Exploring the different types of legal software – and finding what’s right for your office
Have you ever done a web search for legal software? If so, you know that this search returns an overwhelming number of options. From software for time and billing to legal case management software, the options are seemingly endless. While variety is the spice of life and can often be a good thing, it can also make it more difficult to make a decision. After all, how can you select the right legal software for your office if you’re not sure what each tool does?
You don’t have to wade through the world of legal software alone. The team at Legal Files Software is breaking down the different types of software programs into six categories that we’ll explore in more detail as we walk through this two-part series. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be an expert on what’s available in the world of legal software. Even more importantly, your newfound knowledge will help you identify the needs of your office and determine which software is right for you and your team. This first part will focus on tools to help you manage time and money.
The first type of legal software – Billing and time tracking
Time and billing software is the first type of legal software that we’ll discuss. You’ll find many different software options to track time and billing. Some tools are specific to the legal profession, while others are basic accounting programs that will work in any industry. To help you narrow down the field, think about whether you need a program that includes fields and features that are specific to the legal profession, or whether something more basic will do the trick.
You and your team members should also discuss whether you need an actual accounting program that can handle billing and invoicing, or whether you just need a tool to track time. Certain law firms will need to create and submit invoices. If this is true for your office, you may want to consider a dedicated accounting software program. However, many other legal departments in government agencies, universities, corporations and legal aid will only need to track time.
If time tracking is the only feature your office needs, you can often find this tool incorporated in a legal software program such as Legal Files Software. Time tracking allows you to generate reports and determine the productivity of your office. You can track time by category, employee or matter to see where your office is spending the most time and figure out how to make it more efficient.
The second type of legal software – Corporate spend and expense tracking
Related to time tracking and billing is corporate spend and expense tracking. This type of program will not be necessary for every law office, but it is critical for the types of legal practices where it is relevant. Legal departments of corporations and government agencies may hire outside counsel to assist with litigation or internal issues relating to matters like HR. For these legal departments, it’s important to track these expenses with an effective legal software solution.
Before you buy a tool to manage corporate spend and expense tracking, think about how expansive your needs are in this area. If you don’t have to track very much, you might find that a simple Excel spreadsheet is enough. For more specialized needs, you may want to invest in a legal software that offers corporate spend and expense tracking as features. You may even want to buy software that is specialized to handle this function.
The third type of legal software – Calendaring and docket management
Legal professionals know how important their calendars are when it comes to staying organized and on task. For attorneys and support staff who deal with the courts, it’s also critical to find a tool for docket management. Again, whether your office needs simple calendaring or more advanced docket management comes down to the question of what type of law your team handles.
If you don’t spend much time in the courtroom, legal software that incorporates calendaring as a standard feature could be the perfect fit for your office. You can think of this tool as a way to enhance your Google or Outlook calendar. However, you’ll need a little something extra if litigation is a key component of your job.
Legal software that focuses on or incorporates docket management as a feature is a wonderful way to manage court and case calendars. Some of the more advanced software programs can also build workflow and business procedures to make your work more streamlined. Again, the level of detail that you should invest in depends on what your office needs to work more efficiently.
Final thoughts before part 2 of the series
This first part of the series focused on legal software programs and features that can help you manage your time and money, including billing and time tracking, corporate spend and expense tracking, and calendaring and docket management.
Each legal department will have different needs, which means that each one will require different tools. Before you invest in any form of legal software, you should evaluate what your office does and what you need to do it better. It doesn’t hurt to ask your colleagues at other legal departments what types of legal software they use, but your goal is to find what works for your office, not theirs.
Also, keep in mind that each piece of the legal software puzzle helps accomplish a larger goal. As one Legal Files Software client says, “I needed to find a software program to help me do my work better, not just manage my time and invoices.” Every program and feature you select should help you do the same.