Lawyers’ use of web-based software and services has grown only slightly in recent years, a new survey indicates. Growth in use of the cloud is greatest among solos and small firms and lawyers in these firms are more likely than their larger-firm counterparts to use cloud-based applications. These are among the findings of the recently [...]
TAG | practice management
Earlier today, I published a post about the recently released ABA Legal Technology Survey’s findings on blogs and social media. A separate part of that survey looked at lawyers’ use of web-based software, more commonly referred to these days as “the cloud.” Interestingly, the highest usage of cloud-based applications is among solo and small-firm attorneys, according to the survey. When asked which cloud-based applications they used, the second most common answer they gave was Clio, the cloud-based practice management application. (Respondents chose from a list of applications; the top three were Google Docs at 46%, Clio at 12% and RocketMatter at 5%.)
Well, as of today, those Clio users have a new feature to take advantage of. This morning, Clio announced full integration with Google Drive, a feature that promises to facilitate the creation and sharing of documents among lawyers and their clients.
This means that users will be able to take advantage of the features of Google Drive directly from within Clio. They can create documents, associate them with matters, and share and collaborate on them with others. They can also use Google Drive features such as full-text search and OCR recognition.
Earlier this year, Clio announced that it had raised $6 million in financing. Based in Vancouver, B.C., the company was founded in 2007 by Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau. It was the first of the increasingly popular field of cloud-based practice management applications.
I wrote just yesterday about the announcement from MyCase of its application programming interface and App Bar, which will allow third parties to develop applications to integrate with the MyCase practice management platform. Today at ABA Techshow, the company had another announcement: the launch of MyCase Draft, an internal word processor and document generation tool. The tool lets users create and edit documents from within MyCase. It also allows users to create document templates that can be merged with existing and custom client and matter fields within the applications.
I have not seen this in action yet. A press release from the company describes these features:
- Simple and automated document assembly: Easily create document templates in MyCase, then merge those templates with matter and contact information, and documents will be immediately generated.
- Built-in word processing capabilities: Draft has a built-in word processor as part of the core MyCase practice management system. Legal professionals can now run their mobile practice more efficiently by creating and editing documents at any time, from any location.
- Next generation collaboration: With word processing built into MyCase, collaboration issues are eliminated, and with permissions, clients can open, edit and review documents with ease.
I recently wrote about announcements (here and here) from two other practice management applications, Rocket Matter and Clio, that they had added document assembly to their menus of features. MyCase appears to have taken this a step further, with the addition of word processing.
Just yesterday, I posted here about announcements by two of the leading cloud-based practice management platforms, Clio and Rocket Matter, that they had launched application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow third-party application developers to integrate directly with their platforms. I noted the coincidence of the two companies’ announcements coming within days of each other, after having just recently both announced the addition of document assembly to their platforms, also within days of each other. I jokingly suggested the possibility of high-tech corporate espionage.
Well, the plot just thickened. Today, another cloud-based practice management platform, MyCase, announced the launch of its API allowing third-parties to develop applications for its platform. In addition, MyCase announced the launch of the MyCase App Bar, a feature that it says will “provide one-stop access to important firm data as well as popular third party apps.”
Unlike Clio and Rocket Matter, whose announcements both named third-party apps ready to integrate with their platforms, MyCase’s announcement did not name any. It did say this:
While the initial app focus is on core workflows and tasks such as seamless synchronization (between MyCase, Outlook and Google) and integration (of emails into specific MyCase case/client folders), social media management apps such as twitter and popular legal productivity apps will follow. The MyCase App Bar and marketplace, which over time will include a wide variety of legal services and applications, is focused in the short-term on third parties that are already popular among existing firms and that help enhance clients’ ability to manage their practices and better serve clients.
MyCase will be exhibiting at ABA Techshow this week, so if you’re attending, you can find out more there.
I’m starting to wonder whether Clio and Rocket Matter are engaged in high-tech corporate espionage. In January, within days of each other, both companies added document assembly to their cloud-based practice management applications. (See my earlier posts here and here.) Now, again within days of each other, both companies announced that they have launched an application programming interface (API) that will allow third-party application developers to integrate directly with their platforms.
Clio’s announcement will be released tomorrow morning, just a day before the start of ABA Techshow in Chicago. It calls its API the Clio Platform and it will allow third-party developers to securely access data and actions within Clio. It uses OAuth 2.0 for secure authentication, which allows secure access between applications without having to share credentials.
Both companies also announced initial third-party applications that will integrate with their platforms. Clio said that both Zencash, a receivables management application, and DirectLaw, a virtual lawyering platform, will be integrated immediately. Chrometa, a time-tracking application, will be integrated in April. “We’ll have lots of other exciting partners launching tools built on top of the Clio platform,” Jack Newton, Clio’s founder and CEO, said in an email.
Rocket Matter is launching is API with Chrometa already integrated, its announcement said. Chrometa and Rocket Matter will be demonstrating the integration at Techshow this week.
“Rocket Matter is no longer just a product: it’s a platform for other software companies to create amazing products for lawyers,” said Larry Port, CEO of Rocket Matter. “We wanted our first API integration to be with an incredibly useful, amazing product and forward-thinking company, and found this partner in Chrometa.”
Meanwhile, Jack Newton said his company is excited about the launch of its API. “We’re tremendously excited to announce the Clio Platform, and are thrilled to see the integrations and extensions developers are building using the Clio API. Clio’s users will benefit through a broad range of integrations and add-ons being built for Clio by a broad range of partners.”
If you are attending Techshow, both companies are exhibiting there, so check out their new APIs.
I’m sensing a trend here. In January, I wrote here that the Web-based practice management application Rocket Matter had added document assembly. Less than a week later, I posted here that Clio had announced its addition of a document assembly feature. Then I learned that HoudiniEsq had already offered document assembly for at least a year.
Stay tuned for further developments.
Recently, I wrote about announcements (here and here) from two cloud-based practice management applications, Rocket Matter and Clio, that they had added document assembly to their menus of features. When Rocket Matter made its announcement Jan. 25, co-founder Larry Port told me that it was then the only cloud-based practice management platform to integrate document assembly.
In fact, there is another cloud-based practice management platform that has offered document assembly for more than a year. The platform is HoudiniEsq and it takes a slightly different approach to document assembly than either Rocket Matter or Clio.
HoudiniEsq has its own plug-in for Word. (You’ll need Word 2007 or 2010 to use it.) When you install it, the plug-in adds a HoudiniEsq menu bar to Word. The menu bar lets you open documents from the application directly into Word and save them from Word directly into the application.
More to the point, the menu bar lets you easily create templates in Word that will work with your matter and contact data stored in HoudiniEsq. It adds commands to Word’s menu bar that lets you insert merge fields into any Word document and then save it as a template.
A nice feature here is that HoudiniEsq adds a dialog box within Word that lets you select the merge fields you want to use. As you create a template, you don’t have to type out the merge codes manually. Once you’re done, the template is saved into HoudiniEsq, ready to be used to assemble a document.
The final step is simply to click “Generate Document” within the Word menu and then select the template to use and the matter to use it in. The final document will be produced.
Alternatively, HoudiniEsq includes a feature called Live Doc that lets you alter the information in the merge fields as you are creating a document. For example, perhaps you want to insert a different phone number in a document than the one the merge field would find. Using Live Doc, you can easily do this before creating the final document.
Something else worth noting about HoudiniEsq is that it is free to solo attorneys. The free version is exclusively for a solo and includes only one seat and one log-on. And instead of accessing the application through the cloud, you install it locally on your own computer – although it still functions the same as the cloud version and can be accessed remotely.
For cloud-based access to HoudiniEsq., the cost is $64 per seat per month. By comparison, Rocket Matter charges $59.99 per month for the first user and then $49.99 per month for each of the next five users. Clio charges $49 per month per attorney and $25 a month for support staff.
I am here at LegalTech in New York where I had an opportunity to meet yesterday with Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau, founders of Clio, the cloud-based practice management application. They had big news to share: Clio has raised $6 million in financing. This is the first major capital investment in any cloud-based practice management application, so it will be interesting to see where Clio goes from here.
Jack and Rian said the financing will be used to further enhance the Clio platform and add new functionality. Clio also plans to expand its marketing beyond the U.S. into other markets, including Europe, Canada and Australia.
The Series B financing was led by Acton Capital Partners, a Munich-based growth equity investor. Existing Clio investors, including Point Nine Capital, also participated in the round.
In news of a more practical sort, Clio also announced that it now offers a document assembly function. I wrote just last week about the new document assembly feature in Rocket Matter, another cloud-based practice management platform. Now Clio customers can also upload templates for common documents and extract information from their matters and contacts to fill out the forms.
One difference with Clio’s functionality is that you can upload templates either from Microsoft Word or in PDF format. Rocket Matter requires the templates to be created in Word. This means that a WordPerfect user could create a template by typing the characters that create the merge field — Clio provides a guide for creating these fields — and then save the document as a PDF and upload it.
Now when Clio users go to their Documents tab, there is a new button, “Create.” From here, you can create a document using a previously uploaded template or start by uploading a new template.
The Web-based practice management application Rocket Matter today released version 2.0 of its platform. The new version adds two notable features: document assembly and custom fields.
With this release, Rocket Matter becomes the only cloud-based practice management platform to integrate document assembly, according to Larry Port, the company’s co-founder and chief software architect.
The document assembly feature allows users to create templates for legal forms or other documents and then automatically merge client and matter data into a template to create a final document. As the user creates a document, Rocket Matter can also automatically create a billing entry.
The user creates the templates on his or her desktop, using Microsoft Word’s ability to create “merge fields.” Rocket Matter provides a guide for formatting these merge fields to work with its application. For those unfamiliar with using merge fields, Rocket Matter also provides links to guides that explain how to create and use them. As an example, to insert a client name in template, you’d use the fields: “«Client.Name»«Client.LastName»”.
Once you’ve created a template on your desktop, you upload it to Rocket Matter. As you upload it, the application checks it to ensure that you’ve properly formatted the merge fields. If there is an error, the application shows you which field contains the error. If you’ve set up all the fields properly, then the document is added to your template library, available to use for any client or matter.
Then, when you go to the dashboard for a matter within Rocket Matter, you see a new link, “Create from Template.” Click that to see a list of your available templates. Select a template and Rocket Matter automatically populates its fields with information such as party names, docket numbers, opposing counsel and the like. As it displays the final document, it shows the fields in a panel to the right. Click on any field in the panel to jump to that field in the document.
With the addition of custom fields, Rocket Matter enables the user to customize these templates beyond the standard fields it already provides. Users can create an unlimited number of custom fields, both for matters and for contacts. And any custom field you create can become a merge field in a document template.
To create a custom field for a matter or contact, simply open the item. A portion of the screen is labeled “Data.” For a matter, this Data section includes the case number and county. For a contact, it includes date of birth, gender and Social Security number. Just below those data items are new horizontal columns with two headings, “Labels” and “Values.” Here is where you create a custom field. Click “add another” and simply fill in the label and value. For label, you might put “Secretary” and for value “John Jones.” You can also add custom fields when you create a new contact or matter.
As I’ve previously noted here, Rocket Matter is integrated with Dropbox, allowing you to automatically synchronize documents among Rocket Matter, your desktop and your mobile devices. More recently, the company announced its integration with Evernote. These integrations make the document assembly feature even more practical to use.
To see Rocket Matter’s Port demonstrate the new document assembly feature, view the video below.
The Web-based practice-management application Clio marked its third year of business Oct. 1. Today, to mark the occasion, it announced new features and unveiled a cleaner design.
The most significant changes announced today are that Clio users can now integrate their accounts with three of the leading cloud-based document management applications: NetDocuments, Dropbox and Box.net. The integration means that the documents you have in Clio’s document management system can now be synchronized with these other applications. Besides keeping your documents synchronized, this has two other advantages: it gives you access to your documents when you are offline and it provides a back-up copy of your documents.
To integrate with Dropbox, simply go to your settings in Clio and select the setting that authorizes Clio to access your dropbox account. As with Clio’s Google Apps integration, the connection is made using the OAuth protocol, which allows access without sharing your password. You are then asked to allow the connection between Clio and Dropbox (Figure 1). Click “allow” and Clio immediately creates a Clio folder in Dropbox and populates that folder with sub-folders for every matter you have in Clio. Once the process is done, you can view your Dropbox documents directly from within your matters on Clio. (Figure 2). As you drag and drop documents into Clio, they automatically show up in Dropbox, with no further action required.
Clio has also cleaned up its user interface by redesigning its pages to highlight the search bar. Needless to say, this is the trend among a number of sites — from WestlawNext to Lexis Advance — and emulates the simple design of Google. Clio has replaced its somewhat tiny search box with a larger, more prominent one (Figure 3) and eliminated some of the clutter at the top of the page. It has added a simple notifications icon that lights up red when you have unread messages.
Also enhanced is the search function itself. It now includes autocomplete, so that as you begin to type the name of a client or matter, a drop-down list appears of matching entries (Figure 4). That makes it a bit easier and quicker to find what you are looking for.
In announcing these changes, Clio provided some figures about its growth. In three years, it has grown to nearly 50 employees and its customers number “in the thousands.” It manages over 3.5 million contacts, 750,000 matters and 1.5 million documents. All tolled, customers using Clio’s time and billing features have billed $275 million.
“As a company, we’ve exploded over the past year,” Clio co-founder and CEO Jack Newton told me in an interview earlier this week. Clio will be rolling out more enhancements over the next six months, he added.