Deep dive

The key components of an in-house legal tech stack

May 21, 2024
Streamline AI

Table of Contents

A “legal tech stack” for in-house legal teams refers to the comprehensive technology suite that a legal department uses to optimize operations. It can include many types of tools, software, and platforms that address different pain points for legal teams.

A strong business case exists for building a robust tech stack for in-house legal teams. A well-planned system will improve legal teams' efficiency, accuracy, and productivity by automating routine tasks, improving data management, facilitating collaboration, and helping teams make better decisions. What teams use will differ from company to company, depending on the legal department's size and needs

Here’s a breakdown of the essential categories within a legal tech stack.

Legal intake, triage, and workflow software

This software makes the process of receiving, assessing, and assigning legal requests more efficient. For example, Streamline AI offers an all-in-one, no-code tool that combines legal intake and automatic triage, questions and comments, approval tracking, and even basic project management. By consolidating intake requests from multiple sources like email, Slack, or Salesforce, Streamline AI saves valuable time and ensures important issues are promptly addressed by the right contacts with minimal back-and-forth.

Key features to look for:

When to implement:

Consider implementing this software when the volume of legal requests becomes unmanageable or error-prone with conventional methods, or when there's a need to streamline and prioritize legal work more efficiently.

Contract lifecycle management (CLM) software

At its core, CLM software simplifies and streamlines the entire lifecycle of contracts, from creation and execution to renewal or expiration. It reduces manual work, improves compliance, and enhances visibility into contracts. Smaller departments might prioritize contract management over CLM, such as ContractWorks, ContractSafe, and Pandadoc. In contrast, mid-size and larger legal teams require more robust CLM systems capable of managing diverse contract types and amendments, such as Ironclad and Spotdraft. These advanced systems offer deep contract analytics, extensive customization, and the ability to handle complex procurement processes. Their integration with other enterprise systems ensures cohesive and aligned contract management with business objectives.

Key features to look for:

  • Templates and clause libraries
  • Automated workflows for review and approval
  • Integration capabilities with other tools
  • Alert systems for critical dates and obligations

When to implement:

Consider CLM software when your organization begins to handle a volume of contracts that makes creation, tracking, and review manually time-consuming and prone to errors. CLM software is particularly beneficial when scaling up operations or increasing contract complexity. 

E-billing solutions

E-billing software is designed to manage and monitor outside counsel legal expenses, simplifying the billing process and fostering transparency through detailed tracking. These platforms help minimize billing errors and facilitate the management of invoices and payments, providing in-house legal teams with efficient tools to oversee and control legal expenditures.

Key features to look for:

  • Detailed tracking of billable hours and expenses
  • Integrations with accounting and project management software
  • Automated invoice generation and approval workflows
  • Detailed dashboards or analytics for transparency in spending

When to implement:

Consider e-billing solutions when legal spend approaches $500,000. At around $1,000,000, implementing an e-billing solution becomes crucial to maintain control over legal costs, improve budget predictability, and ensure compliance.

Document management systems (DMS)

DMS centralizes the storage, management, and tracking of electronic documents, helping in-house legal teams access contracts more easily and efficiently. They ensure that documents are organized and easily retrievable and integrate security protocols, version control, and audit trails. While in-house legal teams at tech companies often lean towards Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox, legal departments at traditional industries might choose iManage or NetDocuments. 

Key features to look for:

  • Advanced search functionality and version control
  • Secure access controls and permission settings
  • Audit trails and compliance tracking
  • Integrations with business-critical tools

Make sure that the tool you choose has the ability to scale as you grow and maintains robust security and data protection measures. 

When to implement:

Consider implementing a DMS when the document volume or complexity gets too significant to maintain the documents efficiently. When your company has multiple people working on projects and teams face challenges in storing, organizing, or retrieving documents efficiently, it’s time for a DMS.

Document generation tools

Document generation tools automate the drafting of legal documents, reducing errors and saving time. They often include templates and guided forms or steps to help teams create contracts and other documents. 

Key features to look for:

  • Customizable templates
  • AI-powered drafting assistance
  • Compatibility with your Document Management System
  • Collaboration features

Make sure the tool has the flexibility to adapt to various legal document types, integrates with your DMS, and is easy to use. 

When to consider implementing:

Consider a document generation tool as soon as team collaboration via emails or channels like Slack becomes cumbersome or when confidentiality and data security need to be improved — especially for remote teams. 

E-signature software

E-signature tools like DocuSign, Dropbox Sign, or Adobe Acrobat Sign enable legal documents to be signed electronically, speeding up turnaround and execution times while ensuring an improved client and partner experience. They also promote compliance, ensure security, and provide an audit trail. 

Key features to look for:

  • Compliance with legal standards for e-signatures
  • Audit trails for tracking
  • Integration with CLM and DMS
  • User-friendly interfaces for signers

When to implement:

This is one of the earlier needs for in-house legal teams, especially in the age of dispersed teams. Consider implementing an e-signature solution when the need arises for faster turnaround times, reduced paper usage, or enhanced document security. 

IP management software

IP management tools are essential for managing intellectual property portfolios, tracking filings, deadlines, and renewals, and ensuring compliance with global IP laws. These tools are particularly useful for organizations with substantial IP assets. For such businesses, platforms like Anaqua and Clarivate IPfolio become crucial, offering a comprehensive solution for tracking patents, trademarks, copyrights, and more. By centralizing IP data, these tools support strategic decision-making, enhance IP protection, and optimize monetization efforts.

Key features to look for:

  • Comprehensive databases for patent, trademark, and copyright management
  • Automated alerts for deadlines
  • Reporting and analytics features
  • Integration with legal research tools

If your company has a global presence, the ability to handle the complexities of different jurisdictions is critical. 

When to implement:

It’s time to implement IP management software when managing intellectual property becomes too complex due to the volume of assets or when there’s a need for stringent deadline tracking, filings, and renewals. 

E-discovery and legal hold tools

These tools automate identifying, collecting, and producing electronically stored information in response to a legal request or investigation. 

Key features to look for:

  • Powerful search and data processing capabilities
  • Legal hold notifications and compliance tracking
  • Integration with DMS and email systems
  • Scalability to handle large volumes of data
  • User-friendly interfaces

When to implement:

E-discovery and legal hold tools are imperative when facing regular litigation or investigations. If you need to handle large volumes of electronic data or implement and manage legal holds effectively and defensibly, consider software to streamline the process. 

Business Intelligence Software

Reporting and analytics tools give insight into various aspects of legal operations so that legal departments can make data-driven decisions. While Excel can be used for a while for basic reports, business intelligence (BI) tools like Tableau are better for more advanced reporting.

Key features to look for:

  • Customizable dashboards
  • Integration with billing, CLM, and DMS
  • Real-time data analytics
  • Predictive analytics for forecasting and trend analysis

When to implement:

Consider implementing true BI tools when decision-makers want deeper insights into operations or when they need to analyze trends, forecast future needs, or demonstrate the department's value and impact. 

Entity management software

Entity management tools, such as CSC and Diligent, help manage the compliance and governance documentation of multiple corporate entities by providing a unified view of all entities.

Key features to look for:

  • A centralized repository for documents
  • Compliance tracking and alerts
  • Integration with legal and business platforms
  • Tools for generating reports and filings
  • Support for various types of entities and jurisdictions

When to implement:

Implement entity management software when your organization manages multiple entities or requires compliance with various jurisdictional regulations, making the tracking of corporate records, filings, and compliance documents complex and time-consuming.

How to decide which tools are best for you

To decide what’s right for your team, consider your specific needs, goals, and operational constraints. Pinpoint inefficiencies, bottlenecks, or gaps in the current work that these tools could address. 

From there, determine how much money your company is willing to invest in a solution. You may need to make the business case for the solution by determining its full price (including upfront costs and ongoing expenses) and then calculating the potential savings each tool could bring by increasing efficiency, reducing risks, or improving services. 

Once you have approval, look for vendors with solid reputations who align with your needs and budget. Research each tool through demos, customer feedback, and case studies to determine which best suits your needs. A good request for proposal (RFP) process can help you thoroughly evaluate potential solutions and vendors. 

However, just purchasing the right tools isn't enough. Ensure there are adequate resources for successful implementation, including training and support. Best practices for change management are crucial for a smooth rollout. This includes clear communication with stakeholders, phased implementation, and ongoing monitoring to address any issues promptly. Properly managing the change will help your team adapt to the new tools, maximize their benefits, and ensure long-term success.

Bringing it all together

In a well-integrated legal tech stack, each tool plays a specific role while seamlessly connecting with others. For example, Document Management Systems store and organize documents, serving as the foundation. CLM Software utilizes these documents, managing contracts from creation to renewal, often integrating with E-Signature Software for seamless approval processes. 

When everything works together, legal departments can enhance efficiency, ensure compliance, and facilitate data-driven decisions, creating a cohesive and streamlined legal workflow.

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