The Web publication Legal IT Insider has announced a new international competition to pick the best legal industry videos. The Legal Industry Video Awards 2014 is accepting submissions from law firms, legal service providers, in-house legal and legal vendors. The awards are open to anyone in the legal industry. There are eight categories for submissions: legal marketing, informational, [...]
CAT | General
I’ve written a couple times about Lexis Practice Advisor, a set of practice-specific modules intended to provide transactional lawyers with guidance, tools and information they need for their practices. (See here when it launched and here when new modules were added.)
Today, LexisNexis announced the availability of three additional practice-area modules, covering real estate, intellectual property and technology, and banking and finance. Other modules already available covered business and commercial, California business and commercial, corporate counsel, financial restructuring and bankruptcy, mergers and acquisitions, and securities and capital markets.
These nine modules now cover 80 percent of transactional practices, Lexis says. A module for labor and employment is slated for later this year.
For a more in-depth report on Practice Advisor, see my original write-up. Worth repeating is that a key feature of these modules is the contributions of actual practitioners in the field. Each module includes practice guides written by top firms in the field, forms contributed by practitioners and drawn from actual matters, and legal analysis written by practitioners.
For the real estate module, for example, 160 law firms contributed practice notes, forms and analysis. For the banking and finance module, one contributor was the law firm Sidley Austin.
Here is a summary of key topics covered in these new modules:
- Real estate includes leasing, financing, purchase and sales, construction, brokerage, and property management.
- IP and technology includes obtaining, protecting and enforcing IP rights, licensing, assignment and transfer, IP in mergers and acquisitions, domain name management, Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) compliance, IP in joint ventures, patent valuation, and privacy and data security.
- Banking and finance includes all aspects of financing transactions, including commitment papers, credit agreements, guarantees, and security interests and Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Below is a Lexis-produced video that gives an overview of the Practice Advisor product.
A challenge for large law firms is keeping tabs on their talent. Which lawyers have which skills and knowledge? Who are the go-to partners or associates for specific problems or issues? The larger and more dispersed the firm, the more difficult this becomes. Lateral comings and goings only further complicate the problem. A firm may house skills and expertise that others in the firm are unaware of or unable to identify.
What if a firm could have a searchable, LinkedIn-like directory, accessible only internally, as a way of capturing and managing information about its lawyers’ skills and proficiencies? That is the idea of a new product, The Firm Directory, introduced earlier this month at LegalTech New York by Neudesic Pulse. (I was given a demonstration of The Firm Directory but have not directly used the product.)
Much like LinkedIn, the basic building block of The Firm Directory is the bio. But the template for the bios here is specifically tailored to the legal industry. Lawyers can list their practice areas, legal skills, bar admissions, court affiliations, clients, billing rates, publications, work experience, education and honors.
A firm can configure the template to suit its needs, adding and removing sections, changing the order of sections, and customizing the data elements that are collected. Permissions can be set so that only certain users can see certain parts of a profile, such as billing rates.
Also like LinkedIn, The Firm Directory permits endorsements. But unlike on LinkedIn — where endorsements from those unfamiliar with a lawyer’s skills can raise ethical concerns — endorsements here come from other lawyers in the firm, colleagues who have worked with a lawyer and have first-hand knowledge of the lawyer’s skills and abilities. Firms can also add “badges” to profiles. In the image above, you can see that the lawyer have been given badges for “Collection Master,” “Sales Enabler” and “Time Keeper.”
In addition, The Firm Directory allows the firm to designate specific lawyers as the go-to experts for a given skill or subject area. Firms can customize the skills that are listed within The Firm Directory.
This approach allows a firm to capture all of this information in a way that is at once accessible to all of its professionals and staff, but securely housed on its own servers or in the cloud. The Firm Directory can be searched using multiple criteria, so if a member of the firm needs to find someone with specific skills who is also in a specific office, that can be done. Built-in instant messaging enables immediate contact with those who match a search. If the person is offline, you can send an email.
Neudesic has identified one major law firm, Reed Smith LLP, that is using The Firm Directory. The product’s web site features a quote from Reed Smith’s chief knowledge officer, Tom Baldwin:
We expect that Neudesic Pulse will allow us to capture and share knowledge and expertise across our firm in a way that email or traditional communication channels have not allowed. This in turn will help us identify synergies across our different practices and industries. Additionally, the ability to secure all data behind our firewall and configure our network according to our firm culture and security preferences will help the adoption of Pulse at Reed Smith.
The Firm Directory is preconfigured for Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Lync. That allows it to be accessed via a firm’s intranet, extranet or portal, and allows attorneys to access information in The Firm Directory from within Outlook and Lync.
So what does it cost? All a company spokesperson would tell me is this: “We don’t generally provide pricing as it varies based on a number of factors.”
First, some history. Law.com started Legal Blog Watch in 2004, originally written by Lisa Stone. In 2006, Lisa left to found BlogHer and Carolyn Elefant and I became the blog’s alternating authors. After Carolyn left in September 2009, Bruce Carton took over her spot. After I left in January 2010, Bruce handled it more or less singlehandedly until he logged out last March. Laurel Newby picked it up for a time but there has not been a post since last June.
This week, I asked Law.com editor Nathalie Gorman about the future of Legal Blog Watch. Here is what she said in an email reply:
Legal Blog Watch is something we’re really fond of. As you know, Bruce Carton did a wonderful job with it while he was managing it. We had a Law.com editor step up after Bruce left, but she became Deputy Editor of Law.com over the summer, and hasn’t had time to blog due to her expanded responsibilities. Since then, we’ve not yet found someone with the right voice to take the spot. As you know, the blog had a very specific tone and perspective, and so we don’t want just anyone to do it. We’re working hard to find that individual, and will integrate the blog as a column into the new Law.com site, as soon as possible. I’m not sure we’re ready to commit to a date, but suffice it to say it’s a priority.
So there you have it. Reports of Legal Blog Watch’s demise appear to be premature.
As I mentioned in a post here two weeks ago, Law.com had scheduled an event at LegalTech New York to launch its new website and mobile app. The site did not actually launch at the event, as I mistakenly thought it would, but Law.com staff were providing previews. At the event, I sat down with Law.com editor Nathalie Gorman for a quick tour, and she later provided me with these screenshots of the new site. The new site is slated to launch in mid-March.
The new site will use a responsive design that will be consistent across pages and that will adapt to any device, so that the page layout will adapt to any size browser. As you can see from the images below, the new site uses a tiled design that looks less cluttered than the current design and, in my opinion, more graphically appealing. (The first image below is the current site as it looks today.)
The redesign is far more than cosmetic, however. The new site will present content in a significantly different way than the current site. With the new site, content will be organized by practice areas and industries. As you can see from the screenshot below, the main navigation bar has been dramatically simplified from its current configuration, with just four top-level categories: In Practice, Industry, Insights and Resources.
The new Contributor Network that I’ve described in previous posts will launch concurrent with the launch of the new site. When I spoke to Nathalie in New York, she said that they already had close to 200 contributors lined up and were continuing to add more. The contributors have already started training on the new platform, which will allow them to add posts much as they would to a blog.
I wrote yesterday about the price increase announced by the cloud-based practice management platform Clio, but there was lots of other practice-management news coming out of LegalTech New York last week. Most notably, both Clio and LexisNexis Firm Manager unveiled major overhauls of their platforms. There was also news from Thomson Reuters Firm Central and Rocket Matter.
Honors for the most significant overhaul go to Firm Manager. LexisNexis first released Firm Manager three years ago in a public beta. While it had many good features, it could often be frustratingly slow. To its credit, Lexis essentially tossed the old Firm Manager and went back to the drawing board, rebuilding it from the bottom up and the inside out.
The improvement is dramatic. According to LexisNexis, an independent benchmarking firm concluded it is 80 percent faster than the original Firm Manager and also faster than its top competitors. This time around, LexisNexis tested the platform with lawyers and law firms for more than a year before last week’s official release.
On top of the speed improvements and a cleaner interface, the new Firm Manager includes these features:
- Time tracking and billing, including fixed-fee billing and trust accounting.
- Drag and drop document upload, making it easy to add documents to Firm Manager for storage or for matter management. Uploaded documents are fully searchable.
- Secure file sharing, powered by WatchDox, enabling users to share files or entire folders with a client, while maintaining administrative control over who can open, view, edit, copy share or forward the document.
- Mobility across devices. Firm Manager is accessible from any device.
Slated for later this quarter is a feature that will capture unbilled time. The feature will automatically searche tasks, meetings and documents in Firm Manager and flag those that have not been associated with a billing slip for review.
Firm Manager costs $44.99 per month for the first user and $29.99 for every additional user. A 30-day free trial is available.
Clio also announced a top-to-bottom redesign of its interface last week — its first since its inception five years ago — as well as the introduction of several new features. The new, responsive design is intended not only to modernize Clio’s look and branding, but also to ensure that users have the same experience and functionality across all their devices.
The update also includes a major enhancement of data tables within Clio, providing better data organization, allowing for bulk actions and improved workflow, and laying the groundwork for a number of future improvements slated to be released throughout 2014.
Included among the changes are:
- A cleaner overall design, including a cleaner header area for easier navigation and less clutter throughout the pages.
- Personalized pages, with your name always prominently displayed in the header.
- A new multi-select feature that lets users open or close multiple matters or complete multiple tasks.
- A new “quick actions” drawer for common tasks that disappears from view when not needed.
Thomson Reuters Firm Central
Thomson Reuters announced four notable enhancements to its practice management platform Firm Central, all aimed at enhancing efficiency and productivity. They are:
- Practical Law. It was big news last year when Thomson Reuters acquired UK-based Practical Law Company, a provider of legal “know-how.” Now, Firm Central users will be able to access Practical Law resources from directly within the application, tapping into practice notes, checklists, templates and more.
- Client portal. The new client portal allows users to securely share documents and communicate with clients from within directly within Firm Central. Communications are organized by matter and all communications are secure and encrypted.
- Integrated time and billing with QuickBooks, to synchronize law firm accounting data, track and process time and expense data, and simplify the overall billing process.
- Custom forms. Users can now upload and save their own forms and automatically create standard documents.
Rocket Matter announced last week that it is now integrated with the Box file-sharing and document-storage platform.
The integration means that users will be able to take advantage of Box’s capabilities for secure file sharing and collaboration, content management and mobile access, while also tracking all of their time for work done in Box, so that no billable time is lost.
Rocket Matter said that its Box integration follows the same interaction as its other document integrations, meaning that users can navigate to their Box folders and documents from within each matter inside Rocket Matter. Billable time can be associated with each item in a Box folder.
Rocket Matter also announced that it has improved its native Android and iPhone apps. Users will see a new and improved home screen icon and have the ability to edit contacts and calendar events. In addition, the iPhone app is now compatible with iOS 7.
The American Bar Association annual meeting is coming to Boston Aug. 7-12, and in conjunction with that, the ABA Journal and Suffolk University Law School are making plans to host a hackathon around the theme of access to justice.
A hackathon, Wikipedia tells us, is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.
For the ABA event, lawyers and law students will work alongside developers and graphic designers in teams. The goal for each team will be to develop a Web application or mobile app by the end of the event. A panel of experts and the participants will judge the work and pick a winning team.
The theme will be on projects that further access-to-justice efforts in some way. The organizers are seeking ideas for problems that the teams can work to address. If you have an idea to share, you can do so by taking this quick survey and sharing your thoughts.
The cloud-based law practice management platform Clio has raised its monthly subscription price by 47 percent, from $49 per attorney to $72 per attorney. For users who pay annually, the monthly price is now $65.
In addition, Clio has eliminated its lower subscription price for support staff. Previously, attorneys could add support staff for $24 a month. Now, support staff pay the same $72 or $65 per month that attorneys pay.
The change applies only to new customers. Current customers have been grandfathered at their current subscription price and will see no change.
This is Clio’s first price change in more than five years. Clio CEO Jack Newton said that the price change is necessary “in order to continue to deliver the quality and pace of product and service advancement that our customers expect.”
Last week, Clio rolled out its first major redesign of the application’s look and feel, using a responsive design that allows a consistent user experience across all types of devices. The update also included a revamp of data tables within the application, allowing for bulk actions and improved workflow. The update lays the groundwork for planned future improvements, Clio says.
How Its Pricing Compares
How do Clio’s new prices compare to other practice management platforms? Here is a quick survey of what some others charge.
$64 a month per user for the cloud version. (A solo attorney can use the on-premise version for free.)
$44.99 a month for the first user then $29.99 a month for every additional user.
$39 a month per attorney and $29 a month for paralegals and staff.
$59.99 a month for the first user, then $49.99 a month for users 2-6. Users who pay quarterly save 10 percent off those prices, those who pay annually save 15 percent, and those who pay every two years save 20 percent.
$35 a month per user. The optional time-and-billing component is an extra $25 a month per user. (For more on Firm Central pricing, see my ABA Journal column.)
Last week, a mobile-phone charging device called Jumper Card launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to pay for its first production run. Within days, it met its goal. Even so, you can still contribute and be one of the first to receive a Jumper Card when it becomes available in April.
The developers call this device “jumper cables for your phone.” Roughly the size of a credit card (but about 1/4″ thick), it houses two pop-out connectors. One has a USB plug to connect to your computer or charger. The other has three prongs that can connect to iPhones, iPads and Android devices. Connect the Jumper Card to your phone and a USB port to charge or sync your device.
In addition, the Jumper Card includes an on-board battery for extra power in an emergency. The battery is relatively small — just 480mAh — but it will buy you another 45-60 minutes of talk time until you can plug into a recharger. When you connect the USB to recharge your phone, the onboard battery also recharges. The Jumper Card also has a built-in LED flashlight.
I had an opportunity to try out a preproduction model of the Jumper Card. The nice thing about it is its slim size. You can slip it in your pocket or briefcase and forget about it until you need it. It is made of polystyrene and the cables fit snugly into both the Jumper Card and your device.
Check out the Indiegogo campaign or watch for Jumper Card to come on the market.
Just back from last week’s LegalTech in New York, and with the perspective of someone who has been writing about legal technology for more than two decades, I am convinced that I have never before seen a time of such intense and creative innovation in legal technology. However, it is not LegalTech that has me thinking that; rather, it is a legal-tech sideshow that coincided with it called ReInvent Law NYC.
LegalTech is billed as the largest and most important legal technology event of the year. I have no doubt it is the largest and, in many ways, the most important. It is where the legal tech “establishment” comes to show off its wares and where hopeful new entrants come to drum up interest. But if there were innovations to be found here this year, they were at best incremental. Most of the products that vendors demonstrated for me were simply variations on the products they showed me last year.
But I also became engaged with a sort-of legal technology “underground” at LegalTech. In conversation after conversation, I encountered entrepreneurial young lawyers and developers who came to LegalTech not to exhibit or to present seminars — because those kinds of things are not in their budgets — but to network and to engage in a kind of guerrilla marketing to spread the word about their ideas or their start-ups.
And then on Friday came ReInvent Law, where all these entrepreneurs converged in a fast-paced, high-energy, unabashed love fest. Thirty-nine different presentations were packed into the day-long program, many as tightly timed, six-minute ignite programs. Speakers addressed topics such as why we need more hackers in the legal profession, how lawyering is like engineering, how to use design principles to enhance legal services, and IP issues in 3D printing.
In all honesty, the speakers were a mixed bag. Some did little more than hawk their own products. Some presented Big New Thing ideas that, frankly, I’ve seen and heard before in my 20 years of covering this stuff. Some were truly inspiring and clearly blazing trails into new and promising directions. I might argue that it was in the conversations in the halls outside the sessions where the most valuable ideas were being exchanged and connections being made.
To my mind, however, the significance of ReInvent Law was not in any single presentation or even in the event itself. It was that ReInvent Law was a manifestation of the moment in which we now find ourselves in legal technology — a moment of unprecedented innovation and creativity. Those young entrepreneurs who stopped me at LegalTech to pitch their ideas and the speakers and attendees at ReInvent Law are all representatives of a much larger groundswell.
Take a look at the list of legal startups at Angel List, a site that lists startups of all kinds. As of this writing, the list has 412 companies identified as legal startups. Companies listed here are trying to come up with better ways to do legal research, negotiate contracts, manage legal documents, match consumers with lawyers, search patents, manage a law office, track and bill time, and much more.
No doubt, many if not most of these companies will fail. Some of their ideas are probably stupid. But there is brilliance there as well. Startups such as Ravel – with its unique visual approach to legal research – are already causing much larger players to pay attention and emulate their approach. If just a fraction of these startups succeed, lawyers will be the better for it.
Why this groundswell of innovation at this point in time? The reason, I think, is that the formula for innovation has changed. Time was when the behemoths drove legal technology. Advances in legal research, trial technology, document management and practice management were driven by the big guys. Sure there were entrepreneurs and startups. But hundreds of them at any given time? Never.
Even with the advent of the web, which seemed to promise a new flood of innovation, the flood was more of a trickle. Yes, innovation in the legal web has ebbed and flowed, but never has there been a level of activity and entrepreneurship that compares to today.
We live at a time when a Harvard undergrad who started something in his dorm room rose seemingly overnight to become one of the world’s wealthiest people. We can debate whether that’s a good thing, but there is no doubt that virtually anyone with the right idea has a shot at making it a reality. It did not matter that Ravel’s founders were still in law school when they thought they had a better way to do research. They had a good idea and ran with it.
We have transformed from a time when legal technology was a product driven by large corporations to a time when it is an idea driven by a desire to make things simpler and smarter. Yes, every entrepreneur is motivated in part by the hope of getting rich quick. But that hope is helping to drive a new generation of creative thinking, a new generation of entrepreneurial lawyers and developers who believe they can improve the way law is practiced and delivered.
That spirit and energy was almost tangible in New York last week. But it wasn’t at the posh New York Hilton setting of LegalTech. Fittingly, it was in Greenwich Village, across the street from the Village Voice, on the campus of the art and science college Cooper Union. Those who attended represented a kind of legal technology counter-culture, one that is sure to shape the future of our profession.