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May the RPA Force Be With You

By Gordon Moffat posted 10-25-2022 10:27


Please enjoy this blog posted on behalf of the author, Emily McIntosh, D.Eng., Senior Manager | Forensics, Ernst & Young, LLP.

A quick internet search will return pages of results with impressive statistics about how many organizations have either successfully deployed RPA solutions or are planning to do so. Yet, most of us have encountered “bots” in our personal lives through only (sometimes painful) chat bots. Since the main benefits of automation include cost and time savings, you would expect to see more implementations in the legal industry, where we constantly feel the pressure to “do more with less.” In this blog post, we will discuss how to grow an RPA program using four distinct strategies.

Before we jump into building an RPA program, let’s take a step back and define RPA and its benefits. RPA stands for robotic process automation and holds many definitions depending on the source. For the purposes of this blog post, we will define RPA to be automated processes that are intended to mimic human actions through bots.  RPA is unique from other automated solutions because, instead of requiring advanced back-end integrations, bots are designed to interact with the user interface of applications, including many of the legacy systems that are prevalent in the legal industry. Benefits can be summarized as better, cheaper and faster:

  • Better – Improvement in quality and consistency by reducing human errors
  • Cheaper – Reduction in labor costs and less expensive than back-end integrations
  • Faster – Reduction in human time for both task execution and time spent monitoring progress

While cost savings may be the key for leadership buy-in on building a program, an improved employee experience is the key to maintaining momentum.  Emerging RPA programs can benefit from the following strategies:

Automate a painful process first to gain champions

The best candidates for automation are the processes that are repetitive and manual in nature, which are often the most draining for employees. While beginning an RPA program, identify a task that will not only save the organization money, but will also improve the employee experience by relieving an administrative burden. For example, one of the first automations at our firm was to refresh thousands of search term reports each month based on updated privilege terms. By removing painful tasks such as this one, the resources who become freed up for more enriching tasks can become champions for RPA.

Leverage existing resources

For better or worse, RPA platforms are not built specifically for the legal industry and are therefore often adopted at a firmwide level. Before exploring applications to be owned by the legal or compliance department, organizations should review whether any platforms are already in use in other departments. If there aren’t any, consider partnering with other departments – especially sales. Wondering how to sell a sales department? RPA could easily gain insights through LinkedIn to improve the CRM process.

Consider elimination before automation

Too many organizations waste time automating bad processes. Before diving straight into RPA development, it is critical to first evaluate processes and see whether there are any opportunities for eliminating steps prior to automation. It is always better to eliminate a step than to automate it.

Nurture a culture of innovation

Finally, build a culture that rewards innovation. RPA platforms are built so that nontechnical users can relatively easily build their own bots, and many have trial programs that allow users to experiment. We have found that, when users can create and benefit from their own design, it reduces the burden of intensive change management. One firm even created a bonus pool that rewarded employees for not only building bots, but also for how many co-workers could download and use their solutions. Part of an innovative culture is a focus on continuous improvement, and automation should become a part of the healthy lifestyle – not simply a fad diet.


The views expressed by the author are her own and not necessarily those of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.