working with company laws, the answers the bot provides will be made based on pitch-perfect examples of documents done by Company Law Sundsvall. Professor Christina Ramberg, lawyer Hanna Larsson, lawyer Ulf Sallnäs, lawyer Magnus Wittbom, and lawyer Sigrid Wittbom are responsible for Business transfers (M&A) documents, etc. 

How does this work?

You log into the bot’s interface and choose a matter from which you want the bot’s help with. Then you feed the most relevant conditions to the bot by answering its questions. The bot will then offer a choice of which documents are needed and create them for you.

This is a really simple and streamlined approach that does, indeed save a lot of time. The fact that VQLegal have put the effort and attention into designing their templates leaves no room for error when it comes to wording and formatting. As a result, one can create a necessary document (like all 16 documents for a sharing issue) in under 5 minutes. 

The downside of this approach comes in the lack of flexibility. There are only so few options you can go with so any custom documents or documents that require a lot of calculations – like shares distribution for example – still require a lot of manual work. The potential for third-party integrations and any viable applications outside drafting are not present either. 

Additionally, VQLegal isn’t that widespread outside Sweden.

Key features:

  • Document packages for most use cases
  • Well-designed templates
  • Professional wording

Pricing: Custom pricing based on use cases and needed functionality. Contact sales to learn more. 

Axdraft

Axdraft drafing assistant

Drafting assistant interface

Axdraft follows a similar approach to VQLegal in their service. They choose not to become the Jack of all Trades and focus on a series of widely spread document templates: NDA, DPA, and the SOC-2 being among the most popular ones. Needless to say, this approach works like a charm – I was able to generate a decent NDA with every bit of necessary information already filled in less than a minute. 

Overall, Axdraft offers access to 20 document templates. Each of them is filled in fashion similar to a web application form where you tick the fitting options or type in some personal data. Everything else happens in the background. Their built-in e-signature functionality is also a nice feature to have as it makes the entire document workflow cycle between you and the client as streamlined and effortless as shooting an email. 

You can also create your own templates out of a provided assortment of tools. That, however, is quite limiting and can take a lot of time without offering a satisfying result. Again, like with VQLegal, we stubble over the lack of flexibility and customization. More complex operations are out of the question as well. We’ve also noticed that the wording in the finalized version of the document can be a bit less than what one might expect from a professional lawyer. 

Key features:

  • Customizable UI that allows you to build desired workflows
  • Ability to work on the same document at the same time
  • Powerful engine that processes 100-page documents within milliseconds

Pricing: 

Pricing starts at $600 per 5 users per month.

Working environment interface

Legito

Legal drafting software interface

Drafting assistant interface

Legito is a low code platform designed for advanced document drafting automation. What this means is that you or your team do not need to have coding skills in order to customize the functionality offered to you by the vendor. This makes the platform exceptionally flexible when it comes to designing and structuring workflows, storing documents in folders, browsing through them, or collaborating on a shared task. 

Some of the platform’s greatest pros come from this flexibility: you gain access to a wide array of conditions most lawyers will need to create something that’s outside a typical cookie cutter template. That being said, some reviews indicate that the platform still misses some conditions like “is no last” and “is second last” for texts in document templates. Additionally, some people have found compatibility issues with MS Word. 

These, however, are minor nitpicks. The real downside of using Legito comes from its greatest strengths – customizability. Learning the application can be a challenging task for someone with no prior experience. The company has addressed this by creating a comprehensive knowledge base. Still. Browsing through it takes time and effort which is a little bit counter-intuitive given you came here looking for a timesaver. 

Key features:

  • A great search with filters for browsing through documents
  • Access and Permissions control
  • Open API
  • Third-party integrations

Pricing:

Legito pricing starts at $600.00 per user, per year

Working environment interface

Low Code VS Custom development 

Seeing what the market has to offer in terms of law firm automation solutions, you’ve probably drawn a few parallels. All of the available products can be divided into two categories: simple yet less sophisticated when it comes to functionality, or complex and flexible, yet with a steep learning curve. 

These types are called the low code and no code solutions. VQLegal is a prime example of the latter: the functionality is there, but you are limited in your use cases by what the developers have put inside the system. 

Thomson Reuters and Legito are great examples of low code solutions. They are much more customizable and most of the magic happens in a simple, drag-&-drop interface. They are far less restrictive and developer-friendly. …But the stiff learning curve still makes it too complex for less tech-savvy lawyers. 

Each approach has its ups and downs. That said, the low code approach offers more benefits and potential for saving time in the long run. A greater grapes over the technology you’ll be using in your law firm isn’t something you’d want to shrug aside. 

Even then, a solution like Thomson Reuters – regardless of scale and openness – is still developed with the larger market in mind and may not have everything you might need out of the box. 

“What we wanted was not available. If it was, it was the property of somebody else. We wanted to have the ownership and intelligence in our own company.” – Jasper Laagland, CTO at Factris

Then there is the issue of recurring costs. Low code or no code solutions are typically distributed via the SaaS model. You will be paying for every user continuously. New features or functionality typically come with an extra cost as well.  

Luckily, there’s a third option – custom software development.

For starters, there are no ongoing monthly/yearly fees or great functionality concealed behind a paywall. Your upfront investment is enough to see ROI over time. 

Then there’s the reasoning that custom development can solve the challenges presented by low code and no code platforms:

  • You will enjoy a convenient interface that’s designed with your team and their tasks in mind
  • You will be working with the best possible layout – the one that’s tailored to meet your needs
  • Custom functionality will help you where Jack of all trades style solutions fail
  • Complex calculations and conditional logic you’ll need when drafting something out of the ordinary will always be there for you – and your lawyers won’t need to be tech wizards to access it. 

And is there anything extra Catware can bring to the table?

custom automation development with Catware

A simple template solution we’ve developed for a Norwegian Law-500 company, for example, works similarly to Axdraft. A few clicks of a mouse are all that stands between you and a fully prepared legal document. That being said, we’ve also included built-in conditional logic and calculations that have automated the workflow with the documents and spreadsheets making both data analytics and complex operations with several converging documents a matter of a few moments.

This single template has removed the need for several applications such as a word editor, Excel for calculations, and email for collaboration – all while offering a minimum of 5x increase in speed of creating most types of documents. 

In addition to that, we offer the following benefits of legal drafting software:

  • We use your document templates with your formatting – you do not need to change your processes
  • No need to spend time on stuff training, no need for Excel or copy-paste – we implement your calculations and conditional logic
  • Our development process is GDPR compliant
  • We use your security protocols (e.g. 2-factor authentication, integration with your Active Directory, etc.)
  • The solution is integrated into your infrastructure (cloud or on-prem)

Let’s talk!