Stop scheduling meetings yourself!

If you’re still scheduling meetings yourself, even internal ones, stop. You’re probably throwing away $20,000 per year – or more.

Matching up available dates, writing an email and negotiating a time with a client or colleague is a manual and time-consuming exercise. For a single meeting, 5 minutes to complete this process is a conservative estimate.

Some readers will exclaim their secretaries do this for them. My bet is the back-and-forth between fee earner and secretary takes an identical amount of time, if not longer, and that doesn’t even consider the time your secretary then spends liaising with the client or colleague.

These meetings add up

By the time you’ve scheduled 12 meetings, you’ve already spent a billable hour of time on purely administrative work. A person having 2 meetings per day over the course of a working year (say, 48 weeks, 5 days per week) might schedule 480 meetings. That’s potentially 40 billable hours lost to administrative time. That’s $20,000 at a charge-out rate of $500 per hour.

Think about your meetings. Do they take longer to organise than 5 minutes? Do you have more than 2 meetings per day? Is your hourly charge-out rate higher than $500? Each of these variables result in the actual cost changing exponentially. Doubling each of the assumptions (10 minutes per meeting, 4 meetings per day and $1,000 per hour) results in lost revenue of $160,000.

And that’s for one lawyer.

I charge clients for that time!

But what if your competitors stopped charging for that time?

Until recently, artificially intelligent personal assistants (such as Siri, Google Now, Amazon Echo or Cortana) haven’t had a significant impact in professional services contexts. This is changing rapidly, with a new generation of artificially intelligent personal assistants, which focus instead on being a comprehensive solution for a single administrative task.

Adopters of these technologies can save their clients that administrative time – resulting in a more efficiently run matter – and generating revenue from the saved time elsewhere. There’s a significant competitive advantage up for grabs.

In this article, we focus on some of the latest innovations – Amy and Andrew by x.ai, Julie Desk, Clara and Kono – and demonstrate how they can enable significant time savings for lawyers and secretaries alike.

The artificially intelligent personal assistants

1.  x.ai

Having personally scheduled 1019 meetings in a year (and rescheduling 672 of them), founder Dennis Mortensen was driven to create x.ai. Formed in 2014, x.ai offers Amy and Andrew – artificially intelligent personal assistants who can schedule meetings for you, and reschedule them if necessary. Significantly, there’s no app or download required. Just copy Amy or Andrew into the email chain and they’ll takeover – leaving you free to focus on other tasks.

x.ai’s digital assistants can organise meetings with up to 5 people at present, with each attendee being separately emailed to arrange a mutually convenient meeting time and location between the group. Once agreement is reached, calendar invitations are sent. Two follow-up emails are sent to meeting participants if no response is received. The total number of meetings being organised, and the number of outstanding acceptances, are tracked and reported. Email confirmations are sent on the day of any meeting scheduled more than 10 days in advance,

Your preferences can be entered (such as your preferred meeting place (like your office or nearby coffee shop), teleconference details and how much time to leave between back-to-back meetings. If set up correctly, Amy and Andrew can even works if you have multiple calendars, or arrange meetings from multiple separate email addresses. Significantly, if one of your attendees also uses x.ai, the meeting will be automatically scheduled.

2.  Julie Desk

While also email based, Julie Desk differentiates itself from x.ai by being 100% supervised by a human. This doesn’t appear to delay response times too significantly, with Julie Desk guaranteeing a response time within 2 hours – and an average response time of 20 minutes.

Further differentiating features are restaurant bookings through the website OpenTable (with an ability to make a booking for an earlier or later time and cancel or reschedule the reservation if desirable) and also extends to language support in French.

While more expensive than x.ai’s solution, claiming a time-saving of an hour per day means that Julie may be the solution for you. 

3.  Clara

While bettering Julie with a 1 hour response time, Clara's pricing may deter some customers. Although having additional features such as the use of ‘code words’ in email replies to signal meeting priority, the ability to begin scheduling meetings (‘time-dependent scheduling requests’) at a future time and complete RSVPs (assuming no more than a name or email is required), restaurant reservations through OpenTable and French language support is lost.

The very interesting explanation of how Clara works is definitely worth a read – the technology is nothing short of beautiful.

4.  Kono

Keep an eye on Kono. It originated in Korea.

Although their email-based personal scheduling assistant is still in beta, the list of features and an application programming interface for firm-specific solutions looks promising.

Could one of these solutions be for you?

These solutions offer lawyers and secretaries significant time saving opportunities. With ever-increasing budget pressure to do more with less, these solutions warrant serious consideration. In particular, in-house teams struggling to get funding for administrative support might find these latest alternatives invaluable additions.

Yet there are still a number of issues which will need to be worked through before you welcome your artificially intelligent team member.

While copying an assistant into an email chain offers a seamless user experience, whether this is appropriate given a lawyer’s professional duty of confidence is another matter. Ensuring the email chain is kept confidential may be an insurmountable challenge for some law firms – at present, these technologies send data outside your organisation and out of your control. Other issues relating to the transfer of data overseas, how your data is used and the possibility of coercive disclosure (such as to foreign law enforcement agencies) will be key implementation challenges for any law firm looking at capturing the serious efficiency gains on offer.

Do you think the next generation of intelligent personal assistant will change how you work?  Are you using an AI bot? What do you think?