Building Your Legal Tech Stack: A Legal Technology Starter Guide
February 28, 2023
Legal professionals haven’t always widely accepted new technological trends. Steeped in tradition and wary of less-tested solutions, lawyers used to be much more hesitant to adopt anything that might disrupt their established workflows.
But in recent years, technology has completely revolutionized the legal industry. Law firms are no longer simply focused on court appearances and winning cases—they’ve become thriving businesses that need to be run efficiently and cost-effectively. As a result, more and more law firms are using legal technology to better serve their clients, streamline their operations and stay competitive.
In fact, according to Smokeball’s 2023 State of Law Report:
90% of law firms adopted new technology in the last two years
In this guide, we’ll take a look at what legal technology is, how it’s changed the legal profession, and what types of technology law firms are using today.
What is legal technology?
Legal technology, or “legal tech,” refers to the use of technology to enhance the practice of law. This includes software, tools, and platforms that assist legal professionals in performing tasks more efficiently and effectively. Legal technology providers offer a wide range of solutions that address the unique challenges faced by law firms, such as eDiscovery, legal research, case management, ongoing education, and more.
Legal technology isn’t just a nice-to-have, either. It’s an ethical imperative for any law firm, as outlined by the American Bar Association:
“A lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
— Model Rules of Professional Conduct, ABA
As the world continues to evolve, lawyers must too. Adopting new technology helps you better serve clients by improving communication, providing more transparency both internally and externally, and creating more efficient processes that save time and money.
How has technology changed the legal profession?
Legal technology has changed how law firms operate, streamlining many of the processes that were once manual and reducing the time and effort required to complete them. As law firms continue to increase their investment in technology in response to changes in client expectations and new hybrid work environments, they report that it’s money well spent:
47% of legal professionals say new technology has increased client satisfaction
36% of legal professionals say new technology has increased their billable hours
Overall, when law firms adopt the right technologies, they can expect stronger client relationships, more productive staff members, increased profitability, and less human error.
What technologies do law firms use?
Legal technology companies offer a spectrum of solutions that cater to the unique needs of law firms. And in the last two years, law firms have been especially eager to build a stack of tools that will better serve their clients and help their staff work more efficiently, no matter when or where they’re working.
Here are the nine main types of legal technology used by modern firms:
Legal tech marketplaces can serve many different purposes. They’re typically an online database or network that help lawyers seek information or connect with potential clients. Examples of legal tech marketplaces include:
- Online listing, reputation, comparison, and booking systems where law firms can promote their businesses to potential clients
- Legal advice and content portals where law firms can share resources and connect with potential clients
- Fixed fee legal service platforms for defined consumer problems
- Online reverse auction platforms
- Recruiting platforms for law firms seeking new talent
- Insourcing platforms providing contract lawyer staffing solutions
- Legal technology databases for law firms to search for new products and solutions
- Legal task outsourcing platforms for law firms looking to automate their processes
Document automation software streamlines the process of creating, filing, collaborating on, and signing legal documents. This software allows law firms to create templates for commonly used legal documents, such as contracts, agreements, and forms. Once a template is created, lawyers and paralegals can use the software to generate customized documents for each case, with auto-filled client information. Documents can be sent to clients electronically for signature, and filed to the correct matter automatically.
Document automation software can save law firms a significant amount of time and money by reducing the need for manual document drafting and review. It also ensures greater accuracy and consistency across documents, minimizing the risk of errors and inconsistencies.
Legal practice management software (also known as case management software) is a type of legal technology that helps law firms automate their day-to-day operations. This software provides law firms with tools for time tracking, billing, client communication, legal task management, and more. It allows law firms to keep track of their cases and clients, manage deadlines and schedules, and automate routine tasks such as timekeeping and invoicing.
Practice management software can also provide law firms with valuable insights into their operations, allowing them to identify areas where they can improve efficiency and productivity. It is a critical tool for law firms of all sizes, helping them to manage their operations more effectively and provide better legal services to their clients.
Legal research software helps legal professionals conduct research more efficiently and effectively. This software provides users with access to a wide range of legal databases and resources, including case law, statutes, regulations, and secondary sources. It allows legal professionals to search for and retrieve relevant legal information quickly and easily, saving them time and reducing human error.
Legal research software can also help legal professionals identify important legal trends and developments, giving them an important view into the future of law. It is a critical tool for legal professionals who need to stay up to date on legal developments and provide accurate and modern legal advice to their clients.
Legal education software is designed to help law students and legal professionals learn and improve their knowledge and skills. This software provides users with a variety of educational resources, including textbooks, videos, interactive exercises, and practice exams. It can also provide users with personalized feedback and assessments, helping them to identify areas where they need to improve.
Law schools can use legal education software to supplement traditional classroom learning or by legal professionals to advance their professional development and earn Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits. It is a valuable tool for anyone seeking to improve their understanding of the law and become a more effective legal professional.
Online dispute resolution
Online dispute resolution (ODR) is a type of legal technology that allows parties to resolve disputes using online tools and processes. ODR can be used for a wide range of disputes, including commercial disputes, consumer disputes, and disputes involving government agencies. It typically involves a combination of online communication tools, such as email, video conferencing, and chat, and an online platform for managing the dispute resolution process.
ODR can provide parties with a faster, more cost-effective, and more convenient way to resolve disputes, as it eliminates the need for in-person hearings and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. It is a promising technology that has the potential to transform the way disputes are resolved in the legal system.
eDiscovery software helps legal professionals manage electronically stored information (ESI) during litigation. This software allows legal professionals to identify, preserve, collect, review, and produce electronic documents and data relevant to a legal case. It can automatically search and categorize large volumes of electronic documents and data, such as emails, social media posts, and other digital files.
eDiscovery software can help legal professionals to manage the discovery process more efficiently and accurately, saving time and reducing costs. It is a critical tool for modern litigation, where a large volume of electronic data is often involved.
Legal analytics software uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques to provide law firms with a better understanding of their cases and business operations. This software can be used to analyze legal data, such as case law and litigation outcomes, and predict how a legal proceeding will go so that lawyers can offer clients more accurate advice.
Other legal analytics software can be used to help law firms make smarter business decisions, with valuable insights into profitability, time management, client lead generation trends and more.
Legal compliance software helps businesses and organizations ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. This software provides tools for managing compliance-related tasks, such as creating policies and procedures, tracking compliance activities, and reporting on compliance status. It can also provide automated alerts and notifications to ensure that compliance tasks are completed on time.
Legal compliance software can help businesses and organizations to reduce the risk of legal and regulatory violations, avoid penalties and fines, and improve their overall compliance posture. It is a critical tool for businesses and organizations that operate in regulated industries and need to comply with complex legal and regulatory requirements.
What legal technology companies should you know about?
The legal technology market is rapidly evolving, and new players are constantly emerging. Here are some of the most notable legal technology companies that you should know about:
- Smokeball: Rated the #1 legal case management software on G2, Smokeball empowers you to run your firm like a business. Our cloud-based platform gives you all the insights and tools you need to work smarter, not harder — like automatic time tracking and invoicing, streamlined workflows for your specific practice area, a library of over 20,0000 standard legal forms and documents, and actionable reports that summarize your firm’s activities and highlight areas of opportunity.
- LegalZoom: LegalZoom is an online legal services provider that offers a range of legal services, including trademark registration and business formation. It is a popular choice for small businesses and startups.
- Lawmatics & Settify: One of the most important focus areas for law firms looking to grow their business? Lead collection. Settify and Lawmatics make the lead collection and client intake process easy, and help legal teams stay in touch throughout the case process with marketing automation and more.
- Everlaw & Relativity: Everlaw and Relativity are cloud-based e-discovery platforms that provide tools for document review, analysis, and production. They’re designed to help law firms manage the e-discovery process more efficiently and cost-effectively.
- Quickbooks & LawPay: Quickbooks and LawPay are accounting solutions that help law firms manage their client billing and payments.
These are just a few examples of the many legal technology companies that are available. Each of these companies offers unique solutions to law firms, and the choice of which to use will depend on the specific needs of each firm.
The future: fewer solutions, better results
As we look to the future of legal technology, the next phase will be all about automation. How can we connect disparate systems so that they work together and streamline the entire legal workflow from start to finish?
It turns out less really is more. While we should certainly continue embracing legal technology, fewer solutions may just be a good thing. Tech fatigue is real, and legal teams don’t have time to learn a new system every six months. So now is the time to focus on high-power, high-value technology that accomplishes as much of the legal process as possible in one place.
“Less tech makes automation easier. Here at Smokeball, we’ll never be the type of platform with 200+ integrations. Instead, we’ll go deep with a small number of providers that supplement what’s possible within the Smokeball platform itself. Our goal is to be your one-stop-shop for every part of the legal workflow.”
— Chelsey Lambert, VP of Partnerships
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