You didn’t slave away in a paralegal program and bust your hump in interview after interview so you could push paper around all day.
Welcome to the modern world, where you’re a lot more likely to be pushing a mouse around after landing a position with a law firm. All businesses run on software now, and the legal industry is first and foremost a business. Efficiency and profit margins go hand-in-hand.
The right types of legal software can dramatically improve your ability to manage more cases at once than you thought possible when you were preparing for your career, and will have your boss recognizing you for being able to do the work of ten men.
Because it’s so important and because there is so much money floating around the legal field, there are a lot of competing software packages available, and no single solution dominates the field. Unfortunately, this means that paralegals have to be familiar with a lot of different products in order to step in and start being immediately productive in their new positions.
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Here are ten of the best legal software solutions that you’d better be familiar with when entering the paralegal field today.
- LexisNexisLexisNexis isn’t conventional, installable software, but a cloud-based research database. As the leading source of legal data, you’ll spend a lot of time mining the LexisNexis system for case law and other information over the course of your career as a paralegal. Paralegals are often the first and last resort for in-depth legal research; long days working your way through search terms and tracking down citations through the database go a lot faster if you learn this tool frontwards and backwards early in your career.
- LegalEdgeLegalEdge was the first company to make an off-the-shelf case management product specifically for criminal defenders. This first-mover advantage combined with aggressive pricing and an easy-to-deploy cloud-based service has since made LegalEdge the go-to tool for both prosecutors and defenders. The company also provides hooks to integrate into police and court information systems, a valuable time-saver that competing general case-management software often doesn’t offer. If you’re working in criminal law, you’re certain to encounter LegalEdge along the way.
- Time MattersThis is actually the second LexisNexis entry on the list—the database company also publishes this popular practice management package. Time Matters is the practice management software that sets the standard for the field. One of the oldest comprehensive offerings for law firms, Time Matters is mature and feature-rich, but it is also highly customizable… which means that being familiar with it at one office isn’t the same thing as being familiar with it at another office.Integration with accounting packages make Time Matters a particularly intricate and difficult-to-master product, but you’re likely to end up relying on it at some point in your career.
- Microsoft OfficeYou weren’t expecting to see Microsoft on the list, were you? But no law firm in the country runs without heavy helpings of Word and Excel. Most paralegals spend far more time with the stylized Office logo sitting up in the corner of their screen than they do in any specialized, dedicated legal practice software package.Knowing your way around macros and how to format and calculate cell ranges is ground-level stuff for paralegals and can make all the difference between getting the job of your dreams and playing catch-up at a C-grade firm.
- SlackIf you have never heard of Slack, here’s your chance to get ahead of the field. Although it may not yet be must-know software for paralegals, the writing is on the wall: for any field that involves as much jawing and file-swapping as law, a cloud-based, real-time chat and file-sharing service as popular as Slack is bound to make rapid inroads. Slack is already big in the software industry and more and more practices are adopting it for use both internally and to communicate with clients.
- HoudiniEsqHoudiniEsq is practice management software that is renowned for its ability to integrate with almost any other software your firm uses: Google Doc, Outlook, Exchange, Office, Gmail, Quickbooks, Dropbox, you name it—HoudiniEsq can plug in and integrate information from it, simplifying your work flow and automating many of the pedestrian tasks of getting one program to talk to another.It can be installed on a server in the office or run in the cloud, and like most modern practice management packages, it has phone apps available for work on the go. This flexibility has made HoudiniEsq popular enough that you’re probably going to run into it at some point in your career.
- Adobe AcrobatLike Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat isn’t exactly specialized legal software, but you won’t find many law offices that can live without it. Producing, altering, and marking up PDF documents is the lifeblood of document exchange between law offices and with clients.Having a firm command of the capabilities and tricks of Acrobat for working with the unwieldy PDF format will make your days easier and your office appear more professional.
- JurisDOCParalegals are usually the people who get the lion’s share of the work when it comes to managing and creating the reams and reams of legal boilerplate that seems to come along with any court case or other legal matter. Building, organizing, and distributing all those forms and documents gets a lot easier when you are using dedicated document management software, and JurisDOC is one of the most popular.Almost all case management software can handle some type of document assembly automation, but JurisDOC specializes in creating and filling in legal documents.
- ClioClio is a cloud-based case/practice management software package that is one of the most popular in the industry, possibly because it is one of the easiest to use. With the peppy, colorful interface, most paralegals have no trouble diving right into Clio. The company focuses on interface and user experience, while including all the usual integrations and features that one expects from complex practice management software today, including calendaring, document assembly, billing, and integrated mobile apps.
- Bill4TimeNowhere is the phrase “time is money” truer than in the legal field, and much of the average paralegal’s workday must be accounted for precisely and accurately in terms of what projects or cases were worked on and for how long. Almost all practice management software has some sort of timekeeping feature to track billable hours, but Bill4Time is a dedicated package for tracking time and generating invoices that simplifies the process by specializing in it.Via mobile app or on a computer, tracking is as simple as clicking a timer icon and choosing the appropriate project. Although using the software is easy, you’ll have to become adept at remembering to toggle when you switch tasks—not an easy step for the average paralegal who may be working on dozens of different cases on any given day.