Apr 15, 2014

Avvo Gets Another $37.5 Million in Financing

It’s a good time to be a legal startup, it seems. Just three weeks ago, we reported here that Clio, the cloud-based practice management platform, had raised $20 million in financing. Now comes news that the lawyer directory site Avvo has closed $37.5 million in financing.

This latest round of financing was led by Coatue Management, with additional investment from Benchmark Capital, Ignition Partners and DAG Ventures, according to Avvo’s announcement. Avvo will use the new funding to accelerate product development and marketing and fuel international expansion.

Four years ago, Avvo raised $10 million. Since its inception, it has raised a total of $60.5 million.

Avvo’s announcement includes this statement from Thomas Laffont, a senior managing director at Coatue:

We are excited to partner with Avvo because it is consistent with our strategy of backing innovative leaders. Avvo’s skilled team has built a large user base, supported by a powerful platform, which uniquely positions the company to continue its creative approach to transforming the legal landscape.

It also had this statement from Mark Britton, Avvo’s founder and CEO:

Put simply, this additional capital allows us to accelerate. No matter what we have accomplished to date, we need to help more consumers make better legal decisions and find the right lawyer. We need to build more products that make navigating the legal profession as simple as it should be. Through transparency and ease of use, Avvo has already changed how people find and choose attorneys. It is gratifying to have such high caliber investors share in our vision for transforming legal services.

Avvo was launched in June 2007.

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Apr 14, 2014

Which Legal Sites Did Heartbleed Affect?

You’ve no doubt heard about Heartbleed, the security flaw that exposed personal information at many leading websites. The flaw was in OpenSSL, an open-source version of the SSL protocol that is used to encrypt transmissions between you and a website. The flaw created a vulnerability that could have exposed sensitive information. The vulnerability affected several leading Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo and Netflix.

It made me wonder how many companies that cater to the legal profession were affected. I’ve collected a bit of information here. If you know of others, please let me know or add a comment below. If you are unsure about whether a site was vulnerable, LastPass has a Heartbleed checker where you can enter a URL and sometimes get an answer. For a good overview of Heartbleed, see this New York Times Q&A, Aaron Street’s excellent Lawyerist post, or the Heartbleed site. (more…)

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Apr 12, 2014

Breaking: ‘Estate Map’ is Shutting Down

Estate Map Logo Full Up DownJust 10 months after it launched, Estate Map is closing down. As I described in my review of it last August, Estate Map is a cloud-based tool for estate planning lawyers and their clients. For lawyers, it simplifies client intake and communications. For clients, it provides a portal where they provide information about themselves and where they store important documents and digital assets. (more…)

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Apr 11, 2014

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about BigLaw, Delivered to Your Desktop

Do you work in BigLaw? Wish you did? Or just happen to be a junkie for news about large law firms? If so, here’s your fix. The folks at TechnoLawyer have reworked and relaunched BigLaw, their free weekly email newsletter that endeavors to cover all things BigLaw.

The newsletter now covers what TechnoLawyer calls the BigLaw 300 — the nation’s 300 largest law firms. Whereas it formerly contained only selected articles about large firm business, marketing and technology, the revamped version aims to be far more exhaustive. (more…)

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Apr 10, 2014

Exclusive: Pricing Revealed for Neudesic’s ‘The Firm Directory’

NeudesicIn a post here in February, I reviewed The Firm Directory from Neudesic Pulse, a product I described as like a law firm’s private LinkedIn. The product allows firms to create a searchable, internal directory that captures and manages information about its lawyers skills and proficiencies. It is targeted at larger firms of 200 or more lawyers.

At the time that I wrote that, a company spokesperson declined to specify the product’s pricing, saying only that it “varies based on a number of factors.” This week, Ramin Vosough, vice president of products at Neudesic Pulse, reached out to me to provide more specific information on pricing.

Currently, two pricing options are available, Vosough said:

  • A monthly subscription of roughly $3 per user per month. That number is an average based on a minimum of 200 users and can vary depending on total number of users and other factors.
  • A one-time license fee of $50 per user, for which volume discounts are available.

Since introducing the product at LegalTech New York earlier this year, Neudesic has seen a lot of interest in it from large law firms, Vosough told me. A number of firms are interested in it as a knowledge management tool for capturing and searching its lawyers’ skills and expertise.

As I mentioned in my earlier review, one firm that is using The Firm Directory is Reed Smith. I included a quoate from Reed Smith’s KM officer, Tom Baldwin, talking about the use of the product to capture knowledge. Vosough provided me with another Baldwin quote, this time talking about integration of lateral partners:

We make a significant investment in the acquisition of lateral partners so it’s imperative that we ramp up their integration into the firm and showcase their knowledge and experience in the most impactful way possible. We sell our knowledge, knowing as much as possible about our lawyers and serving it up in an intuitive way is paramount. With the Firm Directory powered by Neudesic Pulse we have the ability to uncover and promote our lawyers’ capabilities throughout the firm and to clients, maximizing cross-selling efforts and achieving better outcomes across the board.

To read more about The Firm Directory, see my original review.

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Apr 9, 2014

Podcast: Should Revenge Porn Be A Crime?

In our last episode of the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer, we spoke to two activists urging federal and state laws to make revenge porn a crime. This week, we follow-up with two guests who believe such laws would be a serious mistake, because of both their chilling effect on free speech and their needless criminalization of conduct that can be addressed through other means.

Joining us as guests this week are:

  • Lee Rowland, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project and formerly the voting rights counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, where she successfully represented the League of Women Voters of Florida and others in constitutional challenges to Florida’s 2011 election law.
  • Marc Randazza, a First Amendment lawyer and editor of The Legal Satyricon who represents both adult entertainment companies and private individuals. He is a regular contributor to news sources such as CNN and Fox News, and is a frequent commentator on legal issues to the international media.

In the second half of the show, one of the advocates for criminalization, University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, our guest on the first revenge porn show, returns to debate her perspective with Rowland and Randazza. It’s a spirited debate about a difficult topic.

Be sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to Lawyer2Lawyer in the iTunes library or via our RSS feed.


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Apr 4, 2014

New App Guides Lawyers (and Others) in the Rules of Golf

GolfCoverLawyers are supposed to be experts at deciphering convoluted rules. But even lawyers can be confounded by the rules of golf. Thus, the golfers among you will be pleased to learn that two lawyers have translated the rules of golf into plain English and made them available through a mobile app, ready to consult whenever a knotty question arises.

Out this week is the mobile version of the book, The Rules of Golf in Plain English, by lawyers Jeffrey S. Kuhn and Bryan A. Garner. Kuhn, besides being a lawyer, is a volunteer USGA rules official who has officiated at a number of USGA championships. Garner you no doubt know for his prolific writing and speaking on language and usage and as editor of Black’s Law Dictionary.

The mobile version was published by The University of Chicago Press together with Ready Reference Apps. The book can be purchased for $9.99 from within the free Rulebook app for iPhone and iPad. (This is the same app I’ve written about before that provides the mobile version of The Bluebook.)

First published in 2004 and with a revised third edition out in 2012, The Rules of Golf in Plain English is the authors’ attempt to bring clarity to golf’s often byzantine rules. Since the original 338-word set of 13 rules written in 1744, the official rules are now more than 40,000 words long.

“Both lawyers and avid golfers, Kuhn and Garner recognized the difficulties that the language of the Rules of Golf created, especially in a sport that expects players to call penalties on themselves,” a press release for the app explains. “By reworking the rules line by line, word by word, they have produced a resource that no golfer—from the duffer to the pro—should be without.”

To purchase the mobile version of the book, first install the Rulebook app. You will then be able to purchase it from within the app.

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Apr 3, 2014

A Precarious Time for Legal Newspapers

Reuters broke the news two days ago that legal news giant ALM — publisher of Law.com, The American Lawyer, The National Law Journal and Law Technology News, among other publications — is up for sale. Just two weeks earlier, it was reported that another major legal news publisher, The Dolan Company, was entering a prepackaged Chapter 11.

Whenever a newspaper or news organization changes hands these days, there is reason for concern. Throughout the industry, reductions in advertising and paid circulation have forced news organizations to make cuts. Legal news entities have been no exception. Indeed, just last summer, ALM cut 35 editorial and production positions. As new owners come in to these organizations, cutting costs is often a first priority.

But there is reason to be particularly concerned about the news of these two companies occurring so close in time. Although both companies have national operations and national publications, both companies’ real bread and butter is in reporting state and local legal news. Between them, they provide local legal news coverage for nearly half the states in the U.S.

Why does this matter? There is an old saw in the news industry, “All news is local.” Nowhere is that more true than in the legal profession. Lawyers are state-focused creatures. Our licenses to practice are by state and, for the most part, the laws we work with are by state. Except where federal law intrudes, we deal primarily in state legislation and state courts.

If new ownership at either ALM or Dolan begins to make cuts, those cuts could chip away at the only sources we have for state and local legal news. If state legal newspapers close down or seriously curtail their operations, lawyers will be left without independent sources of legal news coverage.

General news organizations will not fill this void. Maybe bloggers will to some extent, but rarely with the reliability of these established news entities. Increasingly, our only source for news from our courts and legislatures may be those bodies themselves — and that’s not journalism.

This is probably a good time in this post to point out that I have worked for both ALM and Dolan, as well as for the Lawyers Weekly chain, which Dolan acquired after I worked there. It has been many years since I have been an employee of either, although I occasionally receive payment from ALM for articles I write.

It is enlightening to consider the extent of the states covered between these two companies. Both companies have various businesses besides legal news and, as already noted, national publications. (ALM also has publications focused on Europe and Asia.) But if you consider just their state and local legal news operations, you find that ALM has legal newspapers in nine states and that Dolan has them in 16 states. (Both also have news operations in D.C.) They overlap in two states, so the total number of states they cover is 23.

Here are ALM’s state legal publications:

  • Connecticut Law Tribune.
  • Daily Business Review (Florida).
  • Daily Report (Georgia).
  • Delaware Law Weekly.
  • The Legal Intelligencer (Pennsylvania).
  • New Jersey Law Journal.
  • New York Law Journal.
  • The Recorder (San Francisco).
  • Texas Lawyer.

And here are Dolan’s (some of which are both legal and commercial):

  • Arizona Capitol Times.
  • Idaho Business Review.
  • New Orleans CityBusiness.
  • Daily Journal of Commerce (Louisiana).
  • The Daily Record (Maryland).
  • Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
  • Michigan Lawyers Weekly.
  • Finance and Commerce (Minnesota).
  • Minnesota Lawyer.
  • Politics in Minnesota.
  • St. Paul Legal Ledger.
  • Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
  • St. Louis Daily Record (Missouri).
  • The Countian – St. Louis (Missouri).
  • The Countian – Jefferson County (Missouri).
  • St. Charles County Business Record (Missouri).
  • The Daily Record – Kansas City (Missouri).
  • Long Island Business News (New York).
  • New York Daily Record.
  • North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.
  • The Mecklenburg Times (North Carolina).
  • The Journal Record (Oklahoma).
  • Daily Journal of Commerce (Oregon).
  • Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly.
  • South Carolina Lawyers Weekly.
  • Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
  • The Daily Reporter.
  • Wisconsin Law Journal.

Let me be clear: No one has said that any publication is closing down or that any jobs are being cut. In news reports about the ALM sale, ALM has declined to comment or even confirm that it is happening. In Dolan’s case, the prepackaged bankruptcy is expected to reduce the company’s debt from $170 million to $50 million and allow it to keep operating.

Further, some of these local publications are the cash cows of their companies, bringing in far more revenue from both advertising and circulation than some of the higher-profile publications. If anything is to be cut, those papers would be last.

In an interview with the Boston Business Journal last week, the publisher of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Susan Bocamazo, said that her paper has not felt any impact from the bankruptcy filing. “We’re continuing with business as usual at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly,” she said. “I would expect that’s the way it’s going to be going.”

Still, at this juncture, it is difficult not to be concerned about the state of state legal reporting. With one major company up for sale and the other going through Chapter 11, changes of some sort are sure to be on the horizon. Are we beginning to see the end of state-focused legal journalism? I don’t think so, not for some time anyway. But we could be seeing cuts, and cuts lead over time to greater erosion.

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Apr 2, 2014

Nuance Takes on Acrobat Pro — At 1/3 the Price


Professional-strength PDF software is a must-have for lawyers, and the gold standard for PDF software has always been Adobe Acrobat Pro. But at Acrobat Pro’s current retail price of $449, many lawyers, especially in smaller firms, opt for more budget-friendly alternatives, such as CutePDF Professional, which I reviewed here several years ago.

Now there is another choice. Today, Nuance Communications — maker of the Dragon speech recognition software — is launching Nuance Power PDF Advanced, a full-featured professional PDF program, with all the features businesses — including lawyers — would expect in such a program. Notably, Nuance has set the price of Power PDF at $149.99 — a third the cost of Acrobat Pro — with volume discounts available.  (A 30-day free trial is available.)

Although Nuance also offers a version for individuals and home offices, Power PDF Standard, at $99.99, most lawyers would want Power PDF Advanced. It includes several features that are important in a law practice:

  • Redaction to black out sensitive information, including the ability to automatically search and redact.
  • Bates stamping and advanced header and footer functionality.
  • PDF/A and Section 508 compliance checking, including the ability to fix files that do not comply.
  • Secure delivery, encryption and digital rights management capabilities.
  • Integration with LexisNexis CaseMap.

Another feature of the advanced version is integration with file-sharing sites and document-management systems, enabling users to open files directly from and save them directly to these systems. A smaller law office could use this to integrate with Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs or Office 365. A larger firm could connect with an enterprise DMS such as Autonomy, Documentum, SharePoint and NetDocuments. (This integration must be selected during installation of the software. If you forget, re-run the installer and select “Install Cloud Connector.”)

I have been testing a pre-release version of Power PDF Advanced for a little over a week. I’m sure there is a power PDF user out there who could find shortcomings in this over Acrobat, but I could not. I was able to do any of the tasks I would want with a PDF program.

Also, once I adjusted to the different user interface, I found it easier to perform many tasks using the Nuance software than with Acrobat. The software uses a Microsoft-office style ribbon interface which is easy to navigate. Items can easily be added or removed from the ribbon or rearranged.

Some of the other notable features of Power PDF Advanced include:

  • Integrated Dragon Notes speech recognition, enabling users to add notes to PDF files by dictating text. Nuance actually sends the speech off to its servers in the cloud to process; within seconds, it appears in the sticky note.
  • Integrated OCR using the same technology as Nuance’s OmniPage.
  • Watched folder and batch sequence capabilities to automate common tasks and move files from one location to another. Using watched folders, you could simply drag a group of documents to a folder to automatically convert them to PDF. With a batch sequence, you can string together multiple commands to be performed as a single command on a group of documents, such as stamping and watermarking them.
  • Word-processor-like ability to edit PDF content, including graphics and charts.

Of course, it also includes the features you would expect to find in a professional PDF program:

  • One-click creation of PDF files from within Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
  • One-click creation of PDF files from within Internet Explorer (but not other browsers, where you would have to print to PDF).
  • Creation of PDF packages and portfolios.
  • Conversion of PDF files into Word, Excel, PowerPoint and WordPerfect (and to convert only a selected area of a page).
  • Conversion of image PDFs to searchable PDFs.
  • Drag-and-drop ability to add or remove pages from a PDF document, with automatic page renumbering.
  • Full commenting and annotations.
  • Support for network scanning.

Whereas Acrobat Pro is designed for use in graphics and printing, the Nuance product is not. It will not produce files in PDF/X, which is a graphics format for printing, or PDF/E, which is a format used in engineering. The product manager I spoke readily acknowledged this, saying that Nuance’s focus was on developing a product for the business setting, where customers care more about document assembly and functionality.

If you have been holding out from buying Acrobat Pro because of the price, then check out Power PDF.

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Apr 1, 2014

Citing Legal Industry Disruption, West, Lexis Open their Data to Free Access

[Editor's note added 4/2/14: OK folks, lest the date reference be lost, this was an April Fool's joke. Sorry to disappoint.]

Last month, Harvard Law School hosted the conference, Disruptive Innovation in the Market for Legal Services, featuring Harvard Business School Prof. Clayton M. Christensen, author of the seminal 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. That came not long after ReInvent Law NYC, another conference that focused on innovation and disruption in the legal industry. Indeed, as I wrote then, we may be in the midst of a time of unprecedented innovation in legal technology.

Mike Walsh

Citing this very trend towards disruption in the legal industry, the heads of the legal business units within Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis issued an unprecedented joint statement this morning declaring to open their legal research databases to free access and to cooperate with each other in making legal information universally available to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

“Our companies are jointly committed to eliminating barriers of cost and complexity that inhibit broad access to legal information and materials,” said the statement. “Beginning today, April 1, Westlaw, Westlaw Next,  Lexis.com and Lexis Advance will be offered to the public at large, without cost of any kind.”

The statement was signed by Mike Walsh, chief executive officer of the global legal business of LexisNexis, and Susan Taylor Martin, president of Thomson Reuters Legal.

Susan Taylor Martin

The statement quoted Christensen, who said at the Harvard conference, “Disruptive innovations are innovations that transform products that are complicated and expensive into things that are affordable and accessible.” Rather than be disrupted by smaller start-ups, the statement went on to say, the two companies had decided to lead the disruption themselves.

The decision to open their legal databases was also inspired by the work of the Free Access to Law Movement and its Declaration on Free Access to Law, as well as by public domain advocate Carl Malamud and his work through Public.Resource.Org to make government information more accessible.

Taylor Martin, who became president of TR Legal Jan. 1, may have foreshadowed this move in a January interview with Law Technology News editor Monica Bay. She told Bay then that the legal industry seemed to be on the cusp of dramatic change, adding that she could not say whether that change was a decade or two away or whether “we are on the brink of really quite disruptive change?”

Unfortunately, the announcement came with one proviso: Free access will be available only to those who register before the close of this April 1 calendar day. After today, it will be back to business as usual.

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