20 Practice Area Specific Tools

There are two law-specific areas that haven’t been touched on yet. The first is the area of niche practice area-specific technology tools. The other is litigation. Since the focus of this text is to help law students understand the types of technology they will encounter in practice, I won’t spend a lot of time on the practice area-specific tools. You won’t need them unless you head into one of those practice areas and you will quickly find out what your peers are using because specialized tools are pervasive in some of these areas.

The American Bar Association’s annual legal technology survey asks a few questions about these niche practice areas but the areas are so small and so varied that it is hard to get detailed data on who is using what. These tools tend to be information based and come from legal publishers like Thomson Reuters Westlaw, the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), and CCH. Common practice areas include:

  • Intellectual property, including specific databases for patent and trademark searching and monitoring;
  • Bankruptcy, with an emphasis on forms generation using calculators and other tools for not only creating the documents but using the mandatory U.S. federal courts electronic court filing (ECF) system;
  • Tax, where there are extensive dedicated information sources from all the main legal publishers;
  • Divorce, where complicated calculations relating to child support or alimony can be forms driven using products like Canada’s DivorceMate or the U.S. DivorceSource.

Similarly, lawyers practicing in more populous jurisdictions – especially California, New York, and Texas – may find that they have resources that other jurisdictions don’t have.