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Join us as we explore the broad topic of legal automation software by covering everything from what it does to how it can be put to use in everyday business operations. You'll quickly discover that few solutions are made the same - there are many different types of legal software available today. Not only that, but what makes something the 'best law firm software' isn't the same for everyone. Breaking down fundamentals, features, and costs, this article seeks to answer any and every question you may have when researching legal automation solutions. Let's jump in.
Why Is Legal Software Important?
Before getting into specific software programs, it's worth taking a moment to highlight why this topic is so relevant in the first place. People talk about the importance of productivity a lot, both in the legal field and in other business sectors. Yet few see it as anything more than an intangible goal or buzzword - something that has the potential to drastically shape an organization's success when fully understood and adopted the right way.
At its core, greater productivity can directly lead to greater profitability. That's because it has the power to reduce costs while increasing revenue. For example, using automated document management systems and workflow tools allows companies to optimize their processes so that they are completed in less time. This ultimately results in more work being done with fewer resources and increased efficiency.
Increased efficiency lends itself to better customer service as well. When employees are able to spend less time on mundane tasks, they have more time and energy for high-value tasks like addressing client requests or providing helpful advice. This leads to higher levels of loyalty from customers who see their needs being addressed in an efficient and timely manner.
What Do Lawyers Use the Most?
With its value laid out as it has been above, most lawyers would agree that working to enhance workflow productivity is in their best interest on both a personal and business level. But, of course, the right tools must be in place to help them do so.
Outside of specialized legal software programs, which we'll get into later, here are the most-used and all-around best tools for lawyers looking to increase their daily productivity:
Time Tracking Tools
A key part of enhancing productivity is understanding how your time is being spent and where it can be better managed. Tools like Toggl, Clockify, and TimeCamp help users track their work hours in real time and identify any time sinks or bottlenecks that might be slowing down progress. Time-tracking software can be further leveraged as a point of reference for billing and can help lawyers keep more accurate records of their daily work.
Sometimes, the most effective way to increase workflow efficiency is by simply remembering what needs to be done in the first place. And that's where to-do list apps like Todoist, Things 3, and Remember the Milk come in. These programs allow lawyers to organize their tasks into lists and categories while also setting deadlines for when they need to be completed.
Task Management Apps
Task management software like Trello and Asana goes beyond the confines of a simple to-do list by enabling busy professionals to organize, prioritize, and assign different tasks to themselves or other team members within an organization.
Cloud Storage Services
Gone are the days of carrying around large folders of documents and papers—cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive provide a secure hub for organizing and sharing documents, photos, videos, audio files, and more.
Keeping track of important dates and commitments can be difficult without a proper calendar app. Google Calendar and Outlook are two of the most popular calendar apps for lawyers, but there are plenty more out there depending on your needs. These tools are a considerable upgrade from paper planners, allowing users to set reminders and sync their calendars with other devices.
Document Management Platforms
Lawyers often have to store and manage a number of different documents, both in digital and physical form. Tools like eFileCabinet, DocuSign, Filecenter, and Adobe Acrobat make it easy to store, share, and organize documents without the need for a physical filing cabinet.
Manual processes in law offices can be tedious and time-consuming. Automation platforms like Zapier and IFTTT let you create simple “if-then” statements so that certain tasks are automatically completed when a certain trigger takes place. This can save a lot of time when it comes to mundane or repetitive tasks such as sending out emails or creating reports.
What Do Law Firms Use for CRM?
Lawyers have a few different tools at their disposal when it comes to customer relationship management. Some choose to go about things the old-fashioned way by employing staff to register, book, manage, and maintain client records on paper. Others are a bit more forward-thinking, relying on digital CRM platforms like Salesforce or HubSpot for the job.
But the most productive of them all use CRM tools that have been specially created for the legal field; legaltech, as it's called, takes the prospective benefits of traditional CRM tools and offers them in a more streamlined, efficient package for law firms.
What Is a Legaltech Company?
'Legaltech' is a term used to refer to technologies and vendors that specialize in legal industry-oriented software systems. Legal software companies such as Clio, MyCase, FileVine, and many more have designed solutions that allow lawyers to track case progress, monitor client relationships, and store data securely with encryption technology from a single interface. Being made for the industry, legaltech products go beyond the value offered by broad-brushed CRM solutions by speaking to the specific needs of everyday legal professionals.
Legaltech aims to upgrade the stalled processes of traditional legal practices - which often still rely heavily on manual labor and paper filing - with self-managed technology. Advancements in automation have made it possible to delegate many mundane tasks to computer programs capable of matching, if not exceeding the accuracy of a human administrator. Paired with the insights of industry experts, these solutions are instrumental in helping lawyers reduce workloads, increase efficiency, and work more cost-effectively for their clients.
What Is Legal Software?
Legal software is a relatively broad term that's generally used to reference any kind of systemized tool designed for use in the legal field. It can take on multiple forms - such as web-based platforms, downloaded apps, or even integrated hardware - and likewise be tailored to a firm’s specific needs. While features certainly differ from product to product, all share the common goal of facilitating the practice of law with technology.
What Does Legal Software Do?
At its core, legal software aims to simplify the complexities of the law. From document management systems to virtual courtrooms and even AI-powered task automation - it's all part of an ongoing effort to optimize operations in a traditionally laborious industry.
Here's a broad overview of the many different types of tasks a legal software tool might handle for a legal practice:
Legal software can be used to create, store, manage, and modify documents in a variety of formats. This includes contracts and other legal documents which may require frequent revisions or updates.
Billing and Invoicing
Legal software often includes tools for billing and invoicing clients. These can be used to track payments, generate client statements, process credit cards, and more.
Case management features allow legal teams to track cases from start to finish, ensuring everyone is on the same page with regard to deadlines, documents, communications, client data, and more.
Legal software can provide insights into a practice’s performance through analytics on case history, billing data, client management metrics, and other key indicators.
Legal software can provide access to research databases, allowing attorneys and other legal professionals to quickly find case law, statutes, regulations, and other pertinent information.
Collaboration features enable lawyers and their teams to work together on cases, sharing information and documents as necessary. This can include document versioning, task management tools, chat capabilities, and more.
Types of Legal Software
After reading the above, you could reasonably say that legal software is created to serve one or more of three purposes - process automation, business management, and research. Not all law firms need help in every capacity, making the ability to differentiate products by type absolutely critical. See the definitions and benefits of each type below.
Legal Automation Software
This software is designed to automate non-strategic, repetitive tasks in the legal industry such as calendaring and document drafting. Legal automation software leverages Artificial Intelligence to automate workflows and increase efficiency. A common example would be “fillable” forms which automatically populate fields with relevant data. While tools like Zapier may be able to offer similar capabilities, law firm-specific solutions come with built-in industry knowledge and experience.
Using legal automation software can be a great way to speed up processes and get work done with fewer errors. It can help lawyers save money too, as time savings often equate to less use of resources. Automated processes also often require less manual review than traditional methods, which can cut down on the number of attorneys needed to do a task.
Legal Management Software
Business management software helps law firms handle the accounts, contracts, and other administrative tasks that come with running a successful practice. This product category is quite expansive and includes things like client relationship management (CRM) solutions, time and billing tools, practice management platforms, and case/matter management systems.
But what exactly does legal practice management software do? The right legal management software can help a law firm streamline its operations and workflows, as well as reduce errors. It can also make it easier to manage client relationships, store documents in an organized manner, and access data across multiple offices.
Tools like Salesforce and HubSpot have the ability to do many of these things, although not to the same degree of sophistication as more specifically tailored legal software.
What is Legal Billing Software?
Legal billing software falls under the same umbrella as legal management software, but it’s worth differentiating as some products exist to fulfill finance needs only. Billing platforms allow business administrators to track, invoice, and receive payments.
Legal Research Software
Legal research software is exactly what it sounds like - software built for the purpose of legal research. The product concept has revolutionized the way law firms operate by providing them with an easy and efficient way to find relevant information regarding their cases.At its core, legal research software allows lawyers to access a variety of sources for finding and analyzing applicable law. This includes court opinions, statutes, regulations, treatises, and secondary sources such as law review articles or legal blogs. Unlike a Google Search, which can return results that are not relevant or up-to-date, legal research software is specifically designed to produce the most accurate and comprehensive results. It virtually eliminates the inefficiencies of manual research, such as searching multiple databases or spending hours digging through legal documents.
Key Features of Legal Software
The features a legal software system offers will depend on where it falls on the above-outlined spectrum of tool types. Those made for business-oriented tasks will include things like automated document generation, legal analytics, and intelligent case management, while those designed for legal research will have a variety of search tools and databases.
With that being said, there are some generic features that can make any product better. These include:
An Easy-to-Use Interface
Usability is paramount to unlocking the value of any software. Lawyers in particular are often busy and don't have the time or energy to weather the learning curve associated with unnecessarily complex tools. The same goes for clients - if the platform is to be used by them directly then it should have an intuitive interface that enables users to quickly onboard and get the most out of its features. Client portals and dashboards can be especially helpful here.
The common productivity tools we mentioned earlier represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wealth of external services that lawyers use today. Proper legal software is built with this in mind and should be able to integrate with a variety of applications as well as other legal software already in use by the client. This is important not just for convenience, but also to ensure that data from different sources can be quickly consolidated and analyzed when needed.
Legal software isn't a one-size-fits-all thing. Every organization has its own unique needs and customizations, meaning platforms need to share the key feature of being flexible enough to accommodate a variety of use cases.
Client portals streamline communication between lawyers and clients by providing a secure virtual space where they can easily exchange documents, messages, and other data. This improves efficiency by eliminating the need for paper documents as well as providing a secure way to store confidential data. Although it's not standard in legal software, the ability to create and manage custom client portals is a great bonus feature that can significantly improve communication between lawyers and clients.
How Much Does Legal Software Cost?
The cost of legal software is mainly determined by the way it's charged: on a one-time or subscription basis. A sizable majority of legal software companies use a Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, model. This is different from the way some veteran computer users may be used to paying for tools, where a single upfront fee covers the total cost. SaaS solutions levy ongoing rates that, although cheaper on a monthly basis, can add up over time.
For example, most legaltech solutions on the market today require users to pay a monthly subscription fee. This is to cover the cost of access and ongoing usage—as opposed to simply owning the license outright, with no additional costs until it needs updating or replacing.
Legal software list pricing is also often based on user tiers, where each new layer of access increases the cost. For instance, a single lawyer might pay one rate while an entire law firm will have to shell out more. Other price points are determined by the number of documents a firm needs to store, as well as the specific features and support levels included in each product package.
The underlying cost of legal software can be affected by potential discounts or special offers as well. Companies sometimes offer discounts for purchasing in bulk or signing a multi-year agreement, while others have special pricing on certain products and sales at different points in the year.
Sophistication is another big factor to keep in mind. The saying 'you get what you pay for' certainly holds true in software, as there exists a wide range of possibilities for what a system might offer in terms of features and capabilities.
A more advanced software program will obviously be harder to build and therefore will come with a higher price tag. At the same time, more expensive solutions tend to offer the best in automation, predictive search algorithms, and other advanced features that make the cost well worth it in terms of time saved and accuracy achieved.
The best way to determine the exact cost of legal software is to contact the product vendors and ask for quotes. The cost of legal software can vary widely depending on the provider and features offered. Some companies offer basic legal software packages at a low cost, while others may charge higher rates for more advanced solutions.
Finding the Best Law Firm Software for Your Needs
By now, it should be more than clear that productivity tools for lawyers are never one and the same. There's something out there for everyone, which means that what works for one lawyer may not necessarily work for another. The best legal software for small firms, for instance, likely wouldn't be the same as what's best for larger firms.
That being said, there are some common things that lawyers can take into account when shopping around for the right law firm software solution.
Some of these include:
All of the best tools for lawyers have at least one, non-compromisable thing in common: great customer service. It's essential for any software product, whether specific to an industry or not. Business organizations of all kinds need assurance that the vendor they're working with will be there both during good times and bad. Because no matter how much money you put into building or properly adopting new technology, things are always bound to go wrong. Maybe it's a feature or functionality that needs to be tweaked, or maybe it's an error that needs to be remedied. Whatever the problem is, it must be addressed quickly and efficiently so as not to interrupt the organization's workflow and productivity. That's what needs to be built, here.
While one might assume that the more features a platform has, the better an investment it will turn out to be, it's important to remember that the best law firm software is software that does its job well. Wide-ranging capabilities are great, but never worthwhile if at the expense of an individual task's effectiveness.
Always ask the following questions:
• How easy is it to use the software?
• Is everything well integrated and efficient?
• Does it make sense for the particular law firm's needs, or is it overcomplicated for what is necessary?
The security of an organization’s data is paramount. Law firms should be especially mindful of the sensitivity and confidentiality that their systems must maintain for clients, staff members, and other stakeholders. When shopping for law firm software, make sure to inquire about the security protocols and certifications held by the vendor. Stringent authentication and authorization procedures are good signs that they take the integrity of your business operations seriously.
Is Clio More Than Just Case Management Software?
Clio is indeed more than just case management software. While its core functionality revolves around case and practice management, Clio offers a comprehensive suite of tools designed to streamline various aspects of law firm operations. It includes features such as time tracking, billing, document management, and client communication, making it a versatile solution for legal professionals.
However, the legal tech landscape is diverse, and there are other innovative options to consider. In this context, Case Status emerges as a noteworthy recommendation. If you're on the lookout for the best law firm management software, Case Status stands out with its innovative and feature-packed platform tailored to meet the evolving needs of twenty-first-century lawyers. Whether you're part of a large law firm or a smaller practice, Case Status offers a user-friendly solution adaptable to various legal specialties. Don't miss the opportunity to enhance the efficiency and success of your practice—reach out today to discover how Case Status can revolutionize your legal operations!