If there’s one thing we all wish we could cut out of our jobs, it’s the admin. Those small, repetitive tasks take up so much of our time. This is especially true if you work in the legal sector, where administrative tasks are usually non-billable and often incredibly time-consuming.
In the wider business world, many companies use chatbots to automate parts of their customer service and admin as well as to reduce business costs. Yet, the legal profession has been slower to adopt the technology. This is partly due to the nature of legal work — it can be complex, and it requires total accuracy.
Chatbots have traditionally been used for simple tasks, which can make them seem ill-suited to legal work. However, even in law, there’s still a lot of repetitive admin, research, and communication, and today’s chatbots are well-equipped to handle these kinds of tasks.
What is a Chatbot?
A chatbot is an automated program that can answer simple questions and perform basic tasks. They can be integrated into website live chats, messaging apps, and other chat programs. The chatbot answers customers in real time and can interact with multiple users at once.
More advanced chatbots use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to adapt to different business needs. These more advanced options can respond to unique inputs and even hold conversations.
However, even a simple chatbot can pull from huge databases of information instantly. This makes them uniquely suited to answering common questions, or creating standard legal documents, for example.
How do Law Firms Use Chatbots?
Legal chatbots are specifically designed for use by law firms. There are no-code options, third-party bots, and developers that will work with your firm to create your own bot. While it’s still an emerging market, lawyers are starting to embrace chatbots for a variety of uses.
Using the help of chatbots, searching through legal documents and transcripts is fast and easy. Using keyword detection, they can check information and review documents for accuracy. Using a chatbot can be a huge time-saver for lawyers when conducting their research.
One of the primary functions of chatbots outside of the law is customer service. Using a legal chatbot on your website live chat can give you 24/7 availability to answer questions, schedule appointments, and respond to complaints.
Sending standardized responses to legal complaints on behalf of defendants can also be handled by bots. Some software, like that used by Solosuit, can even handle this without input from a lawyer. The software collects information from a defendant and files a response to a debt complaint.
A law firm using similar technology could support a wider range of clients and automate a variety of standard legal responses.
The 24-hour access to clients that chatbots provide gives new opportunities for lead generation. Bots are able to greet clients, take details, and schedule appointments, at any time. Legal professionals can follow up with full access to the information clients have provided.
Producing legal documents is often a case of changing a few details on a fairly standard contract. The details of the cases and clients change, but the legal framework that underpins the documents tends not to.
That makes bots ideally suitable for populating and creating legal documents. This automation can lead to big savings on time and cost for human lawyers, as it needs little to no intervention.
Automating repetitive processes, for example, tracking billable hours, is one of the key ways legal bots will save you money.
AI-driven chatbots can review hundreds of documents in seconds and provide summaries of relevant information.
The Benefits of Legal Chatbots
Clients expect availability from their law firm. According to a 2020 legal trends report, 79% of new customers expect a response within 24 hours of contact. Plus, 68% want around-the-clock service. This kind of availability is difficult to achieve without automation.
Legal chatbots can help to bridge the gap between client needs and the availability of qualified legal professionals.
Reducing the non-billable hours your human lawyers have to work is the most obvious cost-efficiency saving. It means your firm is spending its staffing resources more effectively. Your legal professionals can put more time into revenue-generating tasks.
It’s also worth considering that a chatbot might be more effective than a live agent at performing admin tasks and getting quick answers. This can save costs on low-level staffing, allowing your non-legal employees to work more efficiently, too.
Time is money, except when it isn’t. We’ve mentioned billable hours a lot here. If you work in law, you know that’s where we generate all our income. Freeing up your lawyers' time by automating non-revenue-generating tasks is a win-win for law firms.
If you’ve been paying attention so far, then you know that chatbots can be used for a lot more than just answering FAQs. Since bots are customizable, you can work with a software partner to build the bot according to your needs.
A small legal practice might get the most use out of a simple automated booking system. Larger law firms might want to build a more advanced AI bot that can converse with customers, generate documents, and so on.
How to get Started With Chatbots for Lawyers
If you’re new to chatbots and AI technology, it can be challenging to know where to start. There are some key factors you should consider before making a choice. For a law firm, the security and confidentiality of customer data are paramount.
Data security is a primary legal concern these days. When setting up a chatbot, you need to ensure the security of the data that is processed by the system. If you’re setting up your own chatbot, you can manage this in-house.
If you go with a third-party provider, then you’ll also need to ensure they have appropriate security. You’ll also be responsible for informing your clients what data is being collected and what it can be used for.
Custom Chatbot vs. Third-Party Provider
This is an important decision to make. It’s also not as straightforward as you might think. There are different levels of chatbots, from simple bots that respond with pre-programmed answers to AI virtual assistants.
You’ll need to decide whether you want to go with a premade bot, a customized third-party bot, or a fully custom bot. The latter option will either require the support of a development partner or a very capable IT department.
With a development partner, you don’t need to spend time and resources on recruiting a developer, software tester, or maintenance engineer. You can focus on optimizing the bot to your client’s needs.
Tips for Using A Legal Chatbot
Chatbots can be helpful while also saving you time and money. However, they’re not a catch-all solution you can just implement and forget about. These are the best tips we can give for optimizing your chatbot’s effectiveness.
Tone of Voice
Chatbots are most effective when the interaction feels like a conversation. The less robotic your bot sounds, the more your users will engage with it. Not all bots can have a true back-and-forth conversation, but you can still customize their responses and language to feel more natural.
Creating conversational responses that match the tone of voice of your business will help maintain consistency between interactions with your bot and with your real employees.
Know Your Bot's Limitations
Speaking of your human staff, all bots will need human assistance at some point. Particularly in the legal profession, there are times when a bot will be out of its depth. It’s important that your bot can recognize these scenarios and arrange a transfer to an appropriate agent.
That could mean getting a response from a human operator or just scheduling an appointment and informing the client. If your chatbot can’t effectively pass on queries it can’t deal with directly, you’ll end up causing a lot of unnecessary frustration for your users.
Monitor & Improve
Chatbots with machine learning capabilities can adapt to perform tasks better over time. One of the key benefits of chatbots is that they record their own interactions and collect data passively. Even with less advanced bots, this gives you the opportunity to refine your responses.
Monitor your chatbot’s interactions and get feedback from your clients. Then, you can use that data to improve your chatbot and its functions.
Bringing your business into the digital age means making use of your business data. There’s more competition both within the legal profession and from outside software now than ever before. Using chatbots effectively can help you modernize your business.
It’s not simply the cost-saving or the interactions they have with your clients. The data they can collect can form a part of your digital strategy.
Using customer data collected from your bots can help inform your forecasting models in excel, your revenue projections, and assist in your decision-making.