Controlling Corporate Legal Costs by Legal Document Automation: Brand New Application in Employment Law

“On average, lawyers spend 60 per cent of their time drafting documents. If there is a tool that allows them to do that faster and better, then it is an obvious choice.”

Thomson Reuters / Catherine Bamford    

Here’s another post about the promise of Legal Document Automation for both time savings and enhanced accuracy. This one in employment law.

This past Monday Ogletree Deakins — a U.S. law firm known for labor and employment law expertise — rolled out a new software tool for a different set of corporate legal needs: “DIY Arbitration Agreements“.

Their promise: “Generate your [employment arbitration] agreements in Under Five Minutes“.

Facing a litigious U.S. legal system — businesses have for years sought out alternative dispute resolution methods — arbitration, mediation, and other approaches — to mitigate the expense and distraction posed by lawsuits in public courts.

Employment lawyers have long used arbitration agreements as a proactive tool to keep their client companies out of court when their employees have disputes with them.

On Monday May 21 the U.S. Supreme Court in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis upheld the use of class action waivers in companies’ arbitration agreements with employees. This resolved six years of legal uncertainty nationwide.

In 2012 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that such waivers violated the rights of employees who were covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

Three federal circuit courts of appeal agreed with the NLRB.

Three disagreed.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Epic breathed new life into these arbitration agreements — making them an even more powerful tool for management than they had been before.

With employment lawyers waiting for months on this decision, Ogletree Deakins was ready with a new Legal Document Automation application — its DIY Arbitration Agreements tool — once the U.S. Supreme Court announced its Epic ruling:

“In light of today’s Supreme Court ruling, Ogletree Deakins has launched an innovative new product that will help employers quickly and conveniently generate arbitration agreements with class action waivers.

“Ogletree Deakins DIY Arbitration Agreements is a simple, straightforward tool that guides users through a series of questions and then, based on their answers, automatically generates an arbitration agreement tailored to their business needs.

“Our experienced team of attorneys—veterans in the arbitration arena—has developed this tool to help our clients take advantage of today’s Supreme Court ruling in an extremely cost-efficient manner.”

Note the following:

  1. Time to prepare an agreement: “Mere minutes”.
  2. How the agreement is customized to situations: ” … Automates the customization process, allowing clients to tailor the agreement to their business needs simply by answering a few questions.”
  3. Its purpose is to control corporate legal costs: “Our team of attorneys developed this tool to help clients meet their goals in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Full disclosure. I haven’t had access to the Ogletree Deakins’ DIY Arbitration Agreements software firsthand.

Subject to that caveat, however, I see this software as exactly the sort of labor-saving and accuracy-enhancing automation that the legal industry is well positioned to implement.

It appears to combine nuanced expertise with an easy-to-follow Q & A process that enables a flat fee.

Nuanced expertise because the software’s designer — Ogletree Deakins — handled the appeal on the first appellate court decision to refuse to apply the NLRB’s earlier decision — the one sparking the litigation leading to this week’s Epic decision in the U.S. Supreme Court after scores of cases in the lower courts.

An easy-to-follow Q & A process that enables a flat fee (whose amount has not yet been announced as of this post) because the software is said to distill Ogletree Deakins’ technical, doctrinal learning into an accessible protocol.