As an in-house legal professional, approving documents is an important part of your day-to-day work.
However, it’s likely that you’re manually approving the same documents day in and day out instead of tending to high-value strategic work. And just when you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel *plonk* another contract lands on your desk requiring approval.
Relying on manual document approval processes is where you’re most likely to experience legal waste, so it’s time we shed some light on how to streamline your approval process to minimize symptoms of legal waste and optimize the productivity of your team.
The problem with legal document approval processes
The 2023 In-House Technology Report revealed that 37 percent of respondents spend three hours or more per day going back and forth with the wider business, and 28 percent spend three hours or more per day searching through emails. And when you consider the average global annual salary range is from USD$176,500 to $554,901 for in-house legal professionals (2022 In-House Counsel Compensation Survey, Major, Lindsey & Africa), that’s a lot of money spent or should we say, wasted.
The real kicker is that the majority of the time approvals are required by pretty low-value work, which means that one of your most expensive resources (the legal function) is spending a great deal of time on a process that could be automated, instead of being a vital strategic partner to the company, or working on higher value-add items.
The other concern with manual approval process is that it increases the chances of organizational risk. As each instance of manual approval is accompanied by the potential for human error. And without sounding too dramatic, doing this manual type of work and being stung by human error is what can really grind people down and contribute to fatigue and burnout. While also coming at the cost of higher value or more strategic work being placed on the back burner.
Where to use automated legal document approval processes
The number of ways in which you could automate processes and save your legal function time (and money) is limitless. But to get you started, consider documents such as NDAs, or document outputs such as invoices, contracts, and budgets.
By now you’re probably eager to get the show on the road!
How to streamline your legal document approval processes
A good place to start with automation is to focus on those high-volume documents – NDAs or areas that are of risk. If you’re using a contract management platform, you can add rules to free up legal involvement such as a waiver of legal review, or approval when standard templates are used without amendments. Here are a few more tips we’ve compiled from The Connected Legal Certification:
- start with repeatable, low skill processes – identify which of those legal or the business is doing on a daily basis
- use your instinct – if your gut’s saying, “Is this a good use of my time?”, you’ve probably answered your own question
- reminders are great low-hanging fruit – like key contract dates, due dates for tasks, actions, and to-dos
- tasks that you or your team don’t enjoy doing – make your days more rewarding
- tasks where consistency in deliverables is required
- high volume, low-risk documents – NDAs, standard terms, company secretariat (Director resolutions)
- matter plans – configure workspace task lists by matter type
- creating and automating an intake process for matter requests will also help eliminate the waste of duplicate efforts, and create useful data and insights at the source
When implemented correctly, an approval process can automatically ensure that the document released meets business standards and can prevent documents with errors from being released.
Not only will automating your approval processes free up the legal team to focus on more valuable work, but it will also enable the rest of the business to get through the work, optimize productivity, and save everyone time and money.
How to learn more about automating document approval processes
Join the many other legal professionals who are already taking steps to minimize legal waste and learn how to automate and streamline your approval process as part of The Connected Legal Certification. The best part is that it’s all on-demand, and you can gain CDP/CLE points in doing so.