Talk to anyone who has implemented legal technology, or innovated their legal processes, and I bet three out of four will tell you the first best step is to “map the process”.
To wit (all taken from interviews on the Technically Legal Podcast):
The best place to start, if you’re looking into workflow automation is with a pen and paper. We recommend not using any technology [s]o you can map out the basic business logic of what you’re trying to build.
The first step is mapping out all the tasks that they do. . . and basically what you need to do is understand within your particular environment, how do I do what I do?
Ken Grady, Legal Author, Professor & Research Fellow
So, I think one of the first things that you should be doing as a lawyer . . . It’s not so much from a technology perspective, but you really should be mapping out your processes. . .just the actual process of going through and figuring out . . . what your system is, and it may be that it’s completely haphazard. If you go through that process, I think it sort of reveals itself where you should be automating.
There is no magic to process mapping. It is a graphical representation of a business process (often a flowchart). There are starting and ending points with inputs and outputs along the way. While some process maps are more detailed than others, a general best practice for process mapping is simply to include sufficient information to describe actions taken at each step.
Business process mapping focuses on the tasks and work being done rather than job titles and hierarchy (although a process diagram may identify those responsible for tasks). Additionally, process mapping should be done “as is”. Meaning, how the process flows in the real world and not how it should be.
Mapping a process can expose bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and gaps. If you are trying to introduce tech into a legal workflow or streamline the way legal work gets done, mapping the process will help determine which activities are best suited for automation or can be accomplished with technology.
Mapping legal processes (and business processes in general) helps identify:
Process maps are often flowcharts that use graphical symbols taken from the Unified Modeling Language (UML). The UML was developed to map software development and systems development processes. Since its creation, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted UML as an approved ISO standard.
A Process Mapping Symbol cheatsheet is below, but the symbols common to mapping a legal process are:
One of our customers is a marketing analytics technology company. During the company’s onboarding process, customers must sign an authorization form to share telecommunications information (among other documents).
Creating the onboarding authorization document not only involved several emails between company and customer, but it also touched four departments (Sales, Customer Support, Customer Success, and Legal). The creation of the form also involved five manual steps using Google Forms, Google Docs, Salesforce, and Docusign and often took several people hours to complete.
We created a custom automated workflow process that now takes minutes to complete rather than hours. Before drafting one line of code, our first step was to sit down with the people involved and map the process.
Once we mapped the process, our development team created an app that streamlined the workflow to a single form accessed via the company’s CRM pre-populated with relevant customer information and, once complete, the form is automatically sent to the customer via e-signature software for execution.
Here is a version of our original process map of the manual workflow we automated:
Even if your process map is not fancy and not adherent to ISO standards, do not worry! Just get started. Much of the value in legal process mapping is in thinking about your workflows and getting them down on paper (or a computer screen). If you want to take it to the next level, there are several process mapping tools and software applications available. But, in the end, no matter how you do it, it will improve how your legal work is done and make the implementation of legal tech software more painless and efficient.
Click the image to download the cheatsheet.