The Complete A-Z of Legal Technology
Technology is being incorporated into legal service delivery and law firm business functions now more than ever. As a result, it can be difficult to keep up with legal technology terms. This article breaks down important definitions to help you understand how legal technology works and explains how key features in software improve your legal service delivery and provide a smoother client experience.
Accounts Payable System
Accounts Payable Systems help law firms and businesses manage their bills in a structured way. The system ensures that your bills are paid in the exact amount, to the correct recipient, at the right time. This system involves the software digitally reading and handling invoices to extract information, eliminating the entire manual aspect of paying your bills.
An algorithm is a process that is followed by a computer when conducting calculations and problem-solving. Now, algorithms have transformed law firm business functions to assist lawyers in due-diligence projects, contract management and predicting legal outcomes.
Algorithms are also being incorporated into the justice system by various police departments across the UK. For example, Durham Police has employed the HART algorithm to assist its custody officers in deciding whether a suspect should be kept in the cell, placed in a local rehabilitation programme or released. 
Application Programming Interface
Application Programming Interfaces are programming codes that enable applications and servers to exchange data and use another application’s features easily and securely. Here, the data and functionality of an application are shared with external stakeholders, which allows for greater communication and data leverage through a trusted system. A common example of using an API is when your phone connects to the internet when you do a simple Google search.
As law firms continue to integrate technology into their business functions, a lawyer will need access to multiple different applications, all with different details for just one project or case. Here, APIs are used to improve software interoperability and integrate different applications to improve a lawyer’s workflow. 
Artificial intelligence is one of the many branches of computer science that simulates human intelligence. In simple terms, it is the technology that allows a computer to function more human-like way by performing tasks that involve reasoning, learning and problem-solving. The legal sector greatly benefits from this as the cost of storing electronic data is extremely low, which results in huge productivity gains and cost savings, as lawyers are available to do other, more valuable tasks that cannot be done electronically. 
Furthermore, AI is being incorporated into legal service delivery in numerous ways. This can be seen with the use of AI software in practice management automation, predictive coding, legal research, voice recognitions and chatbot legal services such as Rocket Lawyer.  All these AI-powered tools used in legal practices enable lawyers to improve their search, assemble documents, time-record working hours and provide basic legal assistance more efficiently. 
Automation is how various technologies are incorporated into a system or a process to make it operate automatically. Here, human input is minimized and technology is used to monitor and control goods and services.
When applied to law firms, legal automation refers to using software to automate certain more ‘tedious’ tasks completed by lawyers that can be done electronically. Automated tasks in legal practice normally include scheduling meetings and appointments, billing and invoicing and document management. 
Big Data refers to large volumes of data that arrives in increasing volumes compared to traditional data. As a result, ordinary processing software used to collect and store traditional data cannot be used for big data. Considering the large volume of data required for processing by law firms, they would require software with much higher processing abilities to collect and store information.
Blockchain technology refers to the system that allows digital information to be collected, stored and distributed without the information being edited, changed or hacked. Simply put, blockchain is defined as a huge decentralized, distributed ledger technology that documents the provenance of digital assets. 
Lawyers utilize blockchain technology to streamline their transactional work, digitally sign documents and electronically store contracts. Incorporating blockchain into legal functions enables legal service delivery to become more accessible, transparent, cost-effective, automated and adds a layer of protection to all information stored electronically.  This significantly decreases the hours spent on manual tasks such as drafting and bundling legal documents. The cost of doing so is usually passed down to clients through increased hourly lawyer fees. Therefore, blockchain benefits not only lawyers but also clients. 
Case Management Software
Legal case management software is defined as sophisticated information and workflow management specifically tailored to meet the needs of the legal sector.  Case management software enables law firms to collect, store and record information in a centralized place. Using such software makes information easily accessible to a larger audience, enabling collaboration and information sharing safely and efficiently.
Client portals can be both in the form of an application or a website. It simply provides law firms with a digital storage space for all case client history, details and documents to be recorded and safely stored.
Cloud tech or cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing services, including software, analytics, servers and secure data storage. The most common example of everyday Cloud Tech is using the cloud to store backup images from your devices. With regards to the legal sector, cloud computing offers a great resource to ensure that important case files are constantly backed up and secured.
Contract Lifecycle Management
Contract Lifecycle Management is the software used to streamline and automate contract processing through all its stages during its lifecycle. The contract’s lifecycle starts when the contract is initially requested and ends when that request has been met and the contract is finalized. Adopting Contract Lifestyle Management allows firms to strengthen their compliance, automate their processing and centralize their contract storage.
Client Relationship Management (CRM)
Client Relationship Management is the technology and software used to monitor, manage, and build client relationships and interactions. This involves analysing large amounts of data compilation, including information from communication channels, telephone calls, emails, and social media. Through CRM, firms identify and learn about their target audiences and better understand their demands.
Through data mining, usable data is extracted from a bigger set of raw data. There are several types of data mining techniques, and the process of doing so involves analysing patterns in large sets of data using multiple software. These patterns and pieces of information are then used to support the functions and goals of a business or firm.
Deep learning is a sub-division of machine learning that aims to simulate a brain’s function by creating layers of artificial neural networks. This allows systems to analyse large volumes, learn by example and make accurate predictions.
Research also suggests that lawyers can use machine learning in predicting case outcomes with 90% accuracy.  Recently, the CEO of Blue J Legal, Benjamin Alarie, has stated that he believes that algorithmic decision-making will become the natural starting point for legal advice within the next ten years. 
Design thinking is a way for creative problem-solving. Again, inspired by the human brain, design thinking allows firms to understand their client’s circumstances and businesses to provide better services.
Through electronic discovery, electronic data is collected and stored to be used as evidence in legal proceedings and investigations.
Electronic learning enables individuals to have access to formalized teaching, learning and training through technology. It is an effective alternative for those who cannot take time out from their jobs to attend in-person classes. This is specifically useful for lawyers working full-time and still being trained or completing their professional qualifications.
Electronic signatures are used to sign electronic contracts. This allows you to save time, money and paper when dealing with documents. Additionally, you do not have to worry about the cost of sending contracts to clients for them to sign physically or finding sufficiently secure physical storage for sensitive documentation.
Electronic File Management (EFM)
Electronic file management allows companies and firms to store and manage their documents as computer files. Each paper document is scanned and all files are digitized, enabling companies to dispose of all their hard copies. This, additionally, allows companies and firms to access and search for documents easily, securely and remotely.
Financial technology is incorporating technology into the way companies deliver financial services to their clients. FinTech allows companies to automate their client service delivery and achieve better results by increasing their efficiency.
Game theory is a mathematical model that involves the study of human behaviour in strategic settings. Simply put, it is the study of why and how people make their decisions. This model can be applied to a company or firm’s decision-making and strategizing to reach an outcome that achieves their business goals.
Intellectual Property Management Software
Companies and law firms use intellectual Property Management Software to protect and manage their patents, copyrights and trademarks, to ensure their inventions and legal rights are protected. It also helps companies manage their intellectual property portfolio.
Information governance refers to the technology that a company incorporates to increase the information they collect while reducing any associated risks. Information governance has multiple factors, such as policies and regulations regarding the management of data and a comprehensive plan that considers risks and recent trends to achieve business goals. When it comes to law firms, information governance ensures transparency, compliance with the legal policies and reducing the costs of legal discovery. 
Knowledge Management (KM)
Knowledge management refers to the process of using, sharing and maintaining a company’s information and knowledge. KM software includes search features so information regarding specific queries can be obtained as well as product-specific navigation. From a law firm’s perspective, legal knowledge management allows firms to retain business via software that saves and disseminates information from prior work to use in upcoming projects.
Key Performance Indicator Software (KPI Software)
KPI software allows law firms to create, manage and analyse their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The software provides analysis regarding how the specific KPIs are performing against business goals and targets. Moreover, KPIs are measurable values that reflect how efficiently and effectively a company is achieving its business and whether it successfully reaches its targets.
Legal Process Outsourcing Technology (LPO Technology)
Legal process outsourcing simply refers to a law firm obtaining legal services from an external organization. Now, technology has been incorporated into the outsourcing process to increase efficiency and maintain quality control.
Legal Operations Management (LPO)
Currently, legal operations departments have access to technology capable of collecting huge volumes of data, enabling them to measure their department’s productivity and success in a quantitative manner. Such technology allows legal operations’ professionals to weigh and compare different practice areas in terms of total legal cost, manage internal and external spending and improve the functioning of the business.
Machine learning is another branch of artificial intelligence that allows machines to learn from data without being explicitly programmed. This occurs by the specific machine learning from past experiences to identify patterns. The legal sector, being extremely processed driven, benefits from machine learning being incorporated into legal service delivery.
Machine learning allows for routine tasks to be carried out electronically, such as filing, manual timekeeping and legal research. Therefore, lawyers can spend more of their time practicing law as opposed to carrying out administrative tasks.
Matter Management Software
Law firms use matter management software to manage their activities involving their corporate legal practice. Firms can run more efficiently as they utilize a centralized source to process matters, manage workflow and run reports.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Natural Language Processing is another branch of artificial intelligence that allows computers to have the ability to understand, process and record text and spoken words like humans. Law firms use NPL when analysing contracts, summarising key terms and extracting data points in legal documents.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Optical character recognition refers to using technology to distinguish between printed and handwritten text within digital images of paper documents. Traditionally, law firms are extremely paper-intensive, but now there is a move to become paperless to free office space and increase efficiency through OCR.
Predictive analytics involves using a combination of information, algorithms and machine learning to detect the likely outcome of future decisions based on historical data. Law firms incorporate predictive analytics into their business functions and use it to decide the optimal composition of teams.
Practice Management Software (PMS)
Legal practice management systems allow key stakeholders in law firms such as directors, partners and managers to efficiently and effectively manage the firm’s operations. PMS includes a module covering each legal practice area within a law firm, and the centralized database allows the firm to manage its billable hours and streamline its processes.
Phishing is the practice of attackers hacking into an organization and attempting to mislead clients and users into clicking a link with a virus or one that will download malware on their devices. Phishing poses a huge risk to law firms, and therefore, it is important to incorporate software that prioritizes security as a key feature to protect both a firm and its clients.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Robotic process automation software enables easy deployment and management of software robots that simulate human behaviour. Additionally, such software can be easily programmed to conduct various tasks, and by using a software robot, it can operate other software. RPA is used in a legal environment to eliminate tedious tasks allowing lawyers to focus their time on high-value tasks that cannot be automated.
A smart contract is one that self-executes the terms of the agreement between two parties written in computer code. All transactions in a smart contract are processed by blockchain, and the transactions are only completed once conditions in the agreement are satisfied.  Moreover, smart contracts allow lawyers to review and finalise contracts rather than spend time implementing them themselves, which further enables them to allocate their time more efficiently.
A vendor portal allows law firms to manage their relationships and collaborate with third-party vendors and suppliers effectively through features such as tracking assigned matters and timekeeping.
Workflow automation involves the process of allocating and identifying employee tasks technology as opposed to manually doing them. Automating repetitive tasks enables caseworkers to allocate their time to other tasks and helps in streamlining overall workflow.
Legal technology, specialised software and automation are transforming the business of law firms and their client service delivery. As you’ve now seen, there is no lack of technology that can aid and assist lawyers to save time and money. Regardless of the firm’s practice, size or location, incorporating legal technology increases productivity levels. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand the different types of legal technology available and selecting the best software that encompasses this technology to grow and improve your legal service delivery.
1) The Law Society, ‘Technology and the Law Policy Commission – Algorithms in the Justice System’ (2019) at https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/campaigns/lawtech/guides/public-policy-technology-and-law-commission
2) Thomson Reuters, ‘What are APIs and how can law firms use them?’ (2019) at https://blogs.thomsonreuters.com/legal-uk/2019/09/13/what-are-apis-and-how-law-firms-can-use-them/
3) Thompson Reuters, Artificial Intelligence and its impact on leal technology: to boldly go where no legal department has gone before’ at https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/insights/articles/ai-and-its-impact-on-legal-technology
4) The Law Society, ‘Six ways the legal sector is using AI right now’, (2018) at https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/campaigns/lawtech/features/six-ways-the-legal-sector-is-using-ai
6) Merhawi Kidane, ‘5 Tasks That Every Lawyer Should Automate’ (2018), Bill4Time at https://www.bill4time.com/blog/tasks-lawyer-automate/
7) Built in Beta, ‘Blockchain. What is Blockchain Technology? How Does It Work? at https://builtin.com/blockchain
8) Consensys, ‘Blockchain in the Legal Industry’ at https://consensys.net/blockchain-use-cases/law/
10) Wikipedia, ‘Legal case management’ at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_case_management
11) Rob Toews, ‘AI Will Transform the Field of Law’, (2019) Forbes at https://www.forbes.com/sites/robtoews/2019/12/19/ai-will-transform-the-field-of-law/?sh=18256c2d7f01
13) Wikipedia, ‘Information Governance’ at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_governance
14) Jake Frankenfield, ‘Smart Contracts’ (2021), Investopedia at https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/smart-contracts.asp