This guide – part 7 of our 8 part careers guide – provides an overview of legaltech products (by category, by function and by consumer type), use cases, the major vendors and the most useful directories for further learning. By the end of this article you will understand legaltech in much greater detail, talk more confidently about its applications and have a grounding to further your own understanding!


01. What do we mean by legalech?

Legaltech is simply any technology (whether badged “legaltech” / “lawtech” or not), that

1️⃣ helps facilitate the practice of law for lawyers in order to deliver better products and services for their clients;

and / or

2️⃣ helps consumers access legal expertise, products, services or access justice directly and without the use of lawyers, or at least with reduced lawyer input.

Legaltech, and technology generally, aren’t static. Nor are they particularly distinct. Legaltech is, after all, just tech!

For a more detailed analysis of legaltech and it’s historical development see here, and for a discussion of whether there is any meaningful difference between legaltech and lawtech, see here.

There’s lots of ways to subdivide legaltech into useful categories, e.g. by product category, by consumer emphasis, and by functionality.

Let’s explore each!


A. Legaltech by product category

One way is to slice the legaltech space by product category:

Legaltech 2011+

In the above, we’ve deliberately omitted a lot of vendors (due to space) and mixed some pre-2011 vendors in with post-2011 vendors and vice versa to provide a roughly representative illustration rather than an exhaustive and precise one.

Hopefully you can see how different products divide up by product category, and as described in greater detail here, how the focus of legaltech has gradually broadened out from backbone categories such as document management, practice management, eDiscovery and research into other discrete use cases such as document automation.

Of course, these divisions aren’t neat – in reality, a lot of products overlap when organised by product category as in the above diagram.

For instance, CLM tools such as Ironclad include many of their own proprietary document automation features (putting them into the competitive orbit of document automation pure plays), yet also integrate tightly with third party e-signature solutions.

These overlaps are one of the reasons it can be tricky for buyers to delineate between products and suitability to their needs.

The drawback of such categorisation by product type is that this categorisation only tells you what each product does, but not who uses each product. Luckily there is a solution…


B. Legaltech by consumer emphasis

A useful corollary to the above approach is this excellent infographic via Jae Um of Six Parsecs via Legal Evolution, which organises legaltech use cases by consumer emphasis:

Note the various non-legaltech specific products listed, e.g. Office 365 Power Apps, Mendix, GitHub etc. This is because, as we’ve argued elsewhere, legaltech is more than just #legaltech – it should encompass other tech that has application to legal use cases.

Unlike the simple product categorisation in the preceding section, organising legaltech by consumer emphasis presents a useful picture of who uses what. This can be helpful when selecting tech, i.e. because the above presents a clearer mapping of tech to users.


C. Legaltech by functionality

A third way is LegaltechHub‘s directory, which uses the below functional taxonomy to organise it’s unbeatable library of legaltech products:

Why is this taxonomy useful?

Like booking.com, amazon.com and skyscanner.com, the LegaltechHub‘s taxonomy allows users to filter, sort and search using different combinations of features, making it easier to unearth products that have very user specific fit. In doing so, this avoids being too distracted by brand or overall product category, which in either case may overshadow other more relevant products that share the necessary features a user requires.


02. A whirlwind tour of legaltech use cases & products

We organise below the most popular legaltech categories, and against each describe:

  • what it does;
  • what it replaces (if anything);
  • what it overlaps with (if anything); and
  • why it’s good, plus a few example products (including where appropriate, both legal and non-legal specific products).

Analytics

Does what?

Software that can perform analytics, and often useful visualisations, with data.

These vary a lot. Some are general use applications such as Tableau or PowerBI that plug in to existing datasets and allow users to slice and dice the data and create interactive dashboards or interfaces to examine the data for trends and insights.

Other platforms include analytics for specific purposes, e.g. to provide heatmaps of contracts to show which parts of a contract are subject to the most negotiation and vice versa, or the variability of key values such as dates, amounts and percentages across a suite of contracts.

Similarly a lot of products include some form of analytics to track metrics regarding the specific product’s usage, e.g. user logins, user interactions, number and type of features used, project management stats, and so on.

Equally, practice management and document management solutions provide a wealth of analytics regarding firm data in respect of the former and document versioning in regards to the latter.

And finally, there are a growing number of apps that analyse court data and attempt to provide predictive analytics regarding the likelihood of a successful action based on variables of the case, e.g. court, jurisdiction, judge(s), party types, claims etc.

Replaces what?

These don’t replace an existing prodcut per se, but rather expand upon existing products or features.

Overlaps with?

There is a lot of overlap between product-specific analytics (e.g. dashboards in eDiscovery and Contract Analysis tools) and use of the same data via general-purpose analytics platforms such as PowerBi or Tableau. So much so that a few vendors in the eDiscovery and Contract Analytics space are increasingly dispensing with their own custom analytics dashboards and instead allowing better data exports for users to pipe into general-purpose analytics platforms such as Microsoft PowerBi and Tableau.

Why is it good?

Used well, these apps or features provide insights into your systems, organisation and processes. These metrics can be used to benchmark current processes and provide a baseline against which to define desired state improvements if embarking upon a process improvement project, or comparing the impact of one or more technology solutions.

Examples?

Examples include most document / knowledge management platforms, plus an increasing number of the document automation, contract analysis and deal management platforms. Court analytics options include: Gavelytics, Lex Machina. General purpose analytics platforms include: Qlik, Microsoft PowerBi, Tableau, and Microsoft Excel (yes, there is a ton you can get done in Microsoft Excel if you know how, especially with the more recent versions having optional data science packs and integrations with Microsoft PowerBi.


Contract Analysis

Does what?

Contract analysis tools analyse contracts, either:

(a) to identify and extract key data points (e.g. parties, names, dates, values and clauses); or

(b) to provide some basic level of semantic analysis (e.g. risk scoring), usually aligned to a playbook, i.e. a checklist of things to include or exclude when drafting or reviewing a document so as to align it with organisational policy, local laws or other requirements.

These platforms use a combination of machine learning, search, natural language processing and rules based algorithms to analyse and extract key information from contracts.

A helpful way to sub-divide them is as follows:

  • Pre-execution drafting. Software that can learn a playbook for a document type, such as an NDA. Having learnt the playbook, the software is then able to automatically produce playbook compliant mark-ups of third party NDAs without human intervention, albeit a human is usually required to sense check the AI’s mark-up before sharing with the other side. Used to speed up routine drafting and review of high volume, low risk contracts that are very rules based in terms of permissible variations from a standard form or playbook.
  • Pre-execution flagging. Software that automatically flags against third party contracts any exceptions to a prescribed playbook for a particular document type. In some cases, the software may provide a score to indicate the risk or degree of deviation from the playbook. This may present as a traffic light (e.g. red, amber green), a percentage (e.g. high for compliant / less risky, low for non-compliant / more risky). Used to speed up routine review of high volume, low risk contracts that are very rules based in terms of permissible variations from a standard form or playbook.
  • Post-execution review. Software that automatically scans documents and extracts key information, e.g. key clauses, parties, dates amounts, percentages and in some cases is able to answer simple questions about the content of the document, e.g. “Does the contract permit Party A’s termination without notice?”, answer “Yes” or “No”. Often used for due diligence or to summarise key data from contracts for regulatory compliance in order to qualify and quantify the impact of regulations or macro market events (e.g. Brexit, COVIVD-19 or LIBOR discontinuation) on an estate of contracts.

Replaces what?

This is a newer category and doesn’t easily replace something else. It does significantly augment, and in some simpler cases, automate a lot of otherwise heavily manual legal legwork to sift, extract and make use of data in contracts, e.g. in a due diligence context.

Overlaps with?

There is an increasing overlap between the three sub-types described above, and between these three sub-types and similar features being built into next generation contract lifecycle management solutions. In terms of post-execution review tools, this specific sub-category overlaps in features and to some extent purpose, with eDiscovery platforms, which are similarly used to sift and organise relevance from noise when reviewing large bodies of legal data.

Why is it good?

These technologies significantly augment the otherwise grunt work of data mining contracts and making highly repetitive data extractions, legal analyses or mark-ups for high volume exercises.

Examples?


Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM)

Does what?

CLM platforms aim to automate and / or augment the entire contract lifecycle:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Contract-Lifecycle-Management-1-1024x392.png
A typical contract lifecycle

Taking each stage in turn:

  • Create. Intake portals , i.e. a single place for the business and legal to go to for self-service resources and hep. Intake portals may also include questionnaire driven document automation options to allow self-service creation of the most commonly used contract types within an organisation. Created contracts may also be automatically routed, via conditional logic, to the necessary approvers.
  • Negotiate. Online shared spaces that allow both sides to a transaction to negotiate comments to a contract in real time (a bit like co-editing in Google Docs or Microsoft Word 365). Often this includes the ability to “wall off” Party A’s comments unless and until Party A is happy to share those granular changes with Party B. This avoids the need for each side to separately maintain versions of the working draft, redline each iteration.
  • Approve. Automated or semi-automated workflows that route approvals to the appropriate approvers. E.g. if Party A’s NDA policy prohibits a duration of 2+ years, and Party A receives a mark-up of its NDA with a term of 3 years, this can (depending on the sophistication of the system) trigger an automated request for legal approval, which will direct a notification and the document to legal for their review, and may prevent the contract from proceeding further forward in the process unless and until the approval is provided or remediation completed.
  • Sign. CLMs typically include integration with one of the main e-signature providers, making it easy to create, send, collate, track and finalize signatures for contracts.
  • Execute. Some CLMs integrate with other systems, e.g. accounting, billing or order management systems to trigger secondary workflows once the contract is signed.
  • Track. CLMs will offer varying degrees of data extraction and tracking regarding the moving parts of a typical contract, e.g. parties, start date, end date, other key dates such as payments etc), and obligation management (i.e. summary of who needs to do what, when, where, why and how per the Ts&Cs), which in some cases can be attached to a notification or other automated or semi-automated actions where appropriate.
  • Renew & Exit. The ability to track contracts and their moving parts makes it easier to manage renewals and terminations, i.e. being alerted to them ahead of time and being able to automate or semi-automate the process for rolling or expiring a contract’s term, including sending out renewal / termination notices or new contracts where relevant.

Replaces what?

More manual and disaggregated systems for managing each lifecycle stage of a typical contract.

Overlaps with?

CLM overlaps with contract analysis, document automation, document management, and workflow automation. Given the customer centricity of contracts, there is also some overlap between CLM and CRM, and unsurprisingly, among the most popular platforms, the two categories often have out of the box integrations with each other.

Why is it good?

Creates a single source of truth for all contracts across all contract lifecycle stages. Allows easier management of contracts from cradle to grave. Tracking of obligations can have significant benefits, including reducing revenue leakage (e.g. payments owed or owing) and avoid overlooking default, penalties, renewals and terminations. Note that the levels of automation vary quite considerably between products and lifecycle specific actions between products.

Examples?

Apptus, Avvoka, Conga, Corridor, Evisort, Icertis and Ironclad.


Customer relationship management (CRM)

Does what?

A platform that includes the typical processes for managing interactions with existing as well as past and potential customers.

CRMs provide a single source of truth about each customer’s history with a business (legal or otherwise). This is used to to improve business relationships with customers, specifically one or both of:

(a) growth, i.e. number of customers and number of products / services sold to each customer; and

(b) retention, i.e. keeping customers and maintaining their current consumption of products or services.

Replaces what?

More manual and disaggregated systems for managing each lifecycle stage of a typical customer relationship.

Overlaps with?

Given the customer centricity of contracts and matters respectively, there is natural overlap with CLM and Practice Management.

Why is it good?

Creates a single source of truth for all customer relationship, past and present and prospective, throughout their lifecycle stages. Allows collaboration, coordination and knowledge sharing in service of growing or retaining customer relationship.

Examples?


Deal Management

Does what?

Online (cloud based) collaboration spaces. Allows any combination of law firm, opposing counsel, one or both sets of clients plus any other relevant stakeholders (e.g. local counsel or other advisors) to collaborate around deal to-do items (often known as conditions precedent or CPs) and any attendant document based deliverables (e.g. contracts, filings, notices etc).

Replaces what?

Email, redlines and Word / Excel based tables. Lawyers and clients typically exchange updates on transaction deliverables and processes over email, sending each other mark-ups and redlines of tables of to-do items (aka checklists) made in Word or Excel.

Overlaps with?

Document management and virtual data rooms, both of which sometimes offer checklist management and always offer document storage and exchange.

Why is it good?

Creates a single source of truth for the transaction, allowing parties to update and view the moving parts to a transaction in real time, often from their mobile devices. Much easier to search, make and share updates per to-do item, significantly reducing time otherwise spent updating and emailing Word or Excel-based checklists.

Examples?

Closd, Closing Folders (now a part of iManage), thedocyard, Legatics, Litera Transact (formerly Workshare Transact and Doxly).


DIY law apps

Does what?

All sorts of things! These platforms divide into specialists and generalists.

Generalists offer a variety of self-service legal products, usually the ability to generate contracts via document automation such as tenancy agreements, NDAs, employment agreements, simple licences, simple sales contracts and so on.

Specialists tend to offer one or possibly 2 – 3 services attached to a niche, e.g. family law, wills and probate etc. These will more usually combine tech assisted services to automate assessment of legal claims and sometimes use that data to create legal contracts or filings and can be assisted by legal advisors from end to end if necessary.

These platforms vary a lot in terms of audience. Some are aimed at:

(a) consumers, e.g. Amicable for divorces or Farewill for wills; or

(b) businesses and investors, e.g. SeedLegals automates start-up legal docs and investment processes for start-ups and investors.

And some do both, e.g. DoNotPay and RocketLawyer offer a variety of services to a variety of potential users and use cases spanning both consumers and businesses.

Some offer freemium and subscription based pricing, or product / service specific pricing to allow greater flexibility. vs traditional billable hour or fixed fee pricing typical of traditional legal service providers.

Replaces what?

Traditional legal services or providers.

Overlaps with?

Law firms and ALSPs providing similar services or products, e.g. CooleyGo for start-up documents overlaps with SeedLegals, although arguably the latter goes further in terms of being a truer DIY app vs. a lead magnet for traditional legal services as in the case of CooleyGo.

Why is it good?

Lowers cost, improves choice and disintermediates access to legal services.

Examples?

Farewill, Amicable, HelloDivorce, RocketLawyer, DoNotPay, SeedLegals.


Document Automation

Does what?

Software that automates the creation (and sometimes updating) of one more related documents.

Legacy tools tended to require a pseudo coding language, or more precisely a mark-up language.

A mark-up language is a special annotation language applied to text that tells the software what to do with the annotated text. For instance, <b>text</b> in HTML tells software to bold the word text. For document automation, users apply product-specific mark-up languages to annotate which parts of their templates are variables (parties, values, percentages etc) and / or require some sort of conditional logic e.g. if clause X required make Y attendant changes somewhere else in the document.

Newer platforms have abstracted away the mark-up language, instead preferring no code graphical user interface (GUI) driven interfaces that make it very easy to learn and apply automations to documents, usually using on-screen highlighting of variables and conditional logic and building the specific optionality via drop-downs and other intuitive menus for the most common actions required for document automation.

These newer platforms increasingly extend into what are more properly contract lifecycle management features, e.g. document storage, contracts analytics as well as collaborative online negotiation platforms.

Whether automations are configured with a pseudo coding language or on-screen menus, the result is a questionnaire for users (including business users) to populate with answers, often supported by drafting or policy guidance to guide users how to answer the questionnaire.

Once the questionnaire is completed, the system returns to the user the created document(s), tailored to the requirements specified in the questionnaire.

Document automation can be used to create a suite of related documents from the same basic kernel of information, e.g. shared deal data or court case data.

Replaces what?

Traditionally, contract templates use square / curly brackets, blobs and placeholders and footnotes to convey to the user the optionality and any attendant guidance notes necessary to interpret what to insert or replace where in order to turn a template into a tailored first draft for a client.

E.g. templates typically look something like the below:

This agreement is made between [Party A] and [Party B] (each a “Party” and together the “Parties“) on [•] [date] [ year] (the “Agreement“). The Agreement is for [Option A[a ham sandwich]]/[Option B[a vegan sausage roll]]/[Option C[INSERT OTHER TRANSACTION DESCRIPTION]] to be provided by [Party A] to [Party B] on on [•] [date] [ year] (the “Dinner Date“).

[USE IF VEGAN SAUSAGE ROLL

[12. Vegan friendly

[Party A] represents and warrants that the vegan sausage roll does not contain any meat or dairy produce, and is compliant with the UK Vegan Society’s definition of vegan-friendly produce for human consumption.]]

[OR]

[USE IF HAM SANDWICH

[12. Pork content

[Party A] represents and warrants that the ham sandwich contains at least 10% pork.]]

Although the above usefully signposts required optionality, it does however distract the user. The manual insertion of data into placeholders and removal of brackets / blobs can distract from thinking about what is being drafted and why.

As noted, newer document automation platforms replace legacy systems, including the need to learn a complicated templating or mark-up language. They do so by expanding the overall feature set into CLM use cases, and changing the user experience by preferring no code interfaces to create and manage automations.

However, the need for document automation experts fluent in the pseudo coding of earlier platforms are not rendered obsolete by the newer tools; quite the contrary. There is a lot more to document automation than knowing a pseudo coding language. There is a lot fo valuable expertise required to understand what, how and why to automate some or all of a document and / or wider document suite.

Overlaps with?

Document automation overlaps with CLM, document management, Microsoft Word, Google Docs.

Why is it good?

Document automation significantly reduces the time spent replacing square bracketed placeholders and blobs in documents, which often distract from the substance of the drafting decisions.

You can expert faster creation of first drafts, improved risk management via the ability to enforce specific drafting optionality and exclude others, easier ability to version and release new templates in one place, and in appropriate cases allow business users to self-serve their creation of contracts, sometimes with automated approvals routing to handle any requests for exceptions (e.g. a contract term longer than the permitted default).

Examples?

Avvoka, Clarilis, ContractBook, ContractExpress, ContractMill, Contractone, Docassemble (open source), Documate (built with Docassemble), HotDocs, Ironclad (CLM), Juro, Legito, PandaDocs and Precisely. And many more. This is a busy space.

Making it busier still is Microsoft 365 by Microsoft, which also contains the ability to automate documents, e.g. using Microsoft apps such as Power Apps and Microsoft Forms.

For instance, see this 13 minute tutorial by Lawyers on Demand demonstrating how to automate documents using Microsoft 365:


Document & Knowledge Management

Does what?

Stores documents and emails. Often combined with search, filtering and sorting functionality to drill down into more specific data by useful metadata, e.g. author, typist, date, version, department, industry, parties, document type, document format etc.

Replaces what?

Typically replaces ad hoc storage and knowledge management via individual inboxes/ desktop folders and shared drives.

Overlaps with?

Increasing overlap with some CLM features, e.g. data extraction. Some vendors, e.g. iManage, have acquired contract analysis products (RAVN) plus deal management products (Closing Folders) to gradually cater for more and more legal use cases.

Why is it good?

Creates a single source of truth for all documents, email and versions thereof searchable in one place. Advanced functionality to search, filter and sort data based on metadata, and in some case, the relationships between these, can enhance ability to find and apply know-how (e.g. the exact template, precedent or context necessary to produce advice, review or negotiate specific points etc) and / or know-who (the exact expert internally to contact for a query).

Examples?


Drafting Productivity

Does what?

Enhances drafting productivity. Features vary, but include:

  • Defined terms checks. Automatically identify and allow easy remediation of capitalised but undefined defined terms, defined but unused defined terms, inconsistent defined terms. Can be used intra or inter document.
  • Cross-reference checks. Automatically identify and allow easy remediation of missing or incorrect cross-references. Can be used intra or inter document.
  • List checks. Automatically identify and allow easy remediation of inconsistent numbered list or bullet point ordering. Some tools can flag inconsistent use of semi-colons or missing use of “and”, “or” etc between or at the end of list items.
  • Missing punctuation checks. Automatically identify and allow easy remediation of missing {}, [], (), “” etc.
  • Inconsistent phrase checks. Automatically identify and allow easy remediation of inconsistent phrases, e.g. “indemnify and hold harmless’” v.s. “hold harmless and indemnify”.
  • Clause libraries. Click a clause and open up a search or look-up sidebar to find similar clauses. Often requires manual curation (sometimes with assists from technology) to highlight semantically and / or context relevant clauses vs. syntactically similar language, which isn’t necessarily the same thing. For instance, a buyer friendly termination provision might be syntactically similar to a seller side equivalent but semantically different, and likewise in either case what might be appropriate for a mid market transaction might be wholly off market for a top tier market transaction).
  • Comprehension aids. Parses document and builds links between defined terms and clause references. Allows reviewer to read a clause and click into the defined terms or cross-references and have these available via a sidebar. Aids comprehension and reduces the need to print documents or scroll back and forth around a document, which otherwise inevitably impedes understanding and ability to review documents.
  • Bulk action automation. Tools such as Office & Dragons make it easy to automate bulk actions, e.g. duplication of a template board resolution, shareholder resolution and director’s certificate for 10s of companies by automating the otherwise time consuming and repetitive process of swapping the names or placeholders in a template or precedent for the transaction specific variables. Can be used to apply bulk updates to such documents, e.g. amounts, percentages, dates, specific language (e.g. document descriptions in recitals etc).

Replaces what?

More power-ups to the existing functionality of Microsoft Word than a replacement for it and similar.

Overlaps with?

There is a lot of overlap within this category – different apps provide one or more combinations of the above functionality. This category is ripe for consolidation.

Why is it good?

Can massively speed up otherwise laborious and quite frankly mind-numbing proofreading or bulk tasks, saving huge amounts of low value time and freeing up such time for higher value legal work and generally speeding up client turnaround times.

Examples?

Litera ContractCompanion, Litera Comparison, Define, Donna, Office & Dragons.


eDiscovery

Does what?

Platforms for processing electronic data at huge scale. Typically used to locate, secure, and search data with the intent of using it as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case or in forensics investigations to audit a company for compliance.

eDiscovery platforms often include a variety of machine learning, natural language processing, search and rules based technologies to sift and cull data into increasingly relevant distillations categorised by different claim related metadata, e.g. party specific, issue specific, claim specific etc.

Replaces what?

The horrendous process of manually printing, sharing and organising vast volumes of printed data.

Overlaps with?

E-discovery and contract analysis tools overlap in terms of features, albeit eDiscovery is arguably a more established category of technology having been around for 20 years or so.

Ironically, many contract analysis products are somewhat immature implementations of more mature eDiscovery features. It is also somewhat unsurprising that there is at least one contract analysis platform – Heretik – built on top of a leading eDiscovery platform (Relativity).

Why is it good?

eDiscovery software makes it far easier to refine huge quantities of litigation discovery data into manageable and actionable buckets, whether that is the relevance (or not) of material to a case’s issues, or to sift out privileged from non-privileged material. In many cases, eDiscovery is a required process for most jurisdictions.

Examples?

Disco, Ipro Eclipse, Nuix, Relativity, Reveal and Salient Discovery.


Entity Management

Does what?

Platforms for the end to end management of entities such as corporations and partnerships, including entity creation and closure, approvals (e.g. signing authority management), filings and formalities (e.g. board and shareholder resolutions and voting) etc. Some entity management software specialises in specific tasks, e.g. equity management for start-ups, scale-ups and larger companies such as Carta.

Replaces what?

More manual and disaggregated systems for managing each entity administration and company secretarial workflows and data.

Overlaps with?

CLM given nexus of entities and approvals to the contracts they enter into.

Why is it good?

Creates a single source of truth to store and manage entity tasks and data.

Examples?

Athennian, Carta, Diligent and Nasdaq BoardVantage.


E-signature

Does what?

Allows easy creation, sending, tracking and collation of signatures to contracts. Signatories typically sign by clicking the signature block to insert into the signature block one of: (a) a scan of their wet-ink signature, (b) an automatically generated signature or (c) a digital signature drawn with their finger or stylus using a touch device (e.g. smartphone or tablet.

Replaces what?

E-signature platforms replace wet-ink signatures (i.e. printing and signing documents) and electronic signature via email. The latter, more commonly used process for e-signature (particularly among Big Law firms), typically entails multiple cumbersome and error prone steps, e.g.

01. Finalize. Lawyer converts a final Word document draft contract, or its signature pages, into a PDF.

02. Send. Lawyer drafts an email to signatory/ies explaining what to do and attaching PDF signature pages and / or entire PDF document.

03. Download. Signatory downloads the emailed attachment(s).

04. Pint. Signatory prints the downloaded attachment(s).

05. Wet-ink sign. Signatory uses a pen to sign the printed attachment(s).

06. Scan. Signatory scans the printed and signed attachment(s).

07. Return. Signatory drafts and sends email back to sender attaching the signed signature pages / document.

08. Compile. Lawyer downloads each returned signed signature page / document and manually splices these into a new PDF containing all of the signed signature pages. Lawyer either: (a) uses Adobe’s text tool to type the signing date onto the document; or (b) more commonly, prints the new document and hand writes onto the document the signing date and rescans the entire document once again.

09. Track. Throughout the above process, the lawyer maintains a checklist or grid to track which documents have been finalized, sent for signing, signed (and by whom) but not yet collated, or signed and fully collated and dated.

10. Distribute. Lawyer drafts and sends an email to signatory/ies attaching fully signed and dated document(s).

If you got sleepy reading that we don’t blame you! It’s an unnecessarily clunky and archaic process that, unsurprisingly, is ripe for user error by both signatory and lawyer.

Overlaps with?

Traditional electronic signature, as described above, plus wet-ink in person signings.

Why is it good?

Electronic signature platforms streamline the traditional email based electronic signature process (described above), essentially collapsing steps 1 and 2 into a single step, and steps 3 to 10 into one, or possibly two steps.

And why is that good?

It can save a ton of time otherwise spent manually fiddling with documents and chasing signatories to sign documents. A lot of e-signature platforms also allow notification and reminders to be automatically sent to chase outstanding signature pages.

Examples?

AdobeSign, DocuSign, HelloSign, PandaDocs.


Litigation Management

Does what?

Software to organise and automate or augment typical litigation management tasks such as:

  • client intake, which is especially useful for mass litigation where claim volumes are high but individual value potentially low and basic claim parameters more or less common;
  • bundling;
  • court filings;
  • management of litigation deadlines and deliverables;
  • exhibit management; and
  • claim form submission drafting etc

Replaces what?

Manual processes, e.g. email or paper based forms used to collate or record and file litigation information.

Overlaps with?

Some of the non-litigation specific products, e.g. document management, contract analysis, document automation, practice management and research.

Why is it good?

The more “all in one” platforms create a single source of truth and collaborative space (usually for internal use, but sometimes with permissioned external collaboration features), improving the ability for a team of litigators to work on single or multiple matters. Automations or augmentations of traditional processes via such platforms can further enhance productivity. Point solutions in this space can significantly speed up laborious tasks such as bundling / exhibit management.

Examples?

Exhibit Manager, Opus 2, ProClaim and LeverArch.


Marketplaces

Does what?

These are online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay but for legal products (documents, e.g. wills, NDAs, sales agreements etc) or services (e.g. drafting, negotiation, litigation, regulatory compliance, advisory etc). These often include the ability to shop for freelance lawyers and other legal professional specialisms.

Replaces what?

Traditional procurement and instruction of legal services, or acquisition of legal products.

Overlaps with?

Traditional processes for selecting or instructing legal services or acquiring legal products, e.g. law firm panels, RFIs / RFPs and relationships.

Why is it good?

Widens choice and allows scalable freelancing for independent lawyers or small law firms. Buyers can more easily search, compare and procure legal services or products. Alternative business models (e.g. freelancers and remote workers) can make the products and services offered cost competitive vs. traditional procurement channels. For retail consumers, these marketplaces can support access to justice by lowering cost and increasing availability and choice.

Examples?

Bizcounsel, LegalZoom, and Lexoo. There is also an emerging number of platforms offering easier ability to run RFIs and RFPs to select and compare legal service providers, e.g. Alacrity and Persuit. As an aside, if you hate responding to RFIs ad RFPs, check out Loopio, which is knowledge management for bid data and includes some features to match RFP / RFI questions to precedent responses from similar RFP / RFIs.


Practice Management

Does what?

Can span one or several practice management requirements, e.g. client intake, case and client records, billing, bookkeeping, schedule, appointments, deadlines, computer files and to facilitate any compliance requirements such as with document retention policies, courts’ electronic filing systems and, in the UK, the Solicitor’ Accounts Rules as defined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Replaces what?

Practice management platforms may replace manual bookkeeping, records management and other point solutions used to manage specific features of legal practice, eg. time-keeping. That said, there a number of point specific solutions in this space, e.g. AI assisted time narratives by Ping or legal spend management for the law firm-client interface, e.g. Apperio.

Overlaps with?

Some overlap between certain features of litigation management and deal management solutions, but generally considered a separate category.

Why is it good?

The “all in one” platforms bring together various practice management needs under one integrated roof, allowing a single source of truth to understand and interrogate the overall practice, or specific working parts of the overall business.

Examples?

Clio, MyCase, Ping, Apperio, BrightFlag, PracticePanther etc.

Research

Does what?

Searchable online databases available via subscription. Content varies but may include:

  • Legislation
  • Case law
  • Legal commentary on case law and legislation or other legal developments
  • Know-how, e.g. explainers regarding transactions, issues or processes
  • Analytics, e.g. whether certain clauses are on / off market, or the trends for certain cases in certain circumstances
  • Checklists, e.g. a checklist of actions and deliverables to complete an M&A or litigation
  • Template documents
  • Precedent documents
  • Q&As
  • Comparative analysis, e.g. of jurisdictional differences and similarities for certain types of legal transaction or process

Replaces what?

Physical libraries and books.

Overlaps with?

Internal knowledge management of relevant materials like the above.

Why is it good?

Curation is outsourced and maintained by a third party in one place, and made easily searchable and actionable through a single source of truth.

Examples?

Practical Law (aka PLC), LexisNexis, Lex Machina, Orbital Witness (real estate specific), Waymark Tech (regulatory specific) and Westlaw.


Smart Contracts

Does what?

Legally binding and enforceable contracts capable of interpretation and ideally self-execution in whole or in part. Typically, although by no means necessarily, discussed in the context of blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. Usually involve a mark-up language to represent a contract’s entities, actions, events and obligations. For the most part, this remains an experimental category of legaltech… all the more so given that many legal organisations haven’t yet adopted basic legaltech such as document and knowledge management systems or document automation!

Replaces what?

Traditional paper based paradigms currently used for contracts, eg. literal paper contracts and their digital facsimiles in Word and PDF form, which although digital aren’t easily interpreted by machines nor self-executing in any sense (especially if they are scanned PDFs without a searchable text layer, as is sadly often the case).

Overlaps with?

Smart contracts overlap with document automation. Various smart contact projects have evolved some form of document automation for the simple fact that doing so makes it much easier to capture useful structured data about contracts, which in turn makes those contracts more easily integrable with other technologies such as databases, search and machine learning.

Why is it good?

Smart contracts theoretically reduce the friction of creating, negotiating, executing and operating contracts and enables easier integration with emerging technologies (e.g. AI, blockchain etc) as well as industry standard contract reporting and compliance tools, electronic marketplaces and exchanges (e.g. for financial instruments). As a by-product, smart legal contract proliferation could lower barriers to entry (and cost) of certain financial instruments thereby widening access and increasing their liquidity, e.g. as Nivaura hopes to do for capital markets and as Capexmove wishes to do for debt financing.

Examples?

Accord Project, OpenLaw, CapexMove, Nivaura, and Legalese. The ISDA CDM project is another interesting initiative to build a common domain model to represent the parties, events and actions of derivative contracts and work toward smart derivatives contracts.


Workflow automation & app builders

Does what?

These types of tools do everything from simple automation of repeat workflows to more complex automations, and may allow for end to end application building. Here’s a few examples of each:

  • Workflow Automation. Using these facet, users can automate a decision tree of knowledge to guide a user to a specific answer or result. Similarly, you can automate the collection of data about a client, e.g. for a mass litigation, directing them to further questions or information depending on what options they select or complete in earlier questions. Alternatively, you might like to automate IF X then Y type logic, e.g. to forward an email to an inbox if it comes from a certain sender, contains a specific subject line or has hits for keywords in its body.
  • App Building. It is also possible to build end to end mobile and desktop apps, e.g. client facing portals, know-how repositories, triage tools to qualify or quantify a claim’s likelihood of success etc.

In either case, these are typically no code or low code, sometimes with the added ability to custom code some or all of the workflows or apps built using the platform. However, the majority emphasis is on re-usable, often pre-fabricated, components common to most app use cases and design patterns e.g. tables, search, databases, views, menus, logins and so on. These can usually be assembled via drag and drop GUI interfaces.

Replaces what?

These types of platforms intend to supplement, rather than replace, traditional IT teams and systems, who are often swamped with requests to create automated workflows and / or internal or external apps.

Workflow automation and app building platforms can help democratize these capabilities across a wider set of business users, usually termed citizen developers, i.e. non-IT app developers, typically without coding or other software development expertise or experience.

By doing so, traditional IT teams can be freed up to focus on high priority enterprise level projects and therefore spend less time building smaller apps and utilities for individuals, teams or project specific use cases.

Overlaps with?

These platforms overlap with traditional development tools such as integrated development environments (IDEs) and a variety of other adjacent developer productivity tools such as Git, Github and command line utilities. There is also increasing overlap with high fidelity wire-framing tools such as Figma and Invision, especially where workflow automation or app builders are (like Figma and Invision wireframes) principally used as a means to facilitate prototyping discussions regarding products and services to be built or improved.

Why is it good?

These platforms lower the barriers to entry in terms of who can create (and ideally maintain) workflow automations or apps, generally democratizing the process, and encouraging the proliferation of citizen developers within an organisation. In theory, this should also improve people’s productivity and ability to create new products and services assisted by tech.

The downside is ownership and accountability for version control, maintenance and admin, which in most cases inevitably falls back on traditional IT teams.

Where this happens, these platforms may counterintuitively increase, rather than reduce, the workload of traditional IT, assuming also that productivity gains via streamlined and democratized development is offset by a greater number of apps to maintain and update.

The other elephant in the room is that software development isn’t about building stuff, it’s about building good stuff that lasts and excites users.

Without a good understanding of product management, and supportive culture, these platforms can easily run amok among users… leading to many half-baked ideas that ultimately fail and end up putting off users.

This isn’t a reflection on the product’s themselves.

Quite the contrary, it’s a reflection on the fact many legal organisations purchasing such platforms lack the skills and culture to make such platforms work. They want the results – glossy client impressing products that win FT innovation awards – but not the hard work and individuals who can really make these products sing.

Unfortunately, as great as these products are, they aren’t magic wands.

The missing pieces are usually:

  • individuals with, or willing to learn, product management skills;
  • a culture that permits iterative design thinking led exploration and testing of ideas;
  • a culture that encourages and enables direct client listening and collaboration between such clients and the product teams (vs. funnelling everything through a busy partner detached from product and without product management expertise);
  • the time (+ incentives) to properly design, build, test and implement new products and services; and
  • having the right engagement and agreed best practices for rolling out such platforms, especially the buy-in of traditional IT teams.

Examples?


And many, many more. For a much deeper library of legaltech solutions, organised by different variables, including use cases, you should absolutely check out the LegalTech Hub.


03. How does different legaltech get used together?

This fantastic guide from Radiant Law provides excellent further insight into legaltech generally, but in particular how different products can be combined to enhance legal services end-to-end, especially for in-house teams.

We highly recommend you give it a read to better understand what tech to use where and why.

To whet your appetite, the below Radiant Law graphic from that guide summarises a typical contracting workflow and the different technology categories (legaltech and non-legaltech) that can be used to enhance the overall process:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RadiantLawLawTechGuide-1024x536.png
https://radiantlaw.com/uploads/files/Radiant%20Law%20In-House%20Guide%20to%20LawTech.pdf

The guide goes on to explain in greater detail how to practically apply and generate ROI from these solutions when chained together, including the stakeholder engagement necessary for successful projects.

If you have Office 365, you could probably build a significant portion of the above functionality in Office 365 along with a few select plug and play third-party integrations (e.g. DocuSign for e-signature). This is principally because Office 365 has increasingly tacked on more and more legal useful applications, or new features, e.g. Power Apps for workflow automation.

For instance, see this 60 min overview of how to do just that using Office 365 via LawHawk for the centre for The Centre for Legal Innovation.

Done well, the gestalt combination of solutions can easily add up to a whole far greater than the sum of its parts!


04. The Legaltecho Chamber. Don’t forget about tech tech!

It’s easy to live in a legaltecho chamber, fixated solely on products branded “legaltech”, or built by lawyers for lawyers.

In reality, there is no such thing as legaltech, only technology.

Granted, legaltech is a convenient moniker for tech aimed at legal problems. However, through a reductionist lens, a lot of legal use cases can be (but often aren’t, deliberately or otherwise) viewed as rather generic business problems, e.g. creating, reading, updating, deleting and generally moving data about via people and process (e.g. approvals etc).

The domain context – law – is different perhaps, but at the level of jobs to be done, there’s a lot of overlap with similar jobs to be done in other industries, such as accountancy finance, logistics and even manufacturing.

So it’s no wonder a lot of legaltech reinvents or re-uses general technology and design patterns.

For that reason, there is unsurprisingly plenty of super useful, and sometimes far better (in every sense, e.g. including support), tech outside of legaltech.

Some of these products increasingly encroach into legal-specific use cases via generic features.

Examples include project management tools easily applied to legal project management (e.g. Asana, Trello, Basecamp etc), open-sourced machine learning frameworks and similar freemium machine learning platforms by the likes of Google, Microsoft Azure and AWS.

Returning to the diagram of pre and post 2011 legaltech from this article’s start, it’s easy to find examples of general technology applied and applicable to legaltech use cases:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Legaltech-Pre-Post-2011-TechTech-1024x581.png

Beyond this common-sense point, click here to discover the 4 surprising yet compelling reasons to look beyond legaltech when solving your legal business problem. Overlooking the importance of non-legaltech is an easy and avoidable mistake to make.


05. What are the biggest legaltech companies?

OK, so who are some well known vendors to understand and explore? The below companies are probably some of the most well-known and long established, ranked by publicly disclosed actual or estimated revenue:


LexisNexis

Founded: 1956 (US division), and 1818 for the division that is today known as LexisNexis UK.

Revenue: $3bn (2020)

Employees: circa 10,000 (2020)

What it does: legal research and intelligence, legal drafting, legal forms automation, legal practice management, compliance and risk solutions, news and media analysis, legal magazines and journals.

Who uses it: lawyers and other adjacent professional services, in particular accountancy professionals and firms.

Jobs: see here (UK) and here (rest of world).


WestLaw (part of Thomson Reuters)

Founded: 1975 (acquired by Thomson Reuters in 1996)

Revenue: $3bn (2012)

Employees: several hundred (2020)

What it does: online legal research service and proprietary database for lawyers and legal professionals available in over 60 countries

Who uses it: lawyers and other adjacent professional services, in particular accountancy professionals and firms.

Jobs: see here.


DocuSign

Founded: 2003

Revenue: $974m (2020)

Employees: 3,909 (2020)

What it does: electronic signature, and contract focused data extraction.

Who uses it: 200+ million users around the world – essentially any individual or organisation that regularly signs documents, including contracts!

Jobs: see here.


Relativity

Founded: 2001.

Revenue: $234m (2020)

Employees: 1,115 (2020)

What it does: eDiscovery platform used by lawyers to store, index and search various documents, automate contract review, due diligence and regulatory work. 

Who uses it: It’s used by almost all the 200 biggest US law firms by revenue. Law firms and corporate legal departments have hired Relativity experts to build their own internal eDiscovery departments and created new businesses in partnership with them. Other platforms have been built around it, e.g. Heretik for due diligence.

Jobs: see here.


LegalZoom

Founded: 2001

Revenue: $200m (2020)

Employees: 1080 (2020)

What it does: online legal technology company that helps its customers create legal documents without necessarily having to hire a lawyer. Available documents include wills and living trusts, business formation documents, copyright registrations, and trademark applications. The founders have now launched bizcounsel, which offers subscription-based legal services.

Who uses it: individuals and businesses.

Jobs: see here.


InTapp

Founded: 2000

Revenue: $100m (2020)

Employees: circa 480 (2020)

What it does: provides connected firm management solutions for professional and financial services,

Who uses it: more than 1,600 firms worldwide, including 725 private capital markets firms, 175 investment banking and advisory firms, 92 of the Global 100 law firms, and all four of the Big 4 accounting firms.

Jobs: see here.


iManage

Founded 1995

Revenue: $76m (2020)

Employees: circa 650 (2020)

What it does: document management, enterprise search, data extraction, deal management and compliance software.

Who uses it: trusted every day by over 3,000 organizations and one million professionals worldwide.

Jobs: see here.


Clio

Founded: 2007

Revenue: $50m (2020)

Employees: 500+ (2020)

What it does: offers law firms cloud-based software that handles various law practice management tasks including client intake, contact management, calendaring, document management, timekeeping, billing, and trust accounting

Who uses it: small to medium sized law firms.

Jobs: see here.


Practical Law (part of Thomson Retuers)

Founded:1990 (acquired by Thomson Reuters in 2013)

Revenue: £48.2m (2013)

Employees: 800 (2020)

What it does:  web-based subscription services to law firms and law departments across a range of specialist subject areas such as corporate, finance, property, tax and intellectual property. Practical Law, the brainchild of two former Slaughter and May lawyers, launched in 1990 as a print venture geared toward transactional lawyers in the United Kingdom.

Who uses it: legal professionals.

Jobs: see here.


Litera

Founded: 2001

Revenue: circa $40m (2020)

Employees: circa 400 (2020)

What it does: legal workflow technology, including redlines, deal management, automated proofreading, and metadata scrubbing. Owned by the private equity fund, HG Capital, it is a vehicle for rolling up multiple point solutions into what presumably will one day become a unified platform offering.

Who uses it: most legal organisations.

Jobs: see here.


NetDocuments

Founded: 1999.

Revenue: $39.38m (2020)

Employees: 160

What it does: cloud-based document and email management service that provides enterprise-level security, mobility, disaster recovery, and collaboration solutions.

Who uses it: law firms, financial institutions and insurance industries.

Jobs: see here.


HighQ (part of Thomson Reuters)

Founded: 2001. Acquired by Thomson Reuters in 2019.

Revenue: £18.6m (2019)

Employees: circa 350 (2020)

Who uses it: legal (21 of the top 25 UK law firms, including all of the Magic Circle and 45% of the top 100 UK law firms), banking, corporate, government and life sciences.

What it does: file sharing, extranet, collaboration, project management, virtual data room, enterprise social networking, knowledge sharing and publishing solutions. These use cases are covered by 3 core products: HighQ Collaborate, HighQ Publisher and HighQ Dataroom

Jobs: see here.


06. I need more legaltech! Are there legaltech directories?

Yes. Several.

The Legaltech Hub

If you want a more comprehensive directory of legaltech, our first choice recommendation is that you check out the Legaltech Hub.

The Legaltech Hub is a massive searchable database listing circa 100s+ legaltech products, and has a rich taxonomy of tags and filters to help you understand the market in great detail.

The site is always expanding to cover more and more categories of legaltech information, including events and publications.

The Observatory

The Observatory by the law firm Orrick, is another similar database, albeit with fewer features than the Legaltech Hub.

The Legal Service Innovation Index

This site has scraped law firm websites for a taxonomy of legaltech, legal operations and legal innovation terms, and indexed these into an interactive database presented in tableau.

As the authors state, it is not intended to be a ranking of law firm innovation, albeit it does give you an indication of what each firm is doing, providing various breakdowns by jurisdiction, region, innovation category and firm.

Granted, the limitation of this analysis is the extent to which law firms publicize their innovation efforts.

UK firms tend to be more transparent and proactive at publicising their innovation activities vs. US law firms, who generally do the opposite.

As a result, the entries for UK Magic and Silver Circle firms are significantly more extensive than their US counterparts.

For instance, compare the below for UK Magic Circle firm, A&O vs. US firm Kirkland & Ellis:

A&O

Kirkland & Ellis


The LegalGeek Startup Map

The Legal Geek start-up map is designed like a London Tube map, mapping start-ups as stops and the relationships between groups of start-ups as the Tube lines.

It’s a really nice visual map of the legaltech start-up space, and includes a gallery of “graduates’, i.e. those that have become legaltech scale-ups.

Well worth your time, and a great way to orient your understanding of differing maturity levels within the legaltech market.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is LegalGeek-Startup-Map.png
Source: here. Note the above is a tiny snapshot of a much larger map, that is also interactive!

Don’t forget the rest of the guide 
This article forms part 7 of our 8 part series on careers in legaltech, legal ops and innovation. Please check out the other articles and career profiles for more inspiration and guidance!

The post The Legaltech cheat sheet. All you need to know about legaltech products and use cases appeared first on lawtomated.