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Q: Advice & Opinion: Law Firm Needs ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Advice & Opinion: Law Firm Needs
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: lizardnation-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 16 Dec 2002 20:14 PST
Expires: 15 Jan 2003 20:14 PST
Question ID: 125789

I'm seeking your opinion and insider experience results in the area of
what are the most time consuming repeatative tasks a law firm focusing
on business law and services, almost anything other than criminal law,
as well as their frequent pains that automatin and technical solutions
would be ideal for.

The idea of automating the creation and revision process of contracts
where they would be made into modules for example and they can be
checked to be included in the contract.  Those modules may have
properties to allow for the avoidance of conflicts.. I'm not familiar
enough to know if this is valid.  If module A for example, which could
be a clause, conflicts with module B.  It should point that out in the
properties to allow the application to warn the lawyer or his
assistant early on.

The idea of requests for ammendments can be made by clients and at
times getting lose in the middle of the mess of all the paper copies
going around is frequent.  A method to manage that via faxes, hard
copy and e-mail notification to access a secure site might be a
solution to gain client approval on small things to allow the work to
progress rapidly.

How about pulling up all the issue related to a case as it progresses
and appending its progress, responses and reactions from others?

The need to have the application monitor tasks and assignment and
manage their escalation is defanitly a need for law firms, though I'm
interested in particulars where someone with background would point
out important issues.

Having very qualifies staff whom are proactive and superior is a goal
that is difficult to reach in most situations, these systems are
intended to narrow, if not close, the gap being used and being built
with User Friendliness being a priority.

I'd appreciate your answer and comments of course. :-)

Thank you.


Request for Question Clarification by lot-ga on 16 Dec 2002 21:15 PST
Hello Lizardnation
Hmm... expertlaw-ga might have some useful 'insider experience' to share ;-)

Clarification of Question by lizardnation-ga on 16 Dec 2002 21:35 PST
Thansk a Lot! :-)

The name sure rings a bell of similarity. 

Can't wait. O:-)


Request for Question Clarification by expertlaw-ga on 16 Dec 2002 22:19 PST
Dear lizardnation,

There are many areas in which law firms could benefit from automation,
and many ways in which they are attempting to automate. I ask the
following not to limit the scope of your question, but to try to get a
better idea of what type of answer will be most helpful to you.

Are you principally interested in learning the law practice management
or document management software needs (and wishes) of law firms, in
the context of creating new software solutions? Or are you more
interested in working with, or expanding the capacity of, existing law
office software? (Or both?)

Is your interest in the type of services that a law firm might want
from a consultant, hired to provide customized automation solutions,
or in software and document products which can be marketed to a large
number of law firms and solo practitioners? (Or both?)

Thank you,

- expertlaw

Clarification of Question by lizardnation-ga on 17 Dec 2002 07:35 PST
Hello Expertlaw,

Exactly, my interest is in the type of services that a law firm might
from a consultant, hired to provide customized automation solutions.
Though, the solution would be created to ultimately suite more offices
of similar practices.

Subject: Re: Advice & Opinion: Law Firm Needs
Answered By: expertlaw-ga on 18 Dec 2002 15:54 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear lizardnation,

I will attempt to go through the various parts of your query,
providing answers to each area of focus, and will then provide an
overview of the typical services offered by law office technology
consulting firms.

I am throwing a lot of information at you, and thus anticipate that
you may need to request clarification.

I. The Automation Needs of Law Firms

A. What are the most time consuming repetitive tasks a law firm
on business law and services, almost anything other than criminal law?

This is an very broad inquiry. See, for example, the list of common
practice areas offered on the FindLaw directory website:

Each field of practice, and often each subfield, has different needs.
Some areas of practice, such as bankruptcy law, tend to be very
forms-driven, and there already exist a wide variety of software
products to automate bankruptcy practice. Some lawyers, such as those
handling appeals, write extensive, and largely original legal
documents for almost every case they handle. Other practice areas,
such as estate planning law, may require practitioners to create
highly customized documents, while drawing from large libraries of
clauses and forms.

Nonetheless, despite the breadth of legal practice, it is possible to
point to a set of repetitive tasks common to most practice areas:

- Managing client information
- Managing the progress of cases
- Completing standard forms
- Customizing documents
- Document management
- Time Management and Billing

B. To what degree are automation and technical solutions ideal for
these common repetitive tasks?

The short answer is "very". Reality is a bit more complicated – often
the promise of automation is not met, when a firm doesn't make the
best technology choices, does not learn how to use its technology, or
finds that employing the new technology takes more time than doing the
same tasks "the old-fashioned way". As I am sure you have surmised, it
is the role of the technology consultant to overcome the obstacles to
automation and technology within a given law practice, and to maximize
the benefits of technology to the client law firm.

There are a considerable number of software packages devoted to the
common needs of law firms. Some try to offer a broad range of
features, while others focus on a single narrow need.

The first class of software commonly used by law firms is generally
deemed "law practice management" software. Links to a wide range of
these packages can be found in the Google Directory,

The most commonly used law practice management software products are:

- AbacusLaw

- Amicus Attorney

- ProLaw

- Time Matters

- Needles (More common among personal injury practitioners)

Features commonly included in law practice management software
- Contact management
- Relationship Management
- Conflict Searching
- Document Creation
- Document Tracking
- Document Management
- Calendaring and Scheduling
- Records Management
- Time Tracking
- Accounting
- Billing
- Email Integration

Practice management software typically offers integration with other
software products and synchronization with PDA's. Software support
typically includes some of the following:
- GroupWise and Outlook
- HotDocs
- Word and WordPerfect
- TABS III (Time and billing software)
- Timeslips (Time and billing software)
- WorldDox (Document management software)

A basic overview of the cost and features of the most popular practice
management software can be found on the website. The
author, Wells Anderson, is a law firm technology consultant based in

For billing and accounting, common packages include:

- PCLaw


- Timeslips

For automated calendaring, law firms commonly use CompuLaw

For automated document production, commonly used products include:

- Adobe Acrobat

- HotDocs

C. Is there a market for products or services which involve automating
the creation and revision process of legal documents, where they would
be made into modules, with rules governing how modules interact?

There is certainly a market for such products and services. There are
many consultants who offer training and programming services, focusing
on document automation, typically using HotDocs,

HotDocs has the advantage of having a broad law firm user base, as
well as being part of the LexisNexis Group, one of the world's largest
publishers of legal products. Services to law firms include training
law firm staff how to use automated forms, training staff members and
attorneys how to create automated forms, and the actual creation of
automated form libraries. Forms can be programmed to include a broad
number of contingencies, so as to help prevent the accidental
inclusion of inconsistent or conflicting language.

D. Is there a market for a product or services to help manage the
exchange of various drafts of documents with clients or adverse

There is a market for products or services that help manage drafts of
documents. Due to the importance of keeping track of documents, all
responsible law firms have systems of document management. As part of
that system, a commercial firm may have an extranet where the firm and
its clients can exchange revisions of a legal document through a
secure server, which automatically keeps an archive of all prior

Companies such as Visioneer are also devoting considerable energy to
creating products to help law firms manage paper documents as
electronic files. Amicus Attorney has integrated support for the
Visioneer PaperPort: 

Smaller firms often have difficulty, both in terms of perceived
expense and manpower, developing and implementing systems which can
help them reduce their reliance on paper records, or facilitate their
access to important documents. While larger firms have often devoted
considerable resources to their document management systems, there
remain many smaller firms which could benefit from this type of

E. Is there a need for a product which would monitor the progress of a
case, help manage new developments or documents filed in association
with the case, and monitor important events and deadlines?
Yes. Broadly speaking, this is what the law practice management
software, outlined above in Section II, attempts to do.

II. The Law Office Technology Consulting Service

The majority of law office technology consulting services are small in
size, sometimes consisting of a single consultant. Due to the need to
engage in training and to obtain certification in various software
products, consultants will often develop deep expertise in specific
software applications, and focus on serving clients who use those
applications. A firm with several consultants may support a broader
range of software products, with the consultants typically having
overlapping specialties.

Typical services include the selection and installation of new
computer hardware and networks, managing software and hardware
upgrades, training attorneys and law firm staff on how to use various
software products (including not only the specialized software
outlined above, but also the advanced features of commonly used
programs such as Word and WordPerfect, and Outlook.) Consultants also
help select appropriate law office automation software, customizing it
to the needs of client firms, and assisting with the integration of
legacy data into the new systems. They assist with document management
systems, and document automation. Some, particularly those who consult
with litigation firms, will offer assistance with presentation

The website lists a number of technology consultants
it describes as top tier, with information about the scope of their

If you want to see what some of the best law technology consultants in
the United States offer, may I suggest reviewing the sites of:

- Barron Henley, HMU Consulting

- Debbie Foster, InTouch Business Solutions

- Steve Best, Best Law Firm Solutions

Research Strategy:

This answer relies considerably on experience with law firms and
consultants, as well as the demand for legal technology training and
products I experienced while working for a legal publisher which
offers books, products, and continuing legal education seminars.

Research included the resources in the Google Directory,

Searches on Google included:
- law office technology
- legal document automation
- legal document management
- amicusattorney hotdocs
- barron henley law technology
- seven best georgia law technology
- debbie foster law technology
- practice management software
- online practice management

I hope you find this helpful. As I indicated at the start, this is a
lot of information - please feel free to request clarification.

- expertlaw

Request for Answer Clarification by lizardnation-ga on 18 Dec 2002 20:28 PST
Hello Expertlaw,

Thank you very much for the coverage of my needs so well.  As you
assumed, I would like to know more about the following:

1. Relationship Management 
2. Conflict Searching 

I have an idea what relationship management is in general, though not
the particulars in the legal industry.

As to conflict searching and detection, I presume that's in remation
to document creation where this feature would detect conflicting
paragraphs or clauses in a contract or document?

I may have other questions by tomorrow, I've enjoyed what you've
written so far.

Thank you.


Clarification of Answer by expertlaw-ga on 19 Dec 2002 01:41 PST
Dear Lizardnation,

Relationship management seeks to maximize the benefits a law firm can
derive from its various relationships with other people and entities,
including past and present clients, area businesses and professionals,
and other lawyers and law firms. Often, law firms (or firms of any
sort) will compile significant amounts of information about clients,
and business and professional contacts, but that information will sit
in a file system that is treated like a Rollodex. (It may even be a

If properly implemented, relationship management software will allow a
firm to have a centralized database of client and contact information,
which can be accessed throughout the firm. A key goal of such a system
is to help track and manage client needs and relationships, by
permitting lawyers to easily access and share information about their
clients, as well as being able to find clients and contacts with
particular needs, interests, or areas of expertise. It will also allow
a firm to identify past clients who are likely to have specific legal
needs, and to market additional services to them.

Conflict searching is a much more basic law firm function than you
imagine. It refers to the need of a law firm to check for possible
conflicts of interest before accepting new clients or work.
Ordinarily, a law firm is barred from representing both sides in
litigation, or from utilizing information it learns while representing
a client in order to further its representation of a second client
whose position is adverse to the first.

For example, if a wife consulted a law firm with regard to a possible
divorce, and had a meeting or phone conference with somebody within
the firm where she conveyed information about her case, the law firm
would probably be precluded from representing the husband in
subsequent divorce litigation. This would be true, even if the wife
ultimately hired a different firm to represent her. It is important
that a law firm make a record of the nature and extent of its
interaction with the wife, even though she was never a client, in
order to avoid inadvertently overlooking the conflict of interest, and
being later placed in the embarrassing position of having to both
resign as counsel for the husband and refund the retainer he paid to

Where a law firm ignores conflicts of interest, it can face
significant risks beyond having to refund a retainer. An attorney who
ignores a conflict of interest can face disciplinary action by the
state bar. Also, there is a possibility of having to pay the other
side's attorney fees, or to pay sanctions to the court. The American
Bar Association recently highlighted a Missouri case, where a law firm
was ordered to pay $850,000.00 after bringing a lawsuit against
Chrysler Corporation, a former client. The attorneys who brought the
case were also both suspended from practice for a year. You may review
an article on this incident on the ABA website,

Automated conflict checking software helps firms keep track of their
interaction with clients and potential clients, and flags cases where
there may be a conflict of interest. Some software attempts to
identify clients across multiple fields of data - name, address,
Social Security number, phone number, etc. - and may even check for
common typos and sound-alike names.

I hope this helps,

- expertlaw
lizardnation-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great work!  I sure feel more confident having been given insight on
the practice and leads to clarify other issues in more details.

Thank you.


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