Software for Law Firms: Solutions for Common Challenges
The legal field is complex. Really complex. Not only does it involve a myriad of moving parts, it’s also unique in the sense that it requires a human touch. Defending and prosecuting alike require critical thinking skills that machines just can’t replicate, and anyone involved in a trial would probably balk at the idea of an AI representing them. That hasn’t stopped software for law firms from becoming relevant: generative AI, especially, is seeing a large increase in popularity.
This leaves the legal field in a bit of a weird spot. AI, and software in general, are completely unable to replace the very foundation of humankind’s legal system. At the same time, there are a lot of tasks that land outside that foundation. That’s where software for law firms really shines. It cuts down the time that law firms spend on paperwork, freeing up time they can spend helping humans past all that paperwork. So what sort of software do law firms use?
What Software for Law Firms is in Use Today?
There are quite a few different types of software that law firms use today. Some of them are what you’d expect, like case management software or invoicing/accounting platforms. There are a few other more seemingly unconventional ones that still fulfill a vital purpose.
General management software
One of the first software solutions that law firms adopted was general management software. This isn’t surprising- experts valued the legal industry at 372.61 billion USD in 2022 and estimate that number will only increase from 2023 to 2030. One driving factor behind this valuation is volume. While it speaks to a grim outlook, as the global population grows, so too will the number of individuals and entities that require some form of legal service.
Of course, for law firms, the more cases they take on, the more they earn. At the same time, there’s a limit to the amount of work they can take on. Hiring more people is always an option, but that also means incurring more expenses, salaries, benefits, and so on. At a certain point, these expenses could very well outweigh the additional revenue.
This is why general management software for law firms is important. On top of making organizing much easier, such software can also help with client intake and time management/billing.
Consolidating many different parts of your work also has its benefits. Putting everything onto a single, universal platform means that workers can pull up relevant information at a moment’s notice without opening a new application. It may sound insignificant, but saving time in that manner adds up quickly, and preserving the workflow is a similarly invisible benefit.
Document generation software
Software like Loio is a new introduction to the legal industry, but it’s already making waves. The words “legal industry” probably conjure up a mental image of a courtroom’s interior. Not entirely inaccurate, but also far from the whole picture. Domestic affairs like divorce fall under the purview of the law, as do other relevant legal documents, like restraining orders.
Every case is unique in its own way, but when you consider the sheer amount of court cases, there’s bound to be some overlap. For this reason, AI-assisted document generation is attracting a lot of attention in the legal field. Creating these documents can be both annoying and time-consuming, but their rigidity makes it easier for AI tools to help out in a number of ways.
- Creating a document from scratch might not sound like a good thing, but it is. As we mentioned, most important legal documents adhere to strict guidelines. This means that the structure and content are generally similar between cases.
- Filling in pre-existing templates is also much, much quicker when an AI does it. A human would have to open up the file and manually input details. This could take hours, but an AI can do it in moments.
- Automating peripheral tasks also goes a long way in saving time. Instead of manually filing documents through individual portals, the software can automatically send it to relevant parties based on something like a file name.
This sort of software aims to help law firms, but its benefits find their way to their clients as well. When you hire a lawyer, you’re paying them for their time. It’s why they track their hours and bill clients based on that. On the one hand, it only makes sense, but on the other, it means that you’ll be paying them for the time they spend creating these documents.
Being able to cut down on the time they spend creating documents frees up time that they can spend working on individual cases. This helps improve the quality of assistance across the board.
Document management software
Even if they choose not to use AI, law firms generate a lot of paperwork every day. All those documents need to go somewhere. Filing them physically is time-consuming, expensive, and eventually takes up way too much space.
As a result, many are moving to cloud platforms. Instead of storing everything physically, document management software for law firms stores digital copies online. On top of saving storage space, using cloud storage allows anyone to access important files from a computer.
Asset tracking software
This might seem a bit strange at first, but there’s a good reason for it. While the legal industry is somewhat more resistant to going digital, it’s not immune to it, either.
- Laptops are a must-have for nearly every industry these days. This is especially true for the legal sector, where lawyers often have to present themselves in many different locations.
- Tablets are also becoming an increasingly popular work device. They’re not as powerful as a computer, but they’ll store and display documents just as well, and the touchscreen also comes with its own benefits.
- Work phones are still common, and especially in the legal industry, it makes sense to separate your work and personal lives.
- Files and documents are something every law firm has to manage and store, which will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
All of these things could potentially carry confidential information, meaning that it’s important to monitor everything’s whereabouts. Asset tracking software, like inFlow, tracks everything you have and where it’s located. A little creativity can go a long way, too.
People usually associate barcodes with shopping, but there’s a lot more to them than that. By placing barcodes on assets, files, and documents, law firms can create a more accurate and detailed chain of custody. For law firms with multiple locations, barcodes also help track the physical movement of items between offices.
Is There Any Other Software for Law Firms?
There’s also a handful of services that don’t fall into the “legal” category. These services might not be as visible as other services or might be exclusive to the legal industry.
- Legal databases consolidate legal cases, allowing law firms to find relevant cases more efficiently. An essential part of our legal system is precedent. In other words, basing legal processes on the decisions made in previous cases. Individually searching for relevant cases is an inefficient use of time, so these databases are well worth the access price.
- Artificial intelligence checks are starting to gain traction as well. While similar to AI document generation, this isn’t unique to the legal space. AI can point out potential errors to lawyers, which helps ensure the validity of documents.
- Data processing is another area where AI shines. Humans already have strong pattern recognition, but we’re also painfully slow at processing that information. On the other hand, we can teach AI to recognize the same patterns, and they process information exponentially quicker than we do. This helps with finding relevant cases.
This precedence-based ideology has its flaws, but it’s also crucial in ensuring everyone receives equal treatment, regardless of socioeconomic status. The issue with that is that there’s a lot of court cases, and even similar cases might not be relevant enough to count for anything. Having access to a pre-organized database frees up even more time to spend elsewhere.
Introducing software into the legal field carries with it a number of concerns. These concerns span a wide variety of topics, but the two most notable ones are security and quality.
Moving to a digital platform inherently introduces the risk of security breaches. It’s impossible to eliminate that risk entirely, but it is possible to implement so many layers of security that most potential hackers will look elsewhere. It’s also worth noting that unless you find yourself involved in a high-profile case, the chances of your information being specifically targeted are extremely slim.
The introduction of AI, on the other hand, raises concerns over quality. Considering how detail-oriented the legal field is, one simple error can be a reason to redo the entire thing. While not unfounded, this fear has already been addressed. Rule 5.3 states that lawyers have an obligation to scrutinize the work by any third party, which includes AI work.
It’s also important to weigh the benefits. Even if you take profit out of the equation entirely, the fact remains that these tools improve the quality of work. And in a system where time is a bottleneck, software for law firms goes a long way in solving it.
If software brings security risks, why do law firms use it?
It’s best to break this answer down into separate points.
- It drastically increases productivity. The purpose of much of this software is so save time. In the world of business, that has a direct correlation to saving money. While law firms exist to assist others, they’re also a business. They have a vested interest in lowering their cost of operations.
- Software increases the quality of service. There’s a lot of paperwork involved, and if your lawyer is writing everything by hand, that takes time away from their legal strategy. Cutting down time spent on these extraneous activities allows lawyers to dedicate more time to forming their legal strategy.
- Generation software allows them to help more people. All this saved time adds up quick. While it saves law firms money, it also allows them to take on more cases, directly providing legal aid to more people.
If I’m new to the legal field, should I worry about AI?
Not really. Amidst all the AI craze, if you take a closer look, there are a few patterns. While AI is excellent at interpreting data and can be “taught” to produce output similar to humans, it still fails at understanding nuance. For the legal industry, especially, that means that AI won’t be taking over anytime soon.
Is software a reliable solution?
Yes – but there’s a caveat. At the end of the day, software for law firms is a tool. It can and will make things easier, but it also depends on your use case and individual workflow. Every firm has different needs, and what works for one might not work for the other. In some instances, there’s also a learning curve, and it might take some time to see the benefits.