Yearly Filings Got You Down? How Smart Lawyers Get Annual Maintenance Done in Less Time

5 min read

Annual maintenance can be daunting. But with some smart changes to your processes and an investment in AI-based tools, you can save time on annual filings and focus your resources on higher-value tasks.

Managing clients’ yearly filings can often be stressful and time-consuming, especially if you’re still exclusively using physical hard-copy records. The Government of Canada requires corporations’ annual returns to be filed within 60 days of the anniversary date, with no option to file prior to the anniversary. Missing a filing deadline can have serious consequences, up to and including forced dissolution of the company. That’s why, no matter how many files your firm manages and no matter how many staff you have, staying on top of your clients’ returns/reports and resolutions – and filing them by the respective incorporation anniversaries and fiscal year-end deadlines – is paramount for every law firm. 

Smart and responsible lawyers are well aware of these risks, which can hamper your firm’s growth. If, for instance, you know that your firm can only handle 300 annual filings per year, your corporate department’s recurring client base will always have a hard cap of 300 corporations. This cap puts a hard limit on your firm’s ability to generate revenue, which, in turn, limits your ability to grow and reach your business goals. Straining beyond your firm’s capacity may help you file more annual returns/reports, but you’ll likely find that your team will be overworked and less engaged, which could lead to mistakes.

So how do you grow your firm’s revenue without straining your team or cutting corners on your clients’ annual filings? Here are some of the ways that forward-thinking law firms are freeing up resources and room for growth by getting their annual maintenance work done in less time.

Digitize Client Records for Seamless Access

The COVID-19 pandemic forced law firms to start working remotely, and a good number of those firms have continued their remote work arrangements well into 2021. If you’re planning to remain a digital-first or hybrid law firm, (or even if you simply need to send documents out to clients), managing files using pen-and-paper systems will involve an endless cycle of scanning, signing, emailing, and printing documents.

This is the exact position that the corporate law department at RDM Lawyers of Abbotsford, B.C. found themselves in before they became an Appara user. RDM Lawyers told us that their method of using physical minute books was burdensome and frustrating. RDM’s corporate lawyers were spending too much time engaged in administrative work, which deprived them of the opportunity to do the legal work they found fulfilling. Using physical minute books also required RDM Lawyers to duplicate work, which hampered their productivity.

Since becoming an Appara user, RDM Lawyers has seen 2X to 4X more productivity, and the firm no longer needs to spend time following up on paper documents with clients or chasing signatures. You can learn more about how digitizing with Appara has helped RDM Lawyers manage the firm’s growth here.

Leverage Artificial Intelligence to Auto-Generate Documents

Annual maintenance often means filling out various forms with a mix of context-appropriate data and your client’s standard boilerplate language. Documents like dividend distribution compliance reports, shareholder resolutions, declarations, and other annually-filed legal documents involve pulling together data from various sources and formatting it into a set, standard document. And if you’re still filling out these documents by hand, you’re likely spending a lot of time double- and triple-checking dates, figures, spellings of names, and other bothersome details.

The problem with filling out these documents manually is that the human brain often struggles with dense documents and repetitive tasks. That’s why even the most skilled lawyers and paralegals will sometimes find manually drafting or completing these documents to be tiresome or time-consuming. The degree of focus and thought required to interpret these legal documents is taxing on the brain’s limited resources. Eventually, fatigue sets in, which can lead to decreased productivity or mistakes. Even if your clients’ annual maintenance is spaced out relatively well throughout the year, every firm and every lawyer has an upper limit regarding the number of files they can manage at any given time before burnout sets in.

But these administrative minutiae are the exact sorts of details that artificial intelligence excels at handling. AI software is predicated on the detection and execution of patterns. Once an AI spots a pattern, that AI can replicate it. Artificial intelligence doesn’t get tired, doesn’t take breaks, and doesn’t get lost in the complexities of dense legalese. That’s why an AI-powered records management and document generation solution can draft annual filings in a fraction of the time it would take an overworked attorney. 

Track Activity and Compliance in One Place

“Has the client signed it yet?”

The closer your firm is to the client’s annual return/report or resolution filing deadline, the more panic-inducing that question becomes. If your firm is still sending out packages in the mail or inviting clients on-site to sign papers in person, those pen-and-paper systems are likely creating a bottleneck in your business. Pen-and-paper methods come with a significant opportunity cost. Following up on hardcopy documents can be time-intensive and distracting; the more time your paralegals spend chasing down client signatures, the less time they have to pursue revenue-generating activities.

That’s why having a system for tracking document status in real time can help your firm work more efficiently, cut down on duplication of work, streamline your team’s communications, and more easily ensure client compliance. With a cloud-based records management system, your firm can maintain full awareness of your clients’ annual maintenance status at all times.

Annual corporate filings are a great source of recurring revenue for law firms. However, rapidly-growing firms can quickly get bogged down in a deluge of paperwork if they lack the staff or processes to handle a growing volume of work – especially if they’re still using pen-and-paper documents and inputting details manually. Now, though, AI-enabled cloud software is making it possible for lawyers and paralegals to automatically generate annual maintenance documents, instantly update minute books, collaborate with remote colleagues, and get client signatures in real time. By systematizing and automating these tasks, emerging software can help to productize annual maintenance – turning a time-consuming activity into a scalable revenue generator.

Is your law firm spending too much time on annual maintenance? Are corporate filing deadlines putting pressure on your team? 

Discover how one law firm averted a staffing shortage and now gets corporate tasks done in 75% less time with Appara.

Get the case study now!

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