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Software is applications and programs that allow users to perform various tasks, access information and entertainment, and communicate with others with and through a computer. Legal software is software used by those in the legal professions to complete tasks associated particularly with their work as lawyers and the business of running a law firm. Legal software can also refer to software used by laypeople to perform tasks related to the law, primarily creating legal documents.
Practice management software may simply include facilities for billing, a general ledger, and a docket calendar, maintaining a strict focus on the financial and organizational side of the law office needs. Additional modules may assist with tasks such as importing data from a variety of sources, electronic billing, and credit card processing. This type of software is often offered in different versions for small law firms, medium-sized law firms, and large firms.
Alternatively, legal software may address the needs of the practicing lawyers in the firm. To this end, the software may include document management, as well as management for email and electronic files, and a system for keeping track of the appointments, tasks, and deadlines of individuals. Legal software may go even further and include modules that are specialized for practice areas and linked to Westlaw® research facilities. Examples of specialty areas that the software may cater to include contracts, criminal law, estate planning, intellectual property, and probate, among others. There are also legal software packages for other tasks that lawyers often engage in, such as speech recognition software to allow dictation of briefs, contracts, and other documents.
Legal software for laypeople includes specialty applications for people in a set of standard situations who need a predictable set of legal documents in a legally valid form in order to carry out some task. Often, people use such software for personal matters, like estate planning, living wills and powers of attorney, and creating a prenuptial agreement. There are also software programs available for starting a business, forming a nonprofit corporation, applying for copyright, patent application, and licensing agreements. Software sets exist that provide a variety of legal forms and may also include access to legal advice.