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Dennis Kennedy

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By Request Week: Are there any software tools specifically designed for commercial lawyers?

From Australia, where many cool things are happening in legal technology, comes this question:
Are there any software tools specifically designed for commercial lawyers?
It does seem that most legal software is designed for litigators, with commercial (or transactional) lawyers having fewer choices.
In part, the non-litigation practices are quite diverse and it’s not as easy as it is in litigation to design tools that cut across the practice areas.
That said, there are a number of software tools for the transactional lawyer.Often there are specific tools for specific practice areas. When I did estate planning early in my career, for example, we used fiduciary accounting software, tax preparation and planning, actuarial software, and other estate planning software tools, often with several programs to choose from in each category.
However, it’s surprisingly difficult to find those practice-specific programs without a lot of searching on the Internet.
Let’s turn to some general software categories for commercial lawyers.
1. Document or case management software. Commercial lawyers often have to manage multiple documents for each deal, track workflow and do other administrative tasks. Using a general document or case management tool can make a big impact.
2. Document assembly. Commercial lawyers use a lot of forms and model documents. It’s a short step to move to document assembly (e.g., HotDocs, Ghostfill, Ixio, DealBuilder and Exari). To me, document assembly is THE software to consider in a commercial practice.
3. Litera’s IDS and ChangePro. I’m fascinated by these two suites of tools from Litera. Among other things, they give you ways to manage documents that are being negotiated and changed, to keep track of those changes and to do real-time collaboration. You can also handle metadata and other issues associated with exchanging documents.
4. Adobe Acrobat Professional 7. Exchanging Word documents is a tricky thing, with some metadata pitfalls. Acrobat 7 gives you ways to exchange, secure and electronic sign documents, and a ton of other useful features.
5. DealProof. Now part of the Thomson family, DealProof offers, among other things, an automated way to proofread your documents and make them consistent.
Those are some starting points. It’s a great question and legal software vendors in this category need to be aware of the difficulty commercial lawyers have in finding your products.
I welcome readers who have recommendations of good software tools for commercial lawyers to mention them in the comments to this post.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Learn more about legal technology at Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Technology Central page.
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2 Responses to “By Request Week: Are there any software tools specifically designed for commercial lawyers?”

  1. The first step to me would be to pick a best of class document management solution, and combine it with a practice management solution. Since I work in the industry, I’ll withhold my personal judgement. My recommendation would be to Google “Document Management” and contact a few vendors for an overview.
    Cheers,
    Dan
    http://documentmanagementnews.blogspot.com

  2. Great blog, particularly emphasising case management and document assembly. However, I would de-emphasize standalone document management programs, and disagree with Dan’s comment re picking such programs first. That is a “tail wag the dog” approach like accounting in the 1980′s and CRM more recently. You first need a lawyer-empowering practice/case management system, not “afterthought” functionality. A lawyer’s focus is client work and involves phone calls, meetings, emails, research, time recording etc AND documents. It should be matter-centric, not just document-centric. Document management, like accounting, is just one component and needs to be put into perspective.
    This was highlighted in an extract from the visionery 1989 book “Computerizing for Personal Productivity: A Guide for the High Performance Lawyer” by S Michael Brookes: http://tinyurl.com/fa3d2. Better legal practice management systems do document management, while giving you an option to integrate a full-blown document management system. However, as the document management capabilities of practice management systems improve, the need for a separate system diminishes, particurly in smaller firms.
    BTW Here is an ad featuring Michael well before his book: http://tinyurl.com/obxrd. Interestingly, it also features Dale Wainwright who is now the Product Manager at Gavel & Gown, one company that does get the lawyer-first approach.

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