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Automate, Automate, Automate! (Like Marsha, Marsha, Marsha. Brady Bunch? Anyone? Sigh... Part 1

By Brian Balistreri posted 01-13-2023 16:46


***Please enjoy this blog posted on behalf of the author, Stephanie Clerkin, Director of Litigation Support, Korein Tillery, LLC.

Automation can be a powerful tool for streamlining processes, saving time, and increasing efficiency. Automation can also reduce the risk of human error, leading to more accurate and consistent results. However, it is important to approach automation with care, as there are also potential dangers to consider.

Given I am a department of one, I have no choice but to turn to automation in order to stay on top of my workload. As a starting point, I automate as many repetitive, routine, or mundane tasks as possible. I automate tasks that are simple, predictable, and do not require a lot of decision-making and automate using technology already at my disposal like Excel and Adobe Pro. There are many different tools and technologies available for automating processes and tasks, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and goals.

Some of the more mundane, yet still important tasks, I have automated include:

  • Changing all formatting in Excel to my (or the case team’s) desired format with one click
  • Bulk file renaming using Excel
  • Creating lists of documents received in a folder using Excel
  • Scrubbing specific PDF metadata in multiple PDFs at once using Adobe Actions
  • Adding/removing confidential watermarks using Adobe Actions
  • Adding an exhibit cover sheet to the first page of multiple PDFs using Adobe Actions

I similarly automate processes and tasks that are time-consuming or prone to errors. This is where automation can have the greatest impact but is also more challenging to implement. Once you have identified what task you want to automate, you can begin to research and experiment with different tools and technologies to see which ones are most effective.  What needs to be automated may change by project or case so this is an ever-evolving process.  

Some of the biggest time saving processes I have created include:

  • Using a batch file to combine multiple PDFs into one large PDF based on filenames
  • Using a batch file to auto create folders and move documents into folders based on the filename
  • Creating an Excel macro that allowed me to highlight partial cell contents (e.g. used to highlight attorney names in privilege logs received)
  • Finding a way to automate creating trial exhibits when the PDF pages needed for exhibit purposes were imbedded in thousand-page PDFs (shout out to Sean O’Shea’s Litigation Support Tip of the Night blog for getting me on the right path[1])

While automation can bring many benefits, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers as well. While testing new automation techniques, it is crucial to test on a copy of the data rather than the original as some processes will change or delete original data.  The two other biggest dangers I encounter when automating include inaccurate results and troubleshooting errors.

Through my own experiences with automation, I have learned:

  • Test, test, test
  • If possible, always make a temporary backup copy of the data you are working with
  • Approach automation with a clear understanding of your goals
  • Carefully evaluate potential pros and cons of automation
  • Be open to learning from both the successes and failures of automation
  • Not everything can or should be automated
  • QC cannot be skipped regardless of how often you use the automated process
  • The more I automate, the more my interest in advanced automation increases

In summary, automation has many benefits, including increased efficiency, reduced risk of human error, and cost savings. However, it is important to carefully consider all of the potential pros and cons of each process you are automating. By carefully planning and implementing automation solutions and continuously reviewing and adjusting them, you can realize the full potential of automation and drive success.


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