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Law Technology

A survey of software useful for law students and lawyers, and tips to improve your productivity on programs you probably already use.

Basic Principles of Legal Practice Software

General Introduction

Practice management systems help automatically organize the various components of a lawyers’ daily workflow. They act something like a filing system with a clock attached to, keeping track of the various documents and contact information that a lawyer needs to keep on top of while also keeping track of schedules and time worked on a case.

Contact Management

The contact management module is where the system will keep track of any individuals or businesses that the practice has to deal with. This includes clients, opposing counsel, the adverse party, witnesses, judges, firms with which you do business, and any other entity a practice needs to communicate with.

The benefit of keeping contacts in practice software is not just to make it easier to keep track of and retrieve them, but also to make the contact an entity in a database that can be related to other aspects of a practice, like cases.

Case Management

Cases or matters are the main organizational unit of your work in a PMS. Your tasks will be associated with them, you’ll log your time into specific matters, your documents will pertain to a matter, you’ll bill for matters. You will likely be working on multiple cases at one time, so keeping everything tied to the right matter is important. Keeping everything organized and tied to the right matter will make it much easier to automatically create accurate invoices.

Time/Activity Tracking

Keeping track of your hours is likely to be the core of your invoicing system, and in order to make sure both that you get paid and your clients are getting treated fairly and honestly, you must be diligent and detailed about tracking time. Practice management systems have timers that create detailed records of each billable activity that will allow you to automatically invoice clients.

Document Management & Automation

Using the structured data about your contacts and cases, you can create document templates where specific information can be filled in with that data. This allows you to save time rewriting the same basic letters to clients and counsel, or common types of motions.

Task Management

All legal matters involve a large amount of discrete tasks for attorneys and support staff to perform. Each motion itself requires multiple steps that need to be completed, probably by more than one person. Task management makes it easy to create lists of tasks that need to be performed by various members of a practice and to assign those tasks to each person’s schedule.

Different Practice Management Systems

There are many different practice management systems on the market, so this list is not intended to be exhaustive nor to promote the best ones. Rather, these links show the similar types of features available across the various offerings. Each of these services offers all of the features described above, and are generally similar in their offerings, though practices may find that nuances in user experience may attract them to one service over others.

Clio

This web browser-based practice management service is used by the College of Law's legal clinics as well as the 1-credit J Term course, Legal Practice Technology. 

CosmoLex

MyCase

Practice Panther

Zola Suite