The Best Legal Software For Law Firms In 2020

With so many different tools on the market, all serving different purposes with different selling points and specialties, it can be tough to understand what software are the actual must-haves for your law practice.

And when you finally do figure out which types of tools your firm needs to be using, it can be near impossible to evaluate all of the different options available.

  • What software tools should you look to set up first?
  • How can you compare two different tools that do slightly different things?
  • Are the household names actually the best software options for you?
  • Do you need separate practice management software if you already have a case management tool? What about a document management tool?

leo meme

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

But don’t panic. You’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’re going to be breaking down the different types of software your practice needs to be using, what the major benefits to each are, and what the best options are for each category.

Let’s jump in!

What Types Of Software Do Law Firms Need In 2020 & Beyond?

1. Law Firm Practice Management Software

2. Legal Document Management Software

3. Legal Task Management Software

4. Video Conferencing Software

5. Legal Calendaring & Docketing Software

6. Accounting & Billing Software

7. Law Firm CRM & Intake Software

8. Internal Communication Software

9. Knowledge Management Software

10. Phone System Software For Law Firms

11. Law Firm Reporting Software

12. Legal Timekeeping Software

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Law Firm Practice Management Software

Practice management software helps you centralize all aspects of your practice in one location. Matter management, task management, new client intake, reporting, timekeeping, billing—every aspect that goes along with running a successful legal practice.

The major benefit to using one central platform solution for managing your entire practice rather than dozens of individual tools for each use case is how nicely everything can connect together. You can automate and streamline important workflows, keep your data and documents secure by not needing to manually move it between tools, and access all of your practice information from one central location.

What are the benefits?

  • Manage and oversee all aspects of your law practice in one centralized location
  • Keep your client data, contact info, important documents & more protected from security threats and ransomware
  • Automate common workflows and tasks to save time across your entire practice
  • Access all of the most important information related to specific clients, cases, matters and staff members from anywhere
  • Invite clients to view everything related to their case in one place

What software options do you have?

Litify

If you’re looking to manage your entire firm from one location, look no further than Litify.

With Litify, your firm will have access to all of the functionality we’re going to talk about in this guide—either directly built in or through seamless integrations that connect the tools you rely on today in one place. Document management, matter management, task management, client communication tools, reporting, marketing, etc.

It’s also built on Salesforce, which gives you access to all of the top-of-the-line security features they offer. Litify Matters is a great fit for mid-sized and large plaintiff firms especially, but can be used by in-house counsel, general practice firms, and even nonprofits and government agencies as well.

litify product

Clio

Running a solo practice? Clio is a great option for solo practitioners and small law firms.

As your firm grows, you may want to look into a practice management solution built for larger firms, but Clio is a great tool to get started with.

clio

Legal Document Management Software

One of the most important elements of your legal practice is your documents. Every day your staff interacts with legal contracts, case files, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), intake forms, and more. Document management software helps you not only store these documents, but generate new copies quickly when you need them.

What are the benefits?

  • Store all of your documents and files in one central place online
  • Security and encryption of your confidential information
  • Manage who can access which files, to what extent, and for how long
  • Generate new documents from pre-created templates
  • Easy-to-navigate organization within the tool to help you find documents faster when you need them

What software options do you have?

Google Drive / Dropbox

Google Drive and Dropbox are the familiar faces that most firms already know about and look to first for document management. If your document management needs are small, they can definitely cover the basics and do the trick.

But the more detailed your document requirements become (think advanced document templates, complete control over user access or connecting folders to specific matters)—the more difficult it becomes to rely solely on the big box tools.

dropbox business

Conga Composer

On the opposite side, you have Conga Composer. Their bread and butter is generating documents from templates, and they’re a great option if your main requirement for document software is quickly generating new documents.

The challenge you may face as you generate more and more documents will be how to efficiently store them, connect them to specific matters and share them with clients.

conga

Docrio by Litify

If your practice relies on being able to efficiently generate and manage large amounts of files, having a document management tool that excels in both document generation and document storage and management is key.

That’s where Docrio comes into play.

Docrio combines the storage functions you get from the big box tools with the document generation features you get from a tool specialized in easy-to-use templates. On top of that, it also adds the ability to directly connect everything to specific clients, matters or cases, and integrate document management directly into your current workflows.

docrio

Legal Task Management Software

Task management needs for law firms in particular can vary based on the type of firm, what size cases and matters they’re dealing with and how large their team is. Still, at its core, the goal of task management software is to keep track of what actions need to be taken throughout the duration of a case.

What are the benefits?

  • Keep track of what work needs to be completed and when it’s due
  • Company-wide transparency on who’s responsible for which tasks and actions
  • Spot bottlenecks, potential red flags and delays before they happen
  • Monitor overall progress across cases and matters

What software options do you have?

Trello

For simple and straightforward project and task management, Trello is a great option. It’s intentionally simple and easy to get up and running which is what makes it so appealing to a wide range of organizations.

The downside of using Trello to manage tasks for a law firm in particular is the amount of extra manual work that’ll be required to sync your Trello tasks with specific clients, matters or cases. Rather than updating one task or project one time, your workflows will need to include manually updating Trello and your practice management software separately every time. On top of the added hassle, this can also create inaccuracies between both platforms, where you’re not sure if Trello or your practice management platform is the ‘correct’ and up-to-date version.

trello

Asana

Similar to Trello, Asana is a multi-purpose project and task management program. There’s plenty of flexibility built in in the form of custom fields, nested subtasks, progress reports, and more.

But similar to Trello, it isn’t built intentionally for law firms and legal task management, so the same shortcomings apply when it comes to connecting tasks directly to cases or matters. Your best bet would be manually creating new sections in Asana every time a new client is signed on.

asana

Manage Tasks in Litify

When it comes to managing tasks specifically related to legal matters and cases, the best solution is going to be one that directly connects to your overall practice management software.

Specifically, if you’re using Litify as a matter management tool, rather than having to jump between Litify and Asana or Trello every time a task is completed and the status of a matter needs to be updated, you can manage the entire process inside of Litify.

This will help your entire firm operate more efficiently, and open the door for powerful automated workflows that can be triggered based on task completion or matter status changes. For example, you can configure a workflow to automatically update the status of a case to “Pending Signature” after sending a final contract to a new client is marked complete.

litify tasks

Video Conferencing Software

With COVID-19 forcing law firms to adopt remote work systems essentially overnight, video conferencing and video call software has become a lot more popular worldwide. Video conferencing software enables you to mimic in-person meetings with your employees and clients virtually, in a way that basic phone calls simply can’t.

What are the benefits?

  • Communicate with clients and your employees face-to-face while working remotely
  • Meet with clients anytime no matter where your physical office is located
  • Automatically attach a log of each session and  attach them to specific contacts, matters or intakes in your practice management system for future reference

What software options do you have?

Zoom

By now, pretty much everyone is familiar with Zoom. It’s one of the leading video conferencing software tools for organizations managing remote workforces and communicating with clients.

Zoom is a great option for most law firms. That said, there have been security issues in the past with Zoom, like hackers being able to access private meetings and fake, unsecure links that contain malware designed to trick meeting attendees.

zoom

Google Meet

Similar to Zoom, Google Meet is a video conferencing tool for organizations needing to host video calls with their staff or clients. Google Meet had been in second place mostly because of performance and quality issues that would pop up as more people joined a call, but the product has been making positive strides recently.

Overall, both Google Meet and Zoom are viable options for most law firms.

google meet

Uplink by Litify

The alternative to the two major video conferencing players above is Uplink by Litify—the main difference being Uplink was built specifically for lawyers to communicate with clients.

There are three major benefits to using Uplink rather than Zoom or Google Meet. First, there’s no sign in or app download needed for your clients to join a video call. Second, you’ll have much more control over who can access your Uplink calls. And third, an activity log of every call is stored directly within Litify.

Plus if you’re already using Litify for practice management, you can host calls from directly inside your Litify account without needing to switch to a new tab or program.

litify uplink

Legal Calendaring & Docketing Software

Legal calendaring software is used to keep track of multiple calendars from one central location, and sync new meetings, important dates and deadlines directly with yours and your staff’s calendars.

What are the benefits?

  • Sync new meetings and deadlines with your Outlook, Google or Apple calendars
  • Keep track of important court dates and document deadlines across multiple cases and matters in one place
  • Automatically schedule appointments around existing holds in your calendar

What software options do you have?

Westlaw Legal Calendaring

Westlaw Legal Calendaring is one of the better docketing software tools on the market today for law firms and attorneys.

One of the most popular features with Westlaw Legal Calendaring is that it can automatically schedule deadlines and important dates to your Outlook calendar based on the current court rules, with these rules being monitored and updated on a regular basis by Thomson Reuters.

westlaw calendaring

Calendaring in Litify Inbox

If you decide to use Litify as your primary practice management platform solution, you can also manage the calendaring and docketing aspects of your firm directly with Litify Inbox.

One of the major features available is the two-way sync ability between Outlook and Litify. Calendars for every Litify user at your firm will be accessible and accurate no matter where they’re looking. Plus, when you make changes from one location, it will automatically sync between the two.

This can help you keep track of all important court dates, deadlines, and meetings in the same place where you’re already storing case status updates and documents.

litify outlook calendar

CalendarRules

Another commonly used legal calendaring tool is CalendarRules. They’re also offering a court rules-based scheduling tool that can be used to automatically set deadlines and court dates in your calendars based on the current court rules across the United States.

If you’re using Litify as well for practice management, you can directly integrate CalendarRules into your existing calendars, while still taking advantage of the two-way sync between Litify and Outlook.

calendarrules

Accounting & Billing Software

Accounting and billing software is not brand new, but it’s still one of the most important tools your firm needs to have in your toolbox. The main functionality for law firms is typically billing clients, tracking billable hours worked and managing costs and expenses.

What are the benefits?

  • Manage financials and accounting for your law firm in one place rather than across scattered spreadsheets
  • Integrate billing details and accounting with your practice management software
  • Keep track of billable hours and invoicing in an intuitive software tool
  • Manage costs, receipts and expense reports for your entire firm

What software options do you have?

Quickbooks

Quickbooks is one of the leaders in the accounting software industry overall, and that extends to the legal vertical as well. You can manage standard accounting tasks, client billing, financial reporting, etc.

And depending on what practice management software you’re using, you can also integrate your Quickbooks account to directly connect billable hours and accounting data to specific cases and matters.

quickbooks

Accounting Seed

Similar to Quickbooks, Accounting Seed is a popular tool in the accounting industry. You can access most of the same functionality in Accounting Seed as you can in Quickbooks, and the same data can be integrated with your practice management software.

At the end of the day, both are good choices for most firms and it likely comes down to which tool your accounting department prefers.

accounting seed

Law Firm CRM & Intake Software

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is mostly used in the sales and marketing world, but most definitely plays a role in legal practice management as well. Law firms can use CRM software to manage intake, keep track of what stage a potential client is currently in, and monitor conversations happening with each client firm-wide.

What are the benefits?

  • Manage new leads, intake forms and packets, and clients in one place
  • Track all touchpoints and interactions with each client from their first contact request or form submission without having to ask your intake team to forward emails around

What software options do you have?

Salesforce & Litify

Salesforce has been the #1 CRM in the world for 6 years running—and for good reason. The possibilities within Salesforce are virtually endless.

The Salesforce AppExchange in particular is home to thousands of tools that can be directly integrated with your Salesforce organization. And if the tool you’re looking for doesn’t already have a native integration with Salesforce, in most cases you can easily create custom connections to directly connect the tools you rely on to your central workspace.

One of the best parts about Salesforce for law firms in particular is Litify.

Since Litify is built on Salesforce, you can connect your entire practice management platform to one of the most powerful platforms in the world in Salesforce—giving you access to all of the resources, capabilities and security features that come equipped.

salesforce

HubSpot

After Salesforce, one of the next most popular CRM tools is HubSpot. Overall, HubSpot is a great platform with plenty of functionality across sales, marketing and customer service.

The downside for law firms in particular though is that HubSpot is built mostly for sales teams without a lot of room for customization to fit the needs of a law firm.

hubspot

Internal Communication Software

Internal communication software is used to move real-time conversations from email threads and in person to messenger-style tools. The main goal is to help your organization communicate more effectively and efficiently—especially when working in part remotely or managing a fully remote law firm.

What are the benefits?

  • Simplify the communication process within your entire organization
  • No longer need to rely solely on email for all conversations
  • Have real-time conversations virtually with staff members to quickly get answers, opinions, updates and approvals

What software options do you have?

Microsoft Teams

Plenty of organizations already rely on Microsoft for massive parts of their business. The complete Office suite, Outlook email and calendars, OneDrive for document storage, etc.

If that’s the case for your firm, Microsoft Teams is likely a great option for managing your internal communications.

microsoft teams

Slack

If your team is not relying on Microsoft or you’d rather manage internal communication elsewhere, the other major player in the industry is Slack.

With Slack you can create multiple public or private channels related to specific clients, cases, matters, departments, social activities—you name it. It also integrates with a lot of popular software tools you’re already using, so connecting Slack to your current workflows and making it a part of your day to day operations shouldn’t be too difficult.

Plus, if you’re using Litify as your central practice management platform, you can build custom automations between your Slack and Litify workspaces. For example, you can automatically send notification messages when the status of a legal matter is updated.

slack

Salesforce Chatter

If your organization is using Salesforce as a CRM or Litify as your practice management platform, you’ll also have access to Salesforce Chatter—an internal communication social network built directly into the platform.

With Chatter, you can move conversations that would have been happening in Slack, Microsoft Teams or email threads directly into the location where you’re already managing all of your clients, cases and matters, and directly connect conversations to each.

salesfroce chatter

Knowledge Management Software

The larger your firm becomes, the more difficult it can be to provide 1 to 1 support to every staff member when they need it. The goal of knowledge management software is to provide your organization with an expanding database of information your staff can access 24/7 whenever they’re searching for answers.

Beyond this basic functionality, great knowledge management systems also allow you to leverage existing information and resources from employees who’ve worked on similar cases in the past.

What are the benefits?

  • Build an internal wiki for all important information
  • Dedicated resource for staff members to go to first when they have questions about process, policies or need to look something up
  • Onboard new hires faster and with a more consistent process
  • Tap into existing information and knowledge within your organization—whether it be employee information or past documents on similar cases

What software options do you have?

Aderant Handshake

Handshake from Aderant lets you house all of your data in one location, then access it through intranets, extranets and search features. One of their main selling points is speed—with their Handshake search and Expertise locator features built to speed up the process of finding information when you need it.

aderant handshake

West km

Another popular knowledge management system for law firms and legal professionals is West km from Westlaw and Thomson Reuters. West km is a great tool for storing and retrieving large amounts of documents through advanced searching that can be repurposed to save time.

west km

Knowledge Management In Litify

With Litify, you can accomplish the same primary objectives offered by Aderant Handshake and West km—housing documents and data in one place, then accessing it easily through search.

The added benefit to using Litify as your knowledge management system versus a standalone tool like the two options above is how it connects to your current workflows and systems. If you’re already running your practice through Litify, the benefit of keeping everything in one place is massive. Plus, you can use the integrations built in to Litify or an advanced API to connect your knowledge management software to any other tool you need.

litify integrations

Phone System Software For Law Firms

Remote phone system software works the same way a standard phone system would in a support or call center—the main difference is that you no longer need actual phones to operate the system.

What are the benefits?

  • Operate a call center for your law firm without needing a physical space
  • Receive and redirect phone calls via online software to save from needing actual phone systems or individual cell phones
  • Save on upfront and overhead costs by not needing to purchase physical phones and dedicated office space to operate a support team or intake call center
  • Fully integrating your phone systems with your central practice management software

What software options do you have?

Ring Central

One of the more popular options with law firms in particular is RingCentral. They position their business phone software as easy to use, quick to set up, and well connected so you never miss a call.

RingCentral also integrates with plenty of popular customer relationship management (CRM) and law firm practice management software—including Litify.

ringcentral

New Voice Media

New Voice Media (acquired by Vonage) is another player in the online phone system space to consider. One factor in particular that makes them stand out from the pack for some is their strong integration with Salesforce.

If you’re using Salesforce (or Litify through Salesforce), it’s definitely worth exploring this integration in particular to see how you can directly connect your Salesforce data to your phone system functionality.

vonage

Nextiva

Another popular phone system software option is Nextiva. For law firms looking for a VoIP (voice over IP) solution they can use to make and receive calls online and from any location, Nextiva is a great option.

nextiva

Aircall

Aircall operates no differently than a regular phone would in a call center. You can make and receive calls just the same.

The major differences are the tracking features and ability to manage your call center from anywhere with an internet connection. Tracking in particular allows you to report on how many hours your staff is spending on the phone, who they’ve talked to, and more.

aircall

8×8 Call Center

8×8 Call Center is similar to Aircall, but more popular with law firms in particular. This is in part because it doesn’t require any dedicated IT resources to set up and integrate with your existing tools and workflows.

8x8 call center

Law Firm Reporting Software

If your firm isn’t actively measuring the levers that lead to growth, it can become a lot more difficult to make important hiring decisions, allocate marketing budgets, and more. With reporting software specifically built for law firms, you can keep track of the metrics that matter most to your firm.

What are the benefits?

  • Keep track important law firm KPIs to monitor progress toward goals
  • Visualize any combination of data your firm relies on without having to tap on the shoulders of a data analyst or IT support every time
  • Access an overview of revenue, billed hours, matter progress, etc. with live updating dashboards or custom reports

What software options do you have?

Excel Spreadsheets

An Excel spreadsheet can be a powerful tool. Nowadays you can do just about anything with a spreadsheet if you already know what you’re trying to accomplish and have the know-how to set up a great spreadsheet-based report.

One of the downsides, of course, is that not everyone has the know-how to do exactly that.

Beyond just the experience and knowledge needed to set up a great report in Excel, you’re also likely going to require a lot of manual data extraction and be limited to the data visualizations Excel gives you.

microsoft time sheet

Google Data Studio

Where Excel spreadsheets can drop the ball at times when it comes to data visualization, Google Data Studio is quite the opposite. You can create deep reports full of custom visualizations in Data Studio to highlight any important legal KPIs (key performance indicators).

Still, you’ll need to manually export any data to include from all of the tools you’re currently using to run your practice every time you want to run a report.

data studio

Litify Insights & Analytics

Instead of relying solely on reporting systems that require you to manually export data individually from every single tool your firm uses, you can create live-updating dashboards and custom reports in Litify to monitor the numbers that matter most to your firm any time from anywhere.

And by using Litify to its full potential as a complete practice management platform solution, you’ll already have the third party tools you still rely on connected directly to your Litify workspace, meaning no manual exports will be needed from any tools.

litify analytics

Legal Timekeeping Software

Timekeeping software has long been a staple in the legal industry. Many firms and legal teams operate based on billable hourly rates, so maintaining accurate records of where yours and your staff’s time has been spent is crucial for client billing purposes.

On top of the basic billing functions, timekeeping software can also help you better understand which attorneys and staff members are your most efficient and strongest performers.

What are the benefits?

  • Keep track of hours spent on specific matters or tasks for each employee, paralegal and attorney in your firm in one place
  • Avoid manual spreadsheets and timesheets where typos and other simple human error can lead to incorrect and inaccurate billing
  • Directly integrate time and hours worked to accounting software and legal matter management software to avoid jumping between tools

What software options do you have?

Excel Spreadsheets & Custom Software

One of the more common methods for tracking time in law firms is a combination of Excel timesheets and software built in-house by a development team of your own.

This approach comes with a few different challenges:

  1. Cost for upkeep of internally built software (if something breaks)
  2. Inaccuracies in spreadsheet-based time tracking
  3. Connecting time to specific matters or cases

spreadsheet report

Toggl / Harvest / Clockify

There are plenty of time tracking tools on the market—some of the more well-known being Toggl, Harvest and Clockify.

While all three are great tools on their own for tracking time in general, none are built primarily with the needs of an attorney or entire law firm in mind. In most cases this means you’ll need to either manually export time reports every time you need them.

That said, if you are currently using one of these tools for time tracking and aren’t interested in switching, you can look into setting up a custom integration with your practice management platform to sync time reports with specific matters and cases.

toggl

Litify Timekeeping

In addition to using 3rd party tools and spreadsheets designed specifically for time tracking, you can also manage timekeeping directly inside of Litify through stopwatch and time log features. For each legal matter, you can either use the stopwatch features to track time live or manually log hours by task, add descriptions, set if the time was billable or non-billable and more.

litify stopwatch

How Legal Software Works Together

(And How To Clean Up Your Collection Of Tools)

So there you have it—an in-depth breakdown of the different types of software your practice should be using in some capacity, and a handful of the leading options for each.

But the challenge you may face next is this:

It’s easy to get bogged down in setting up all of the tools that seem like they could help you.

It takes time to set up a new account from scratch, transfer over any data existing in other tools or physical on-premise documents, train your staff on how to use the tool efficiently, and integrate the tool into your current workflows.

Plus, the more tools you adopt, the more intricate and tedious your systems become.

You’ll soon find yourself chasing down documents in one place, reporting on data in another, financials in another, talking to clients in another, talking to your staff in another, monitoring case statuses in another, hosting video calls in another, managing contacts in another, etc…

The truth is, you don’t need to use a massive Frankenstein-style combination of dozens of tools that each specialize in one specific aspect.

Instead, we recommend starting from the top with a practice management platform solution.

Platform Solutions vs Single-Use Tools

The difference between a platform solution like Litify and single-use tools is the amount you can accomplish with each, and how well they connect to other tools.

Not surprisingly, a single-use tool is focused on doing one thing really well—and in most cases they do exactly that. A platform solution on the other hand acts as the foundational system for your entire law firm. It’s where you lay the groundwork for everything you do across your entire practice.

The first thing your law firm should do is set up your practice management platform. This is where Litify stands out from the pack. You can manage cases, matters, documents, calendaring, reporting and nearly every individual category we’ve covered in this guide—all from one single location.

See Litify in action today.

Request a demo today to find out how Litify can revolutionize your team’s workflows and practice management systems.

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After you’ve set up Litify as your foundational platform solution, you can start to connect the single-use tools you do still rely on directly into your practice management platform. Marketing tools, accounting software, timekeeping tools your team swears by—with the right platform solution, all of it can be integrated.

You’ll no longer be left navigating dozens of tabs and windows just to track down all of the different tools you rely on daily.

Everything will be in one place.

If you’re interested in exploring how Litify can help you manage your practice in a more efficient and streamlined way, request a demo today. We’d be happy to walk you through the platform live and answer any and all questions that come to mind.