Every year, the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC) publishes TECHREPORT—a collection of easy-to-read breakouts of the annual ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, one of the leading surveys on how attorneys use technology. Practitioners, firms, and legal tech companies alike can use TECHREPORT to get a better grasp on legal technology trends and predictions.
There are three kinds of document apps: creation and editing, assembly, and management. Virtually every law firm has at least two apps: word processing software (98%) and PDF creation software (97%). Stalwarts Microsoft Word (97%) and Adobe (88%) rule the day, and alternatives Wordperfect (14%) and Nuance (12%) are holding their own.
Document assembly software, which automatically creates the most-used legal documents, such as precedent wills, contracts, and letters are available at 42% for solos and rise to 63% for big law firms. Note that about a quarter to a third of respondents answered “don’t know” to whether document assembly was available. Given that nearly every attorney uses a word processor, the 2017 Survey results may simply reflect that attorneys either do not understand the term “document assembly,” or do not make use of the basic automation already available to them in word processors. If the latter is true, then more training on what attorneys already have at their disposal may be welcome. The leading names were HotDocs (3 %), AIA Contract Documents (10%), ProLaw (9%), and Microsoft Word (8%). One would think Microsoft Word would take the lead as it is available at 97% of law firms.
Finally, availability of document management software has not changed much in the last four years. The most common brand names are iManage (22%), Worldox (12%), Time Matters (12%), and NetDocuments (9%). Smaller firms may well be using a DIY approach, as documents can be stored in file folders on a shared server at less cost. As the number of files and documents grow, the value of document management software grows. It makes sense that larger firms take greater advantage of this.
The availability of document assembly and management apps appears flat. Small law firms are seemingly satisfied with the DIY or paper approach, while larger firms are more likely to opt in. Given the changing nature of legal services, these attorneys need to understand how automated documents can help them work better, faster, and cheaper. Those that fail to adopt this kind of technology will be far less competitive and profitable as we move forward. And it’s not as if this is new technology—document automation has been around since the dawn of specialized legal technology, and it is cheaper and easier to use than ever.