A Guide to Building Applications & Software for the Legal Industry

Technology is transforming the legal industry. In the past, legal services were highly regulated, but now the boundaries are being blurred. More and more law firms are using technology to make their processes more efficient. New technology is also making it easier for non-lawyers to offer legal services to their clients. This is a significant change for a profession that was once a tightly-controlled oligopoly.

When you compare how operations were ten years ago with how firms are operating today, it's clear that this industry has already come a long way.

Where legal professionals once researched cases and laws by digging through printed volumes of case law, they now search massive databases of digital legal materials. Before, they'd carry around thick books of statutes and regulations, but now, they've replaced those tomes with smartphones and tablets. Where they once spent hours on the road between offices and courtrooms, they now use online video conferencing and other web-based tools to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and clients. Painstakingly developed proprietary software has been replaced with cloud-based software, and legal processes and workflows have been replaced by legal process automation solutions that allow them to manage their case loads more efficiently.

Gone are the days where clients are billed by hand. Instead, they utilize big-data analytics and cloud-based automation tools to streamline their billing and increase their margins. Where they once manually reviewed and processed insurance claims, they now use AI and automation tools to perform tasks that once required large teams of legal professionals.

Despite all of these new developments, there's still a lot that the legal industry can do to further streamline their operations. With customized software solutions and applications, legal firms can truly step into the future and set themselves apart from their competitors.

In this article, we'll take a look at the different types of apps and software solutions available to the Legal industry and the features these apps should have.

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The Legal industry has many roadblocks that prevent innovation. Because it's a highly regulated industry, technical advancement is often slow to implement, expensive, and difficult to scale.  

There's a lot of potential in this market to make operations better, and to properly address some of the challenges listed, legal teams need to unlock the power of technology. If you're looking to build software for this industry, here are a few things you can focus on:

Automate workflows - Legal teams often handle large volumes of paperwork, which means that every step along the way has to be repeated over and over again. By automating workflows, they can save time and money by reducing the need for human oversight.

Enable legal teams to scale - A legal team often needs to work with multiple clients, which means the team needs to be able to scale up or down as needed. The best way to do this is to use technology to make projects more efficient, allowing the team to scale up or down depending on the number of projects they're working on at any given time.

Integrate legal workflows with other business processes - Legal teams need to be able to work with other teams to ensure that their projects are producing the best results. By integrating their workflows with other business processes, legal teams can ensure that their projects are taking into account the best practices of other departments.

Despite everything we said about the legal industry being slow to adopting technology, there are some interesting statistics that make this market look incredibly promising.

For example, a 2018 Legal Services Market Report from LexisNexis indicated that the legal industry has been growing at a steady rate of 16.5% per year since 2010, and they also report that the market for legal technology is expected to grow from a global market value of $4.9 billion in 2017 to a value of $12.6 billion in 2022.

Essentially, even if there is some resistance at first, it's highly likely that there's going to be a real shift towards digital transformation across the whole legal industry. And where there is growth and change, there is opportunity for new applications and software!

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We've discussed some of the areas that applications and software can be useful in, and we've touched on what the market for this technology looks like. But what kind of apps are currently being built today, and how do they help professionals in the legal industry? In this section, we'll breakdown some of the most popular application types in development for this industry.

Law Practice Management App

A law practice management app automates processes that are common to law offices. These processes include managing client billing, managing client documents, managing attorney schedules, managing attorney contacts, and managing attorney-client interactions.

Examples of law practice management apps for legal organizations include Rainmaker, Time Matters, and LexisNexis.

Financial Management and Accounting App

Financial management and accounting apps are software programs that facilitate the accounting, bookkeeping, and tax preparation processes for small to medium-sized businesses. These apps are different from enterprise-level accounting software in that they are designed for small businesses and are far less complex. Typically, they are used by accounting firms, lawyers, doctors, and other small businesses with multiple financial transactions over the course of a year, and they can be used to track sales, purchases, payroll, and taxes. They can also automatically prepare financial reports and fill out tax forms.

Examples of financial management and accounting apps for legal organizations include QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Expensify.

Client Management Software

Client management software enables legal firms to add metadata to client documents, such as contracts and briefs. This metadata includes details about the client's satisfaction with the firm's work and the overall value of the firm's services. Client management software also provides insight into the key members of the client's team and a running history of communications.

Examples of client management software apps for legal organizations include Clio, PracticePanther, and MyCase.

Image and File Converter App

An image and file converter app for law firms takes the word processing files that attorneys send to their clients and converts them to PDFs, which must be viewable on a wide range of devices. The app converts documents, spreadsheets, and other files into PDFs and then offers them for download by the client. It can also notify clients when new files are available for download. These apps are especially useful for law firms because it allows them to send all of their documents to their clients in a single file, avoiding the difficulty of emailing large files.

Examples of image and file converter apps for legal organizations include Nitro PDF Pro, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, and pdfDocs Professional.

Case Registry Search App

A case registry search app for law firms is a software tool that lets users search for and compare open cases involving a particular client or set of clients. This kind of application is very similar to a case management system because it tracks and manages cases and client relations. Unlike a case management system, a case registry search app only shows cases that are already open and running.

To use this software, a client logs into the app and enters their client's name. The client is then shown a list of all the cases involving their client, along with the client's name, the court case number, the date that the case was reported, the amount that the client is being charged, the hourly rate of the attorney representing them, and the date when the case is scheduled for court.

Examples of case registry search apps for legal organizations include Casetext, Westlaw, and Lexis Advance.

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Professional Networking App

A professional networking app is a type of social networking app that is centered around a specific industry. It is a type of social network because it allows users to create profiles, to follow each other, and to post status updates. However, a professional networking app is focused on the professionals within a specific niche, rather than on the public as a whole.

Examples of professional networking apps for legal organizations include Networkr, Shapr, and CamCard.

There are a lot of different things you should keep in mind when developing applications for the legal industry. Professionals in this field often work with highly personal and confidential materials, and processes are highly regulated and monitored. Due to the complex nature of their work, legal teams will have specific needs and requirements that may not be as necessary in other industries. Although there are many considerations to bear in mind, here are some features that you should make sure that you include in any customized software or application:

  • Accessibility - Legal teams often on-the-go and may not be able to consistently work in the same place. As a result, any app developed for this industry should be built with accessibility in mind. Legal teams should be able to securely access documents from a shared library or content management platform and then share those documents with their clients and colleagues.
  • Collaboration - Apps developed for this industry should be highly collaborative and enable teams to notarize documents with the assistance of a digital notary and gather multi-party e-signatures. The ability to track the history of any documents shared in a collaborative environment is also desirable.
  • Security - Because the information that they're working with is very private and confidential, it's crucial to have many security features in place—things like password protection, privacy certifications, file encryption, and secure document sharing and signing.
  • Customization - Your app should support industry-specific features, such as document-stamping and document-sharing, and be customized for specific legal practices. It should also be able to integrate with the kind of additional software that teams may use or be able to work with their APIs.
  • Automation - When you're dealing with record keeping large amounts of sensitive data and information, automation is vital to reducing human error. It would also be ideal if you could use automation for efficient document generation for contracts and other documents as well.  

Crowdbotics is a full-service app development company with an abundance of experience working with enterprise clients to build the solutions that they need. Whether you're looking for applications to help you streamline your operations or more efficiently handle clients, cases, and documentation, we can build the high-quality tools you need 3x faster than manual development. To learn more, get in touch with us today for a detailed estimate!

Originally published:

September 23, 2021