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Everything you need to know about legal software

What is legal software?

Legal software is the umbrella term for any software that is specifically designed to support and solve problems in processes that are legal in nature or faced by the legal industry.

This means that while lawyers also use standard business software as part of their roles, such as shared drives or email software, these are not considered ‘legal software’ because they do not focus on specifically solving problems related to legal processes.

Due to the breadth of the legal industry, there are many different types of legal software available. This article will focus on the legal software available to solve problems for and support in-house legal teams and legal operations teams.

What are the different categories of in-house legal software?

As the day-to-day work of in-house lawyers varies, there are many different categories of in-house legal software available. These include:

Matter management

Matter management software (or document management software) acts as a system of record of all an in-house Legal team’s matters. It enables Legal teams to scale legal support across their business, increase transparency, and boost lawyer productivity.

Contract management

Contract management software helps Legal teams effectively manage the contract lifecycle. Typically this looks like a suite of digital tools that allows the business to negotiate, approve, sign, store & search all of their contracts. Often contract management software will incorporate eSignature software to allow contracts to be executed within the platform.

Contract & document workflow automation

Contract and document workflow automation software is used to refocus the Legal team’s efforts on more strategic tasks by creating automation and self-service journeys for the work they're usually buried in. An example of this is how businesses like Powerco have automated their NDA workflow to allow the business to self-service their contract and only involve Legal when certain conditions and complexities have been met.

Contract review

Contract review software is used by a broad range of Legal organisations from law firms to in-house departments. This software utilises technologies like AI, machine learning and natural language processing to review contracts faster by identifying, interpreting, and extracting key data points within contracts. These data points could be information such as expiry dates, termination clauses, or opportunities for contract extensions.

Knowledge management

Knowledge management software allows Legal teams to capture, store and share assets and information within the business. This software is generally used to preserve organisation ‘know-how’ and procedures. Knowledge management software is particularly useful for Legal teams who work remotely and require a single source of truth to help ensure business continuity.

Privacy, security & information governance

Privacy, security and information governance software is used to manage a business’ cybersecurity, data security, and compliance with privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA. As businesses become more reliant on technology to support day-to-day activities, it is critical that IT and Legal teams are conscious of their compliance with privacy, security and information governance regulations.

eDiscovery

eDiscovery software is software that facilitates the digital discovery of documents in legal proceedings. eDiscovery software allows lawyers to access and process large volumes of data faster and identify relevant information quicker and more accurately.

eSignature

eSignature software allows stakeholders to execute contracts electronically. This software is becoming increasingly common in modern businesses. eSignature essentially allows businesses to carry on and take action even with internal stakeholders working remotely or external counterparties being in their own separate workplaces.

Legal spend management (eBilling)

Legal spend management (eBilling) software is used by in-house Legal functions to help manage their external counsel billing, invoices, and timesheets. It can also be used to track matters being worked on by external counsel.

Who uses legal software?

Legal software is primarily used by those in the legal industry such as lawyers and paralegals. However, in a corporate environment, in-house legal software may also be used by any person in the business to do a ‘legal’ related task. For example, the CEO may use eSignature legal software to sign a contract, or a marketing manager may use legal software to generate terms and conditions for their trade promotion.

How do I know if I need legal software?

Legal software is designed to manage and streamline inefficient and insecure processes that operate within Legal teams. It is also a valuable tool to use when reporting on legal matters.

For many Legal teams, the business case for legal software strengthens when it becomes clear that their current processes cost the business in lost or slow deal cycles. Alternatively, they may find their Legal budget being cut because they cannot provide data to validate their team performance.

However, the most successful Legal functions do not wait for harsh reality checks before they begin their search for the best legal software for their function.

What is the best legal software?

Ultimately, the best legal software will always be the software that meets your individual needs. There is plenty of legal software available on the market with varying levels of support provided with each. The key to finding the best legal software is ensuring that it solves the specific challenges your business faces.

The best way to determine if a particular legal software is right for you, is to review your current processes and identify data points highlighting areas of inefficiencies. Then create goals for what you’d like to improve. It is much easier to identify the best legal software if you know what you want it to do for you.

Hint: sometimes we find Legal teams start with legal software that will give them the data points their current processes are unable to measure.

Read on for a more detailed step-by-step guide on how to choose the best legal software for you.

How to buy legal software?

Purchasing legal software can be a very daunting activity, especially as Legal teams are generally unfamiliar with navigating the company procurement processes.

Even though you might know how legal software could transform your function, many GCs struggle to secure the budget for it.

Often, this is because they struggle to convey the impact the legal software will make on the overall business. But money is tight, and most CFOs (or budget guardians) will only approve budgets if your initiative will impact ROI across the whole business.

If securing a budget for your legal software is where you’re getting stuck, read on for our more detailed guide to buying legal software.

How much does legal software cost?

The price of legal software typically varies depending on a few factors:

1. The category of the software

As we have discussed, legal software is an umbrella term that covers a whole range of legal processes and procedures. As a result, each category of legal software involves a different level of research, development, and maintenance by software providers to ensure that it continues to fulfill the needs of the lawyers and other business users who use the software.

For example, a simple, standalone eSignature software might cost less than a complete contract lifecycle management tool but it will have fewer features and less onboarding and implementation support.

2. The structure of the software

Corporate software has changed over time. At the beginning of the 2000s, businesses were limited to purchasing software to install on every device within the company. They then needed to repurchase each subsequent update to physically install, often yearly. It required the work of specialised IT teams to manage which took up precious working time.

Today there is more variety in how software is purchased and installed, though most technology is what is known as ‘software-as-a-service’ or SaaS. In these software structures, Legal teams would purchase licenses to use the legal software platform which they can choose to renew on a regular basis (generally either monthly or yearly).

The advantage of these structures of software is that the updates can be pushed by the software company directly to users without the hassle of the business needing to purchase and reinstall each new update onto their users’ devices. It is the most ‘hands-off’ approach to utilising legal software on the market.

3. The number of users

This factor is rather simple, the more users = the more licenses are typically required to be purchased. In some cases, the legal software licensed users are limited to the users in the legal team who require admin access, allowing the rest of the users in the business to obtain access for free.

It is best to have a conversation with your chosen legal software provider on what packages are available for your business.

4. The level of support and professional services work provided

Some legal software may be ready to use from the first purchase and login. This is typical for the smaller scale, simpler software offerings.

However, in most cases, Legal teams will want to customise the software to an extent to fit their needs. This might look like tailoring workflows with their own delegations of authority or even adding their company logo to the user interface.

Along with customisation, many legal teams opt for a legal software provider that also includes a level of support to ensure their team is successfully onboarded and trained on how to get the most value from the software from the beginning and remains successful going forward.

Ready to get started?

Want to know more about legal software? Or have an idea what legal software might be right for your business or legal team?

Get in touch with Plexus’ legal transformation specialists and we can help you narrow down the best legal software for you.

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