What is legal technology?
Legal technology, like legal practice management software, is technology designed to specifically increase the productivity of law firms. The best legal tech streamlines attorney workflows with a centralized database that includes flexible searching, calendaring, accounting, task tracking, and much more. Excitement about technology-led legal transformation is also coupled with confusion, mostly because today’s legal technology solutions’ capabilities are vast. They’re designed to address inefficiencies in nearly every process and task imaginable. From software created to automate specific activities like time and billing, to robust legal practice management platforms that combine multiple solutions, the pool of options can be overwhelming to navigate.
When asked about evaluating new investments in technology or innovation, 72% of legal technology decision makers said that the primary driver of their decision is “optimizing attorney performance.”
Choosing your legal technology
Attorneys often work within several apps or programs at the same time to stay on top of client work. To create efficiency and increase profitable law firms, you’ll need to choose the right tools to fit your firm’s specific requirements.
Comprehensive legal practice management software solutions
Ideally, you’ll want to invest in a comprehensive system that can handle multiple legal technology capabilities. This type of tech is called legal practice management software. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and predictive analytics, legal practice management software combines all the capabilities below into a single, powerful platform. It’s designed to automate law firms from the bottom up — giving attorneys back additional time to invest in client strategy and acquisition.
Top 3 legal tech essentials for managing your firm
Understanding the different types of legal technology will help you make a more educated decision on which solutions best fit your firm’s needs and how to best automate and maximize resources. Technology that creates difficulties rather than eliminating it just isn’t useful. It should help simplify challenges worth solving, which will inspire adoption.
Legal technology comes in many forms and can support virtually every aspect of running a successful law practice. Remember, it’s about making things easier.
Regardless of how your firm is structured, legal time, billing, and accounting capabilities are a necessity to ensure clients are being billed accurately and to help firms avoid costly delays. Time-consuming processes like managing timesheets, expense reports, templates, tax preparation, and electronic signatures are just a few of the must-have features that help you to better manage your law firm’s finances.
The beauty of most legal time, billing, and accounting software are that it seamlessly integrates with secure online payment processing software. The old-school standard of mailing an invoice, requesting payment by check, waiting for payment, is, sadly, still the norm for lawyers. Online payment technology makes invoicing easier than ever and allows firms to take multiple payment options like credit cards, e-Checks, and money from Trust & Operating Accounts.
A significant part of running a law firm is the ability to quickly accept new business and onboard clients. Legal case management software is meant to simplify the entire process while rapidly identifying potential risks — including client intake, communication, and litigation support, as well as document organization. It provides lawyers with all the capabilities needed to take a case from processing to settlement/judgment and keeps everything tied to a single case record.
There are many repetitive and tedious tasks associated with running a firm, most of which have nothing to do with actual case management. Legal workflow automation removes the burden of executing manual processes and tasks, while reducing risk — allowing attorneys to reclaim time to focus more on understanding case law and developing strategic initiatives.
The legal profession requires ingenuity and the ability to focus on complex ideas. Therefore, tasks large or small that hinder or exhaust your mental bandwidth are certainly targets for automation.
Cloud and communication technology that supports growth
Cloud-based practice management software enables attorneys to track, manage, and collaborate with their client information anytime, anywhere, from any browser. More specifically, this means the firm will have instant access to case work, the status of projects, phone calls, time entries, and notes — all from a single, secure, web-based application. Thus streamline day-today operations and work regardless of whether attorneys are working in a firm’s physical office or from a remote location. Firms can sever ties with both their desktop and single server for access to data, while also unlocking a host of benefits and operational efficiencies with the adoption of cloud technology.
Cloud storage and hosting & data security and compliance
Cloud storage and hosting solutions remove the burden of IT management and help maximize the firm’s performance. The best hosting environments use physical and logical security to stay ahead of the latest compliance standards and cybersecurity threats while offering scalable storage options as the firm grows.
Practice management vendors have made great strides in providing advanced security and compliance capabilities within their cloud solutions. This makes cloud technology adoption a much more viable option for law firms who have been avoiding digitizing in the past.
Beyond basic drafting, document generation makes up a large part of most law practices. Every single lawyer prepares, generates, and manually assembles a mountain of documents regularly. Hopefully, the firm has already begun to build a document database for the practice – documents that are used repeatedly. These might include letters to opposing counsel, intake forms, contracts, estate planning documents, etc. Document automation software drastically reduces the effort required by automatically pulling information from the customer and content management platform into editable templates. Attorneys can quickly generate error-free pleadings, matter types, corporate letters, forms, and more with just one click. Never re-type an address or be forced to copy/paste again.
Clients are embracing technology, and more firms turn to client portals to improve efficiency and profitability while creating service differentiation. Though self-service itself isn’t a new concept, technology providers and the legal sector are embracing digital communication capabilities.
By utilizing technology that empowers your clients with easy access to their documents, billing, appointments, and more – transparency is created. Providers are creating secure client portals to share and simplify tasks – providing immediate benefits for firms, mainly in time saved, while clients can easily manage other tasks themselves.
How to prioritize your firm’s digital transformation
Automation and productivity go hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to running a law firm
It’s a matter of deciding where to begin. Every law firm is unique; different practice areas have distinct regulations, some firms have five attorneys, others have fifty. Before you map out your legal technology plan, consider your attorney’s needs, client’s needs, and firm’s needs as a whole. Doing the following will also make sure you’re prioritizing the right tech to invest in first.
Set clear goals for what your firm’s digital transformation should accomplish
Are you looking to increase your number of billable hours? Improve virtual communication and collaboration in your remote firm? Think about what the ROI on your technology investment looks like.
Conduct a needs assessment to identify gaps between existing and desired technology
Don’t skip this step! This will help you determine everything you need and want from your technology solution(s). Discuss and identify your pain-points and bottlenecks. Review where time is being spent and determine what processes can be automated.
Ensure you have access to the proper hardware needed
Take stock of what hardware you have. Is everyone equipped with the computers, laptops, and/or tablets they need to run the legal technology you choose? This includes making sure they have the proper cybersecurity software installed on their devices.
Don’t neglect creating a data migration plan
Data migration, especially for law firms, is often a concern because of the typical time and effort required. Fortunately, working with an experienced legal cloud solutions provider is one of the best ways to painlessly navigate the data migration process. They can help minimize firm disruption and maintain data quality in the transition to a new practice management system.
How is legal technology priced
Reviewing any technology can be overwhelming. There are dozens of options, each offering similar, but potentially very different features.
When purchasing technology for your legal practice, it’s important to understand your organizational needs as described above, and how the solution will help meet those requirements.
Cloud-based legal practice management software is typically priced on a per-lawyer, per-month basis, with systems starting around $40 – $70 per user, per month. Some vendors offer discounts based on terms.
On-premise software, may be available and is most often priced based on the number of perpetual licenses required. These costs are usually paid upfront for the right to use their software in perpetuity.
Whether the technology is based on subscription pricing or not, many will offer packages with varying levels of functionality. As such, it is important to note that the pricing is usually higher, with the increase in features and function offered it is important to ask pointed questions.
The training & adoption of legal technology
Once your firm invests time and money into new legal technology, make sure your attorneys understand how to use it. While this may not be true for younger, more agile firms — some lawyers can be resistant to adopting new technology. Providing clear, concise, and ongoing training, in various formats, will help to speed up the adoption process. It also helps to be forthcoming from the start of the technology implementation. Explain why the firm is investing in legal tech and how it will make their day-to-day more efficient. If you collected feedback during the needs assessment, you can use that to highlight what to emphasize in your communication efforts.
Regardless of the legal technology you decide on, keep in mind that its implementation must remove obstacles (not replace them). Establish clear goals; be sure that your digital transformation objective(s) are clear, and support your workflows to allow offloading lower value work without overlooking compliance, information security, and regulatory requirements. Embracing legal technology this way will enable your attorneys to do what they do best, providing legal advice, consultations, and advocating for your clients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Legal technology includes technologies specifically developed to provide lawyers of all practice areas with the services needs to manage, organize, and grow their firm.
The most common types of technology that law firms use are time and billing software, case management software, calendaring software, and accounting software. However, the most successful firms use a comprehensive legal practice management system that combines all the capabilities above (and more) to manage their day-to-day operations.
Legal technology is important for law firms to embrace because it directly impacts productivity and efficiency. It enables firms to automate monotonous, manual tasks, creating more opportunities for billable hours that can be dedicated to developing client strategy.
Legal professionals use technology in many ways. The most common include managing their entire practice, communicating and collaborating with staff and clients and working on the go, outside the office.