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Legal software explained: The ultimate guide

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Legal software explained: The ultimate guide

What is legal software?
‘Legal software’ is a software platform specifically designed to address legal processes, like secure files, Case Management flow, or contract review. You can find many types of legal software on the market today, including consumer applications that enable individuals to handle legal processes like bankruptcy. There’s also a wide range of legal software devoted solely to law firms and their management like GetLEGAL Software.
This article focuses on the various solutions designed to address the needs of in-house counsel and legal operations teams. With the right legal software, you can work more efficiently, create the compliance infrastructure you need, and capitalize on new ways to generate value from data – all leading to better results for your function, if implemented correctly.
Who uses legal software?
The optimal software solution will connect company lawyers with business colleagues in procurement, sales, HR, and beyond to support a team-oriented approach to managing risk and accomplishing business goals. Today’s legal software must ensure the lines of communication stay open so you can continue to protect the company’s assets while adapting AI and automated solutions to serve core business objectives.
While it’s important that legal software is built with lawyers’ needs in mind – obviously – it’s also important that vendors recognize the fact that legal processes touch pretty much every team in a business. It must be user-friendly enough to be used by non-lawyers too.
Do I need legal software?
Do you have a clear understanding of your business needs? Set out problem statements for each issue. Collaborate with stakeholders across the organization to understand how they fulfill their roles. For standard processes, have them outline the exact workflows they follow, paying careful attention to the individual tasks they complete and the decisions they make along the way.
With these details clearly outlined, you can identify the specific must-have software features and capabilities that will solve your unique challenges. But without doing the hard work upfront to identify the precise problem you’re looking to solve, you’ll likely end up spending a lot of time and money on an implementation that will probably fail.
What are the categories of legal software?
Several categories of legal software address corporate legal department needs. The most commonly used solutions are listed below, with useful information on their users and benefits too.
  1. Legal spend & matter management
Legal departments use this software to manage legal spending, maintain an organized database of legal records, and report on legal department activities. Additional capabilities include matter intake, matter management, knowledge management, analytics, and billing.
Legal spend and matter management software benefits include:
  • Centralizes matter information for overall more effective management.
  • Supports easier collaboration with outside counsel.
  • Provides clarity on legal spending to enable more informed, data-backed decisions.
  1. eSignature
eSignature software creates a secure digital signature that enables signatories to sign documents electronically. The software also establishes an easily accessible audit trail of who signed a document and when.
eSignature software benefits include:
  • 24/7 online signature capabilities with dashboard tracking and notifications.
  • Reduces hardcopy printing and shipping costs.
  • Increases employee efficiency.
Adobe Sign: this solution lets users send, sign, manage, and store documents and forms with legal electronic signatures. Find out more about this solution here.
  1. eDiscovery
eDiscovery software is used to initiate legal holds and ensure the compliant and defensible preservation of records and metadata. AI-powered and automated features help users identify, cull, redact, review, and produce records in response to requests from internal and external investigators, subpoenas, opposing counsel, and others.
eDiscovery software users include:
  • Global enterprises that manage thousands of employees.
  • Government agencies that respond to frequent public records requests.
  • Law firms and legal service providers assist companies that outsource their eDiscovery needs.
  1. Legal knowhow & research
Legal know-how and research software provide specialized research tools and information databases to help lawyers study statutes, case laws, trial histories, and specific legal practice areas.
Legal know-how and research software users include:
  • Lawyers in companies of all types and sizes
  • Paralegals and legal support staff
  • Legal know-how and research software benefits include:
  • Significant savings of time and effort versus manual research.
  • Helps to minimize errors during litigation.
  • Helps to maximize the value of cases and legal matters.
  1. Knowledge management
Knowledge management software enables companies to capture, centralize, and share vital information assets including documents, images, and audio and video records. The software preserves organizational “how-to” information for how those in various roles should accomplish tasks and handle situations.
Knowledge management software users include:
  • Lawyers in startups to Fortune 500 companies
  • Executives for personal use
Knowledge management software benefits include:
  • Serves as a single source of truth on a subject.
  • Significantly eases internal, external, and cross-functional collaboration.
  • Supports virtual and remote work.
  • Helps to ensure business continuity.
  1. Privacy, security & information governance
This type of software manages cybersecurity, data security, and compliance with privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA. Fast-growth tech companies need robust solutions for mobile and mac security. It also assesses and monitors risks that may negatively impact the company.
Privacy, security, and information governance software users include:
  • Any company that collects employee, client, or consumer information.
  • Any company that needs to protect the confidentiality of private and personally identifiable information.
  • Any company that works with third parties.
Privacy, security, and information governance software benefits include:
  • Ensures security and regulatory compliance
  • Mitigates third-party risk
  • Builds and maintains consumer trust
  1. Contract review
Contract review software uses artificial intelligence such as machine learning and natural language processing to extract data points and interpret contract language. This type of software helps capture contract information around contractual terms including expirations, terminations, and extensions.
Contract review software users include:
  • Legal departments for organizations ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies
  • Any company that maintains an extensive contract portfolio including banking and financial institution and insurance companies
Contract review software benefits include:
  • Improved transparency and visibility into contract data
  • Eliminates time-consuming and error-prone manual contract review tasks for faster, more accurate contract review and analysis
Contract review software is needed because businesses create contracts as PDF and Word documents, built from unstructured data; when they want to find their contracts easily and to know what’s actually in them, they lack metadata and are difficult to search.
  1. Contract automation
The contract automation platform empowers legal and business teams to collaborate on contracts in a single unified workspace. We also incorporate a flexible data layer that syncs contracts and metadata that will enable you to query contract data at any point.
Contract automation software users include:
  • Visionary GCs in fast-growth technology companies
  • In-house legal professionals and legal operations teams who want to future-proof their end-to-end contract processes and enable colleagues to self-serve
Contract automation software benefits include:
A fully automated contract lifecycle significantly enhances the legal team’s control over the precision and accuracy of contract-related activities.
You get faster turnaround, better data visibility into the risks contracts contain, and improved relationships between legal and business teams, primarily through:
  • Self-serve automation empowers colleagues to take on legal work themselves.
  • Collaborative workflows, to progress contracts quickly.
  • Data-rich repository, to make sure actionable contract data is captured at source.
  1. Contract lifecycle management
Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) software helps users manage actions post-signature (or post-execution), including obligation tracking, performance and compliance management, and dispute resolutions. CLM software also provides visibility into the performance of contracts as well as risk mitigation for non-compliance.
Contract lifecycle management differs from contract automation software in several key ways:
  • It’s primarily targeted at large enterprises (and priced accordingly)
  • It typically involves a lengthy implementation of 6-12 months, with a front-loaded cost; DocuSign CLM is typically implemented by third-party consultants, for example.
  • It works primarily with legacy file formats like Word documents and PDFs, and thus needs to be complemented by buying contract review software too.
Legal software: buyer’s checklist
A great deal is at stake when purchasing legal software. Uninformed buyers may easily be overcharged for tools that never truly help them address their real challenges. Prior to making your investment decision, consider the following:
  • Define your legal department’s challenges. What are your goals for the solution? What metrics should be used to assess the impact?
  • Determine who else needs to be involved in the buying process. Build a team of relevant stakeholders who can help identify the specific software capabilities needed.
  • Assess whether you already own the appropriate tools. Your existing software may offer the features and capabilities you need.
  • Formalize your budget. And consider that if the new software doesn’t integrate easily with your existing systems, extensive change management issues can run up the bill.
  • Look for tools that are easy to adopt. That includes features that prioritize user experiences such as customizable, user-friendly dashboards and intuitive menu options.
  • Start small. It’s exciting to jump in and accomplish as much as possible as quickly as possible – but that can backfire. If you’re nervous, then break down initial projects into manageable pieces – for example, start with just your NDA workflow – and prove the ROI before you look to scale it.
How to buy legal software:
  • Define the problem before you look for a solution
  1. Be very clear about what problem you’re trying to solve, rather than finding something that looks interesting and looking for an issue for it to address.
  • Make your choice for the right reasons
The time lag in this type of procurement is often driven by securing the budget rather than by people analyzing the use case. It might not be that they rush into it, but they’re not making a considered choice for the right reasons. Maybe that’s partly to do with the fact that lawyers generally aren’t typically used to being sold to by professional software salespeople.
  • Get the right input into the buying decision
Make sure you involve users – in this instance the user lawyers, but also the internal customers. That might be on the business side, such as the sales teams, procurement team, and so on. And then it’s useful to involve people with broader design thinking skills. If you do all that, you’re starting to think more deeply about the user requirements. And all this is before you’ve even decided on a particular product to buy.
  • Plan for implementation
A common mistake is to purchase the software but not to budget for, or plan, the resource to implement it. This, coupled with the fact that many software vendors tend to oversell how easy it is to get their solution up and running leads to disillusionment, implementation being seen as ‘too hard and ultimately software being shelved rather than used to its full potential.
  • Can your law firms help?
Ask your panel law firms what they are using and if they can assist; several firms these days have client licenses to certain software available.
  • Get buy-in to avoid shelfware.
You need to get buy-in from your team of lawyers. Have advocates or ‘champions’ involved in the procurement, pilot, and testing stages so that they can sell the benefits to the rest of the team?
  • Tech is not a panacea.
Don’t underestimate the implementation effort. Vendors tend to pitch products as being “easy” but they aren’t really. You will need to hire experts to get the most out of them. Plus you will need to ensure that the relevant parts of your legal process are in good order.  
  • Look for a focused solution
Start off with your own research via Google. Be focused on what you want to achieve. Cast the net wide at the outset. Be firm to ensure that vendors give you a demo that is tailored to your objectives rather than their generic pitch.
  • Find something manageable
Be really focussed on objectives and be prepared to sacrifice nice-to-haves. There are no panacea products – you will have to sacrifice something. I estimate that 80% of legal tech functionality is never used. Also, make sure you buy something which you can eventually self-manage. Many software companies are service companies in disguise and sell licenses cheap for an endless supply of service revenue.
  • Build a robust business case
Buying legal software can be painful, but any change process is. It often takes longer than it should, but that’s not always a bad thing. If you’re taking the time to engage key stakeholders, understand their challenges and requirements, and write a solid business case, taking time to do that well can really pay dividends and lay the foundations for success. It shouldn’t be rushed.
  • Look for specific success stories you can emulate
Customer testimonials and recommendations can be useful but the solution that was right for one organization may not fit your needs. Also, look for specific and real success stories – not just ‘we used x and they were great, but what specifically they were used for, what were the benefits achieved, were they measurable, and so on.
  • Be open-minded about where to focus your efforts
There’s a perception still held by some lawyers that everything they do is bespoke. The truth is most work can be broken down into parts and made more efficient. Lawyers who are open to exploring this are key to the future of their firms, and our role as legal engineers is to help them along the way.
  • Resource your project adequately
The biggest mistake that I see and hear about in automation projects is that the resourcing isn’t done correctly or is an afterthought. Buying software is just the beginning – tech without people doesn’t do anything. If resourcing isn’t included in initial budgets then it can take longer to realize the benefits of the project.
Legal software: ready to get started?
When you know your business challenges and have identified the technological capabilities that will help you address them, you’re ready to take the plunge with legal software, hit the link to Start Using GetLEGAL Software NOW.
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