An introduction to LegalTech
The term legal technology refers to the use of technology and software in the legal field. According to the University of Stanford, the legal tech field can be divided in different areas:
2. Document Automation;
3. Practice Management;
4. Legal Research;
5. Legal Education;
6. Online Dispute Resolution;
A report published by McKinsey states that approximately 23% of work done by the lawyer can be automated by existing technology. Obviously, the effects of automation could be way more disruptive considering the speed with which certain tools are developing (eg.AI and NPL
Document automation is the design of systems workflows that support the creation of electronic documents. Tools in drafting automation solutions can automate several parts of the process, liberating lawyers who can focus on other aspects of their service. Nowadays, up to 60% of the working time of a lawyer is spent on drafting, so transforming certain services to commodities, can improve clients relationships (this phenomenon is both a huge opportunity and a threat for a law firm ).
Why automation? Since contracts could be similar in structure and content, delivering solutions characterized by document automation is possible to smooth the building process of a contract increasing the efficiency and lowering Costs and risks. A clear example of how automation can help reducing risks is constituted by the fact that human errors can be prevented: once an initial template is built, then it can be replicated automatically adapting the contracts at each situation without involving an additional human effort in the drafting process.
Combining a contract automation software with a large amount of initial temples can enable the automatic creation of new contracts just by answering to some questions posed by the software.
Practice management & case management
Several key areas characterize the activity of the legal tech world. In this article, our attention will be focused on analysing two of them which deserve a better understanding: case management and practice management. The issue stems from the fact that these two terms have often been used synonymously by the legal tech vendors and this has led to confusion among consumers. Some experts believe that case management is often to be included under the umbrella of practice management. As alleged by Mary Juetten, founder of Traklight and EvolveLaw and author of Small Law KPIs: “…case management is part of overall practice management or running the business that is your firm or legal department. Practice management includes all activities within the workflow from developing new business through case management, billing, and collections to measuring client experience”. The confusion is, therefore, pretty legitimate. In any case, a line must be drawn between these two areas, even if they are meant to be closely interconnected. In fact, in the highly competitive sphere of legal technology, characterized by a highly saturated market, it is crucial for consumers to know exactly what they’re looking for — and where to find it. It is to be avoided for attorneys to invest in disappointing platforms underestimating the fact that when it comes to entrusting a firm to a software, clarity is key.
But why are practice management and case management software so important for legal business? Over the years, legal departments and law practices’ needs have evolved but the high volume of paperwork they have to manage has always been a key issue. Additionally, costs are coming under increased scrutiny and having insight into all data is pivotal in making informed business and resource decisions. Legal tech companies with their practice and case management services have the aim of responding to some actual needs of optimization. That is the reason why, nowadays, these legal management softwares are becoming more and more popular among law firms that take advantage of their features, having greater control over their practice and managing client matters in the most reliable way.
Practice management systems equip firms to operate as a company. Therefore, the features and functionality of these applications are primarily designed to handle internal firm processes, workflows, and tasks, as well as to support business management as a whole for the firm. They will typically include tools for customer relationship management, task management, financial functions (time tracking, legal billing, settlement tracking, trust accounting, etc.), document management, calendaring, and more. This is an area of legal technology that has had a profound impact on the legal industry over the last decade. It has been instrumental in moving from a profession that barely used technology to one that now sees it as essential and routine. Streamlining interactions between lawyers and their clients by providing online deal rooms and collaboration platforms will drive down legal costs and improve working relations, and at the same time combining different legal practice management solutions will enable lawyers to run their practices more efficiently and to pass those cost-savings onto clients, enhancing the former effect. However, what is essential to reach this goal is to understand which service is best suited to the needs of the law firm in question and the features that can best improve the practice. In fact, a legal tech company can choose to offer a practice management software which could be cloud-based or server-based. The difference is simple and intuitive: a cloud-based solution simply means that it is hosted and managed in a service provider’s infrastructure rather than your own. On the contrary, a server-based management software is just what the name implies: a software that the users install on their individual computers. In the latter, the database (documents, metadata, and so forth) are stored on a server computer that acts as the “hub” of the system.
Case management, which as mentioned before is considered as a subset of practice management, is more related to legal disputes between parties. In fact, the latter in the U.S. fall under the label of “cases”. A lawyer must keep up with all the important facts of each case, such as important witnesses, relevant issues, key pieces of evidence, legal deadlines, and so much more. So, at the risk of over-simplification, case management must be imagined as a digital version of the traditional, physical case file. From a legal tech perspective, this means that case management software should provide a central location where all case information is easily accessible and where any member of a case team can easily receive status updates and details of a case at a moment’s notice. This is particularly essential in litigation, whether the dispute ripens into a court case or not and every single detail of a case is reviewed and scrutinized over and over again.
In the legal tech world offering this kind of services, new business models are emerging driven by a generational change in the legal sector and the clients it serves. Start-ups are having a great influence in this change and they are redefining the law practice, changing forever our thinking. One of the major players in this sense has been “Clio’’, a company with headquarter located in Canada, which provides a practice management software cloud-based platform. Clio is affirmed as the leader in the field of practice management with the announcement of an investment at the end of 2019 of $250 million — one of the largest investments ever for a legal technology company and the largest ever for a Canadian company.
Moving to the US scene, one striking example of this trend of redefining the legal practice through technology has been FileVine. From its launch in 2015, Filevine has focused on rapid innovation and it has earned the highest ratings from several independent review sites for legal technology.
Clio is now the industry’s leading cloud based legal practice management software. Clio’s core business regards the supplying of a SaaS-based platform (a sort of cloud software) to Law firms. It currently has a very wide customer base, spanning from solo practitioners to mid-size and large firms. The main purpose of its founder, is to bring a technological shift in the way Law firms operate, envisioning a transition from bricks-and-mortar firms to online service-based companies.
Their product is continuously updated and allows users a series of organizational features. Other than time and expense tracking, online payments, calendaring, the most important is case management.
First of all, there is “Clio manage” which is the leader in industry’s cloud-based legal practice management software, it provides the “case management” component that allows to keep organized all the case studies in one safe place. On the second hand, there is the “document management” which permits to modify legal documents through the usage of a cloud. Lastly, there is “Clio grow” which is a client intake and relationship management software, where the client intake features are to engage potential new clients and to get rid of duplicate data in entrance helping not confusing client intake processes. It provides cases information and direct links to all documents, events, notes and bills related. The strength of this tool is the ease of use, as all information can be accessed from one single dashboard.
Moreover, Clio offers in-class integrations for all legal practices, from family law, to immigration law etc. It can integrate other already used legal software as well as finding more to allow customers to specialize activities for specific case types.
Due to the increasingly high number of competitors, Clio is threatened in its position of market leader and should therefore find ways to distinguish itself from other similar programmes.
Filevine is a cloud-based case management software that was founded in 2014 by a collaboration of attorneys and a team of software engineers. They are headquartered in Provo, Utah, United States and currently have between 150 and 200 employees.
Since its launch in 2015, Filevine has focused on rapid innovation and delivering a software that has an intuitive design, which is easy to use. Filevine’s mission is to enhance productivity for attorneys by providing them with an end-to-end technology that is ready to manage every aspect of a moving case and serves as a singular digital office space. Other advantages include its high customizability, a wide range of tools that are ready-to-use and a safe data management that is ensured by state-of-the-art encryption. As legal firms have continuously looked out for technological solutions to boost their efficiency and minimize errors, Filevine has seen rapid growth within the legal-tech sector.
Their Seed Round raised $780K in mid-July and their two subsequent funding series raised more than $10M, which results in a total funding amount of $12.4M. The company currently has three investors: Album VC, Jonathan Ord, and Signal Peak Ventures, Filevine’s lead investor. Filevine’s intellectual property includes four registered patents that primarily belong to the Electric Communication Technique category. Finally, the most recent news on Filevine included the announcement of its strategic acquisition of Lead Docket, a cloud-based lead tracking tool for law firms. The rationale behind this all-cash deal is to further expand Filevine’s suite of tools while getting access to a technology that can be incorporated easily. Hence, Filevine decided to embed the technological solution into its current platform, while supporting Lead Docket as a standalone product.
Trialworks LLC develops, manufactures, markets, and distributes ‘TrialWorks’ software for the legal profession. TrialWorks is a case management software solution for litigation firms that want to expedite and improve effectiveness in handling the many tasks of litigation.
Head of Product Robb Steinberg developed the software in 1995 while he was a practicing trial attorney at a litigation law firm based in Miami. He was seeking an automated solution to handle a large case, which involved over 1 million supporting documents. Using years of programming and trial knowledge, Steinberg developed the first version of TrialWorks.
After many years as independent, both Needles and TrialWorks were acquired by Ridge Road Capital Partners in 2017 and subsequently merged into a new holding company, Assembly Software. While Assembly Software’s management team runs both companies, the core TrialWorks and Needles products will continue to be supported and developed as distinct and independent solutions.
Assembly Software’s counts over 40,000 users, 2,500 law firms and 35+ years of experience. The combination of these two industry leaders under a common roof provides great financial resources, allowing for more investment. For this reason, the future outlook of the company is very promising.
TrialWorks includes features such as calendar management, case notes, client management, communication tracking, conflict management, corporations, discovery management, docket management, document management, expense tracking, government, law firms, records management, task management, and time tracking. It is available in two ways: locally on your network, or hosted by their cloud, with each offering its own advantages. To take full advantage of TrialWorks’ feature set, the company offers training services either in person or online. TrialWorks also offers a complete data conversion services from most other case management products. It is offered a free version and free trial, while software pricing starts at $1500.00 one-time user.
Some competitor software products to TrialWorks include MerusCase and LawBase.
Rocket Matter is a cloud-based practice management company that has been operating in the US since 2008, when it was founded as the first cloud-based project in the industry. Rocket matter helps law firms with an all-in-one platform with one of the most efficient and easy to use time and billing software on the market. The company’s original goal was essentially to fill a gap in the market, as Larry Port, CEO and Founding partner of Rocket Matter, says. He has a background as software engineer and in 2007 he was working on HR software and financial software. These are incredibly secured areas, so it didn’t make any sense to him why there wasn’t anything like that for legal. In his own words: “They say that the legal vertical is slow to adopt technologies, but if that’s really true then that’s what allowed our opening”.
Even since the firm manifested a high growth and started to provide numerous services. Its billing practices help companies to record billable time, create bills, send invoices and collect payments through recurring procedures. The calendars, task and project management features eases communication and improves organization among employees. The document management feature offers the capabilities to store essential documents in categorized order at one single place. Through powerful automation tools, Rocket Matter eliminates wasteful operations, provides technical support and helps clients really understand their finances. The firm also helps practices to streamline their workflows by creating parameters for accepting cases, categorizing matters and defining relationships within an active case. As a target user, Rocket Matter focuses on firms that are 30 people or below, including solo law practices. They also serve larger firms but they are more of the exception to the rule.
Rocket Matter has acquired on Feb 4, 2020 LexCharge, a payment processing company providing a law firm payment solution for the legal industry. Through this acquisition it is expected that Rocket Matter will acquire additional expertise and market share with regards to its payments services offering.
Main Services Offered:
- Time and Billing: aids companies in recording billable time, track time from matter to matter, manage taxes as well as processing, customizing and sending invoices.
- Payments: through which clients can more easily access and pay invoices, set up payment plans, recurring billing, and pay through the usage of a credit card with 2.95% transparent fee.
- Document management: helps manage daily workflows and organize client files.
- Case management: allows to create parameters for tasks and events and apply them to a case, categorize tasks by matter type, manage a to-do list
- Legal project management: through which a client can easily create workflows and transition between different phases of a case. Each phase can contain its own calendar calculations, custom data, and tasks, allowing to set up entirely automated systems. It also allows reporting about the status of each matter.
Legal research is usually considered as the process of finding relevant information that can support a legal service.
From days where lawyers have spent most of their time searching for relevant information on libraries, now tools are reshaping the way in which lawyers can interact. The very first mover was WestLawNext which was launched in the 1998 and used machine learning algorithms to bring simplicity and rapidity to a research. Nowadays, the way of researching legal related information is changing. Indeed, from a more static research request to a smarter and -in certain cases- predictive one. Proactivity and smartness are the keywords of recent developments in the legal research field. This changing is fully carried by AI and machine learning algorithms that, in certain cases, are developed exploiting NLP systems (Natural Language Processing). Fully committed with those tasks are companies like Ravel Law, Ross intelligence, Judicata or the publisher LexisNexis.
Ravel law is a legal research start up that provides legal services about analytical research, which is a new category of intelligent tool that combines legal research and analytics.
Established in 2012, in a Stanford University dorm room by a law student, the firm is now part of LexisNexis, one of the most important companies that provided similar services. The project started with the digitalization of Harvard’s law school entire collection of U.S. case law, which, after the Library of the congress, is the most comprehensive and authoritative database of American cases.
The software used displays search results, showing the relationships among cases and their relative importance to each other. Furthermore, a suite of analytics has been developed that includes court analytics, judge analytics and case analytics. For example, on the monitor, alongside the text, the reader can see how often the case has been cited and when and where.
The competitiveness of Ravel can be found in the usage of powerful tools (which include data-driven, interactive visualizations and analytics) which transform the idea of how lawyers understand the law and prepare for litigation. In today’s constantly developing and global digital world, Ravel empowers attorneys to benefit from this huge influx of information and find value in it.
In this segment, the opportunities are many: Ravel Law is among the first firms to use AI and apply it to law, to make lawyers’ work more complete and less hard. Furthermore, since costs for legal defense are increasing, as research shows, this tool can decrease the costs defendants will have, which will be important to make justice more equal, especially for low income citizens.
Threats may regard the possibility that some cases may be deliberately obscured or not reported, or mistakes of citations could appear. Furthermore, many other firms can actually reproduce the same system, thus, it will be important for the company to protect its customer base, improving the system and the offer more and more, and to build credibility and stories of success for the use of the platform.
Ross Intelligence is a private company that aims to help in the automatization of processes and the accessibility to US legal information, through a legal research platform.
It was cofounded in 2014 by Arruda, actual CEO, Dall’Oglio and Ovbiagele, actual CTO. Today, its growth is helped by strong partnerships with major institutions such as Latham & Watkins and Vanderbilt Law. It is considered one of the pioneers in the legal tech frontier. Its growth was also helped, from a financial point of view, by more than ten investments, in particular venture capitals, indeed in its latest deal, in 2019, it was classified as a later stage VC. It counts a few employees (1–10), with various backgrounds, and its primary office is in San Francisco (CA, USA).
Its database includes Federal and State case law and federal and State statutes and regulations. Moreover, it includes decisions made in the past by Specialty court, tribunal, and administrations.
The database is organized through an artificial intelligence software, that provides you the right information depending on your request. It also provides an interesting blog where articles about legal tech and news about company’s offers are frequently published. So, its business model is a typical B2C, but since customers are often companies, it is both B2C and B2B.
Customers have to pay a monthly fee, but they can choose to bill it monthly, quarterly or annually, so its payment system is very flexible, and they define it as one of their major points of strength and uniqueness, together with their database size and intuitive design.
Future prospects of Ross Intelligence are not to replace actual law firms and lawyers, as Andrew Arruda said in an interview, but to become the best platform to make law research easier for everyone. Moreover, the aim of Ross Intelligence is to help law firms to reduce its costs, in order to make them more competitive, since one of the main problems registered in US is the accessibility to legal services, because of high prices.
Judicata is a legal technology company providing legal data research for clients. The Company provides the mapping of highly specialized case law parsing and algorithmically assisted human review to turn unstructured court opinions into structured data, to build legal research. Judicata delivers services in the State of California. With Judicata, the CEO Itai Gurari wants to build a better legal research platform and to “map the legal genome” to turn unstructured points of information from scattered case law into highly structured and accessible data. The result is a research engine that returns the best results the fastest. Judicata was founded on a powerful belief: “technology can do more to deliver critical information that helps attorneys achieve successful outcomes for their clients”.
The company uses a search tool that delivers precise and comprehensive results. It is a way to change the legal research experience. The team is comprised of both lawyers and engineers from institutions including Google, Stanford, Columbia, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They have developed technology that outperforms traditional legal research tools. The platform is easy to use: on the results page, the list of filters represent Judicata’s promised genome.
Judicata has features that simplify the reading of cases. With color coding, every case citation within an opinion is color coded based on how the opinion treats the cited case. The colors in a case-reading indicate whether the cited case is being followed, overruled or cited. Color coding speeds reading of cases by as much as four times and enhances comprehension. Judicata also provides search and spelling suggestions.
Judicata is able to provide through its search tool:
- Query assist: improving the search adding suggestions for common phrases, spelling corrections, case names and filters.
- Superior search: delivering the most relevant results first, providing relevant case excerpts.
- Filters: narrow in results based on key case attributes including Appealing Party, Cause of Action, Court, Date, Disposition, Judge and Procedural Posture.
- Case view: display an easily navigable case outline.
Another tool developed by the firm is Clerk, a software able to analyze and evaluate briefs, based on three criteria: Arguments, Drafting and Context. These three dimensions are evaluated in an objective and consistent manner, such that higher scoring briefs have a better chance of winning than lower scoring briefs.
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