A plethora of tools crowd the fast-growing legal tech market, selling to law firms, legal departments, sole practitioners and more. This article helps general counsels and corporate legal departments navigate the many legal software options and categories available today to determine which type best suits their specific needs.
We start with an introduction to legal software designed primarily for use by in-house legal departments. Then we’ll move into detailed explanations of various categories of legal software. We’ve picked out some of the prominent providers in each category of software, explained who it’s meant to help, and the top benefits it offers.
We've even included a buyer's checklist, and tips from four experts on how to buy legal software.
What is legal software?
'Legal software' refers to those software platforms specifically designed to address legal processes, like secure eSignature 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 and parking tickets on their own. There’s also a wide range of legal software devoted solely to law firms and their management.
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 capitalise 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 organisation to understand how they fulfil 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 up front 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.
All that said, let's take a look at the software categories and vendors available to in-house legal teams.
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 spend, maintain an organised database of legal records, and report on legal department activities. Additional capabilities include matter intake, matter management, knowledge management, analytics, and billing.
Prominent legal spend and matter management software providers include:
Brightflag: this solution uses AI and language analysis technology to help corporate legal departments with their matter management, eBilling, invoice review, and reporting and analytics. Find out more.
SimpleLegal: this solution offers a legal operations platform that includes matter management, spend management, vendor management, knowledge management, reporting & analytics. Find out more.
Apperio: this solution is a cloud-based platform that allows legal departments to monitor and analyse their spend, gain clarity on their work with law firms, and track matters and budgets. Find out more.
Legal spend and matter management software users include:
In-house counsel in organisations of all sizes who need more visibility into and control over daily activities.
C-level executives who want more oversight of and accountability for legal department activities.
Legal spend and matter management software benefits include:
Centralises matter information for overall more effective management.
Supports easier collaboration with outside counsel.
Provides clarity on legal spend to enable more informed, data-backed decisions.
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.
Prominent eSignature software providers include:
DocuSign: this solution's easy-to-use digital transaction platform lets users send, sign and manage legally binding documents securely in the cloud. Find out more.
HelloSign: this solution allows businesses of any size to send, receive and manage legally binding signatures. Find out more.
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.
eSignature software users include:
Professionals in startups to Fortune 500 companies
Especially agreement-heavy companies such as banking and financial institutions, insurance companies, and health care organisations
Legal departments without a full-featured contract automation platform must invest in a separate electronic signature solution.
eSignature software benefits include:
24/7 online signature capabilities with dashboard tracking and notifications.
Reduces hardcopy printing and shipping costs.
Increases employee efficiency.
Read more about where eSignature is globally recognized. eSignature covers just one part of the contract process - for end-to-end efficiencies, businesses often look to contract automation software. If you're ready to explore the benefits of all-in-one contract automation, hit the button below to get in touch.
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.
Prominent eDiscovery software providers include:
Relativity: whether it’s litigation, information governance, a government request, or an internal investigation, Relativity gives you a complete set of flexible tools to manage large volumes of data and quickly identify key issues. Find out more.
Everlaw: this is a cloud-based litigation platform that enables teams to collaboratively discover, reveal, and act on the information that drives internal investigations and positively impacts legal outcomes. Find out more.
Logikcull: this solution provides a secure, cloud-based solution that helps corporate legal departments of all sizes solve the expensive, complex, and risky challenges associated with disputes and investigations. Find out more.
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 who assist companies that outsource their eDiscovery needs.
eDiscovery software benefits include:
The ability to quickly process ever-increasing volumes of complex information.
The ability to process multiple types of file formats including graphics, visual and audio recordings, and new types instant messages.
Software identifies relevant information faster, easier, and more accurately than manual efforts.
Software culls, redacts, and otherwise processes and produces records faster easier, and more accurately than manual efforts.
Lowered costs associated with reduced paperwork, enhanced efficacy, and faster review and response times.
Bringing eDiscovery in-house is generally the preserve of very large organizations - otherwise, litigation-related work is usually outsourced to law firms or ALSPs.
4. Legal knowhow & research
Legal know-how and research software provides specialised research tools and information databases to help lawyers study statutes, case laws, trial histories, and specific legal practice areas.
Prominent legal knowhow and research software providers include:
Practical Law: this solution provides up-to-date resources and legal know-how that helps lawyers work smarter, save costs and deliver better service to clients in all major practice areas. Find out more.
LexisPSL: this is a cloud-based legal research tool that helps legal professionals obtain quick, accurate answers to specific points of law, reduce research time, and keep up to date with recent developments. Find out more.
Casetext: this solution provides access to cases, statutes, rules, regulations, articles, and briefs that are updated daily and offers advanced search technology that finds authorities with the same legal issues, facts, and jurisdiction as a particular matter. Find out more.
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 minimise errors during litigation.
Helps to maximise the value of cases and legal matters.
5. Knowledge management
Knowledge management software enables companies to capture, centralise, and share vital information assets including documents, images, and audio and video records. The software preserves organisational “how-to” information for how those in various roles should accomplish tasks and handle situations.
Notion: this is an all-in-one workspace that provides notes, databases, Kanban boards, wikis, calendars and reminders that users can connect to customise their own systems for knowledge management, note taking, data management, and project management. Find out more.
Confluence: this solution is a shared workspace that connects people to the ideas and information they need to build momentum and do their best work. Unlike document and file-sharing tools, Confluence is open and collaborative, helping you create, manage, and collaborate on everything. Find out more.
iManage Work: this is a leading email and document management application, enabling professionals to create, manage and collaborate on work from anywhere, on any device. Find out more.
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.
At Juro we use Notion as a centralized knowledge base - you can check it out by looking at our careers page, built in Notion: Careers at Juro.
6. 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.
Prominent privacy, security and information governance software providers include:
OneTrust: this is a comprehensive privacy management technology platform that helps organisations demonstrate accountability and compliance with global regulations like GDPR. Find out more.
LogicGate Risk Cloud: this is a cloud-based platform with a suite of risk management applications that transforms the way businesses manage their governance, risk and compliance processes by combining expert level content and service with easy, no-code technology to create a holistic view of their risk programs. Find out more.
DataGrail: this solution provides a purpose-built platform for legal and security teams to manage personal data for privacy regulations like the GDPR and California's Privacy Act. Find out more.
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
7. 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.
Kira: this solution provides AI-powered data extraction to automatically extract and summarise any provisions from any contracts. Find out more.
LawGeex: this solution automates the review of everyday contracts through its AI-powered contract review platform. Find out more. Find out more.
Luminance: this is an AI-driven platform that helps legal professionals with document review, compliance, contract management, and other business operations. Find out more.
Contract review software users include:
Legal departments for organisations 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
While contract review software can perform extremely impressive AI-powered analysis, in some ways it solves a problem after the fact, rather than preventing the problem from arising in the first place.
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.
Juro is a contract automation platform that empowers legal and business teams to collaborate on contracts in a single unified workspace. Juro also incorporates a flexible data layer that syncs contracts and metadata and enables 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 to empower 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.
Contract automation software use cases include:
Automate NDAs: You can generate simple Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) from templates in seconds with self-service automation. Approve NDAs in a browser-based workflow and sign NDAs online - all within one platform.
Automate MSAs: Automate Master Service Agreements (MSAs) using a locked approval workflow with defined roles for legal and CFOs as well as signatories. Sequentially triggered workflows notify multiple approvers in a specific order. Benefits include the ability to negotiate without having to move into Word where you lose audit trails and data.
Automate Offer Letters: With an automated workflow, you can expect to generate, issue and secure signatures on an offer letter in minutes. Automating your offer letters lets you focus on what really matters - finding, hiring and onboarding great candidates.
9. 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 involved 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.
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.
Formalise 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 prioritise user experience such as customisable, 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.
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 budget rather than by people analysing 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.
A common mistake is to purchase 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.
Don’t underestimate 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. For example if you want to automate your contracts process, you will need to polish your template contracts, playbooks and governance and signature process.
Look for a focused solution
Start off with your own research via Google. Be focused about what you want to achieve. Cast the net wide at the outset. Be firm to ensure that vendors give you a demo which 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 licences cheap for an endless supply of service revenue.
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 organisation 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 the realise 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. If you are in the market for contract automation software, hit the button below to get in touch and find out more.
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