We look at 9 of the best legal software tools that can make your law firm more competitive
With a vast array of legal software tools on the market and the rapidly growing army of AI-powered legal software tools advancing upon like something from Space Hunting, if you’ve ever played it, the challenge for law firm managers and partners is to determine what best suits their needs.
The growth of AI has continued as we have reported for some year here but software growth only gets better and bigger in terms of what it can do.
The COVID pandemic has spurred the growth of legal tech developments in the legal profession, which has also helped spur the growth of co-operation between academic institutions and other organizations that focus on the developments in these areas. Even people like Mark Cuban and Kobe Bryant are investing in legal software developments.
And many law firms are jumping into the legal tech arena with their own initiatives including Slaughter & May with their Collaborate program, Orrick with their venture fund, and Baker & McKenzie with their legal ‘disrupter’ move.
And the first, obvious question, is to understand exactly what you’re looking for and what the requirements of your law practice actually are.
So what do you need to look to get first to consider the types of legal software that best suit your firm?
And how do you know which is best of two software tools that do about the same task(s)?
Do you look at and seriously consider free legal software?
There are some key areas to consider such as practice management, document management, litigation support and others.
Legal Software Value Proposition
Most legal software clients are looking at their law firm efficiencies and how the software tools they’re buying will increase their profitability, but they also want value for money and good support from their software provider.
But before considering the cost-value proposition in the practice management software or other tools your firm is looking to buy, consider also the key factors that will affect how effective the law firm software is going to be, including –
>> The ‘feature rich’ software that means the fee-earners and time keepers have to get up to speed while still hitting their billable hours;
>> lengthy onboarding sessions and training;
>> look at the 80/20 rule and ensure that you’re getting 80 per cent of the benefits from the legal software tools from just 20 per cent of the ‘features’ that are provided in the tools.
Remember that you don’t want your new software to overly complicate your law practice management, billing, document management or anything else that requires efficiencies from your firm.
Nor do you want the software to decrease the ROI you’re generating from the firm.
The software needs to permit implementation without unnecessary confusion and complication, and without a lengthy transitional process that will impact upon the firm’s productivity and profitabilty.
We’ve listed 9 of the best legal software options out there for 2021 and will be diving deeper into the different sectors with more in-depth reviews of what they provide.
But right now, let’s look at some of the software leaders and what they can do for your law firm.
A. Practice Management Software
1. Top Pick – Litify
Litify is a top tool for those seeking to run their firm from a single location, letting you integrate the tools you need like matter and document management, client communication and resporting, among others.
Built on Salesforce, it is a secure platform and well suited to both mid-sized and larger law firms, but also perfect for general practice, plaintiff and NGO and government agencies also.
Litify provides full CRM, billing and invoicing, document management and case management tools providing a full array of practice management services and functionality that is tried and tested by many law firms.
2. Top Alternative – Clio
Clio is ideal for the solo practice and smaller firm. Operating as a cloud-based legal practice management solution suitable for small to large law firms it lets you track important deadlines, manage client cases and documents, bill clients, and accept payments.
The dashboard provides info on billable hour targets and goals and and tracks performance while Clio Payments allows lawyers to receive payments directly into a client’s trust or an operating account.
B. Document Management Software
3. Top Pick – Conga Composer
An excellent document generation and management tool that will create processes to connect the various parts of your law practice. The software creates an accurate and efficient information flow with document templates, workflows, a wizard-based document creation tool and a collaboration and sharing component.
The ability to both create the documents and create processes around them for ready use and sharing is a major advantage for the software with its simple functionality.
The documents are kept safe in a cloud repository.
4 & 5. Top Alternatives: Google Drive and Dropbox
Google Drive and Dropbox are the familiar faces that most firms already know about and look to first for document management. If your document management needs are small, they can definitely cover the basics and do the trick.
But the more detailed your document requirements become (think advanced document templates, complete control over user access or connecting folders to specific matters)—the more difficult it becomes to rely solely on the big box tools.
C. Accounting and Billing Software
Accounting and billing software has been around for a long time now but remain key legaltech tools for law firms, permitting not only billing but also tracking billable time and managing the disbursements, costs and expenses that arise.
- Manage all the financials and accounting for your law firm in one place rather than over a number of spreadsheets
- Permits the integration of all billing information with your law firm’s practice management software
- Keeps track of billable hours and all law firm invoicing via one tool and center
- Manages the costs, receipts and expense reports for your entire law firm.
6. Top Pick: Smokeball
Smokeball is a cloud-based legal practice software that automatically records time and has been able to lift overall law firm productivity by as much as 30 per cent or more.
Having both Word and Outlook integration and over 17,000 automated forms, Smokeball provides a powerful billing and management software package for lawyers.
7. Top Alternative: TimeSolv
TimeSolv is not new software having been around since 1999, but it has continued to help lawyers and others with their billing and developed a robust, intuitive program that has seen billing of over $5 billion since its founding.
D. Best Case Management Software
8. Top Pick: MyCase
MyCase providews comprehensive case management software solutions for law firms, handling everything from case management through to calendaring, trust accounting, leads management, docketing and on boarding.
The software permits the creation of client portals so that clients can be properly communicated with to share documents and notes, which is particularly useful in litigation support. Integration with Dropbox has also been useful for file storage and file sharing and keeping everything in a single location is more helpful for accurate billing.
9. Top Alternative: PracticePanther
Simple but effective and efficient software that has continued to grow in popularity with small and medium law firms in particular, but increasingly by larger law firms too. PracticePanther is offered as a cloud-based solution and is both Mac and PC compatible. as well as offering mobile apps for iOS and Android users.
Key features include case management, contact management, document management, calendaring and docketing, time tracking, billing and invoicing, trust accounting, CRM and payment processing. The software provides users access to task and event workflows, credit card processing, notifications and chats and client portals.
Choosing the best legal software is always a balancing act, but as artificial intelligence software continues to advance rapidly law firms need to be aware of what the alternatives are.
The legal software that continues to evolve will often involve ‘older’ companies in this space that have continued to adapt and develop, along with the newcomers that emerge onto the LegalTech scene with promises of law firm management magic.
Test, check, review and take a hard view on what the tools do and what your firm actually requires before committing to what you think is the ‘best legal software’ out there.
The Legal Software Future – 2022 and Beyond
The legal software trends continue to change and develop and 2022 will exemplify that as things evolve post-pandemic.
There will be greater workflow automation, for instance.
According to Deloitte, 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 2036.
That’s a lot of automation and it will be seen with legal case management software that will automate processes and make complicated legal processes easier to run and operate.
So too with client communications, document management and the rule-based logic that will be increasingly applied to make law firms more efficient if they properly deploy the legal software tools that are available.