Screenshot 2016-05-02 08.53.38
Widgets on matter pages can now be rearranged or removed.

It has been over a year since I last wrote about Firm Central, the cloud-based practice management application from Thomson Reuters. I’ve been meaning to write an update since January, when Firm Central got a notable new feature, but my blogging schedule did not cooperate. Good thing, because since then the updates seem to just keep coming.

As for the new feature that I meant to write about in January, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that Firm Central now has integrated time and billing. Previously, it offered time and billing through a third-party application, eBillity. That required a separate $25 a month subscription, in addition to Firm Central’s $40 per month, and having to jump back and forth between applications.

With January’s update, Firm Central got fully integrated time and billing. It allows for time tracking, expense entry, invoicing and basic trust account reporting. It also integrates with QuickBooks Online for accounting and bookkeeping.

The bad news is that it is not any cheaper. It still costs $25 more a month than the basic subscription plan. Firm Central now has three billing tiers: $40 a month for the “Core” plan, $65 a month for the “Essential” plan that includes T&B, and $105 a month for the “Premier” plan that adds rules-based deadline calendaring.

Also, the integrated T&B is being rolled out only to new customers since the January launch. Legacy customers who already use eBillity will not see the new T&B features. Legacy customers who want to convert from eBillity to the new T&B have to contact Firm Central and request the change.

For subscribers who have the new integrated T&B, now when they log in to Firm Central, the global page header includes a timer. This is the quickest way to track your time and you can use it to track a single time entry or open multiple timers. Say, for example, you are working on a motion when a phone call comes in. You can pause the timer for the motion and open another timer for the call. Within the timer, client and matter fields are type-ahead so you can quickly select the correct one as you begin to type.

Also added to the global page header is a tab for Time & Billing. Clicking it brings up six new tabs:

  • Time Entry. In addition to using the timer, you can enter time here manually. You can also track time as non-billable.
  • Expense Entry. Here is where you enter expenses for any of your matters. Firm Central includes predefined expense activities but you can also add your own. You can add default rates for certain expenses, such as mileage, and indicate whether certain expense categories should or should not be passed on to clients.
  • Pre-Bills. This lets you manage and edit your bills before generating final invoices. Firm Central allows you the option of creating pre-bill groups to handle all invoicing for the specified group. These could be by client, matter, lead attorney or practice group. Once you select a pre-bill or group, you can go in and make any edits or adjustments before finalizing the invoice. You can also take steps such as applying a discount or adding finance charges. Once you generate the invoice, it is locked down and can no longer be edited. At that point, you can email it to your client or download it for printing.
  • Payment & Invoices. Here is where you enter payments received and see the status of outstanding invoices.
  • Trust Accounts. This tab is for managing trust account activity and showing trust account balances.
  • All Accounts. This shows an overview of all your outstanding matter and trust balances for all your clients and matters.

In April, Firm Central further enhanced this T&B component with new reporting capabilities and widgets. It can now generate reports for:

  • Unbilled time by matter or client
  • Unbilled time for one or all users
  • Unbilled expenses for one or all matters
  • Outstanding accounts receivable
  • Trust account balances

In addition, new widgets on individual matter pages allow users to view time and expenses and view overall financial summaries, such as outstanding balances and trust balances, for each matter.

Matter Page Customization

Another new feature Firm Central rolled out this year is matter page customization. Firm Central already had a modular, customizable home page, allowing you to drag and drop different components of the page – or widgets – according to your preferences. Now it also allows users to similarly customize their matter pages.

When you are on a matter page, you can drag-and-drop widgets to customize the page layout to your personal preferences. You can also remove any widgets you don’t want on the page.

Default widgets on the matter page include Matter Details, Matter Activity, Matter Tasks, Notes, Associated Contacts, Client Portal, Tools, Add Time Entry, Unbilled Time & Expenses, and Financial Summary. (The last three appear only for customers who have the integrated time and billing.)

Assign a Task

In April, Firm Central added the ability to assign tasks to others in your firm who are working on the same matter. Previously, you could assign tasks only to yourself.

To do this, simply select a client and matter and assign the task. The new task form now includes new fields for “Assign To” and “Notes.” This latter fields lets you leave notes of up to 500 words to the assignee.

Tasks can be filtered and sorted by designations such as Assigned To Me and Assigned By Me, and also by labels such as New, Due Soon and Overdue.

Other Recent Enhancements

Other recent changes to Firm Central are:

  • Drag and drop folders. Previously, Firm Central allowed users to upload documents only one at a time. Now users can upload entire folders. Folders can be dragged and dropped from your desktop directly into Firm Central. Needless to say, this makes it much faster to load documents. One note: If you want to upload to folder tree (folders and subfolders), you will have to be using the Chrome browser.
  • Inactive client designation. As of April, users are now able to designate a client’s status as inactive. Once a client or client group is designated inactive, an inactive badge displays after the client name throughout Firm Central. Inactive clients and groups can be reactivated. Inactive clients still appear in search results.
  • Storage Increase. Also as of April, Firm Central added 100 GB of storage to all accounts at no additional cost. This storage capacity is in addition to the existing 10 GB per account and 2 GB per user. If you first purchased Firm Central in 2016, you already have this amount of storage and will not receive anything additional.

To read a 2013 review of Firm Central (before many of these new features), see my ABA Journal column, Thomson Reuters’ Cloud Platform Firm Central Emphasizes Integration — At A Cost.

For previous posts about Firm Central, see:

Disclosure: Thomson Reuters has provided me with a free Firm Central account for review purposes. 

Practice Point

When Thomson Reuters acquired the UK-based Practical Law Company three years ago, the legal industry generally reacted positively, although no one knew quite what would come out of the acquisition. Practical Law sells “know-how” for transactional and corporate lawyers, which means that it sells various resources that literally help lawyers know how to do specific tasks. These include workflow tools, practice notes, form documents and clauses, and checklists.

For users of Practical Law, one early benefit of the acquisition was the addition of direct links from Practical Law content to cited cases and other source materials in Westlaw. And for users of certain TR products, a benefit has been the addition of direct access to Practical Law. For example, subscribers to Firm Central, TR’s practice-management platform, can now directly access Practical Law from within Firm Central. (Although it still requires an additional subscription and the integration is really just a gateway from one platform to the other.)

Until now, however, no product has fully bridged Practical Law and legacy TR products such as Westlaw. That changed when, at an event last month in New York, TR introduced a new product, Practice Point, that is the most robust integration of Practical Law and Westlaw to date. Designed for transactional lawyers and corporate counsel, Practice Point is a task-based workflow platform that pulls together content from both Practical Law and Westlaw to deliver the resources that are most relevant to any given task.

This is accomplished through editorial oversight. For any given task, TR editors have selected the most relevant and useful content from both Westlaw and Practical Law. Content is organized within a taxonomy, designed by these same editors, that reflects the main tasks that lawyers perform on a daily basis.

“We’re bringing Practical Law and Westlaw together in a way that transactional lawyers will get the same value out of Westlaw that litigators do,” said Emily Colbert, vice president, Global Workflow Solutions, at a recent TR event announcing the product.

She said that TR’s goals in developing Practice Point were threefold:

  • To bring together Westlaw and Practical Law.
  • To organize it around what lawyers do.
  • To deliver only what’s important to lawyers in whatever task they’re doing.

Task-Based Resources

This task-based approach is evident from the very first screen, which differs based on whether the subscriber is at a law firm or a corporate legal department. For law firm subscribers, the first step is to select a practice area from a list that includes antitrust, capital markets and corporate governance, commercial transactions, corporate and M&A, intellectual property, labor and employment, and others. (If you always work in a particular practice area, you can make its page your start page.)

That takes you to the main page for that practice area. If you always work in a particular practice area, you can make its page your standard start page.

Subscribers in corporate law departments get a slightly different start page. They can select any of the same practice areas, but they also get the option of choosing to start with a specific type of project. Options here include acquiring, setting up or disposing of a business; financing a business; business operations; legal and regulatory compliance; and managing risk, claims and litigation.

Within each practice area or project page, you have the option to browse and drill down through content by task or by content type. For example, on the Intellectual Property & Technology page, some of the listed tasks are Patent Counseling & Transactions, Trademark & Right of Publicity, Copyright, Privacy & Data Security, and others. Nested under each of these are increasingly specific levels of tasks, any of which take you to the appropriate task-based content page.

You can also browse by content type. Content types include Practical Law, cases, statutes, secondary sources, forms, briefs, trial court documents, expert materials, and many others.

However you start, you will find your way to pages that pull together the content best suited to that task. Depending on the task, this might include Practical Law content such as practice notes, documents and clauses, checklists and toolkits, and Westlaw content such as case law and statutes, treatises and secondary sources, forms and more. As you drill down, the types of content and practice tools change to reflect the task at hand.

A feature unique to Practice Patent is Rulebooks. These are collections of the key federal laws, rules, regulations and agency materials related to specific types of corporate matters such as securities offerings, SEC disclosures and reporting requirements, proxy solicitation and others.

Other Features

Other features included within Practice Point include:

  • State Q&As, allowing you to compare key areas of law for a topic across multiple states.
  • Case Evaluator, allowing you to analyze verdict trends related to a topic.
  • What’s Market, allowing you to search, review and compare summaries of recent deals and filings.
  • CLE, allowing you to find CLE programs related to your practice area. (Programs must be purchased separately.)

Of course, besides browsing all of this content, it is all fully searchable. In addition, from within Practice Point, you can jump directly into either Westlaw or Practical Law and access the full array of their content.

“All of Practical Law is in Practice Point,” Emily Colbert said at last month’s event. “We’ve tried to organize and curate it so it’s most relevant to whatever task you’re doing.”

Still in the works for Practice Point is integration with West km. Watch for that later this year.

What does Practice Point cost? That’s a question TR answers only with, “Call us.” However, the Practice Point website is currently offering a free trial, so give it a spin.

 

Here are some stories of note this week from the world of legal technology and the legal web:

PlanetxlawPlatform aims to make legal services more affordable. A new cloud-based platform called PlanetXLaw aims to help lawyers deliver legal services more affordably to low and moderate income consumers. The platform is unique in that it collects the intake data from a client and then retrieves the appropriate court forms, adds in all supporting documents, and assembles them all for the attorney, according to a press release. The service covers 55 types of legal services commonly required by this segment of consumers. It is available only in Michigan but the company plans to add other states next year. It was founded by Garden City, Mich., lawyer Bert Whitehead IV, who originally used the software in his own law practice.

Calendar enhancements to Firm Central. Thomson Reuters announced a small but useful enhancement to its Firm Central cloud-based practice management platform. The update allows users to set a preference for how matters display in their Outlook calendar or other third-party calendar. There are three options:

  • Display only the event name: “Initial Client Meeting.”
  • Display the matter name before the event name: “Divorce Initial Client Meeting.”
  • Display the client name before the event name: “Sarah Smith Initial Client Meeting.”

Once the user sets a preference, it is applied to all preexisting and subsequent calendar entries. (Firm Central rolled out two-way Outlook synchronization last January.)

lawstudioAn all-in-one workspace for litigation teams. The court-reporting company Veritext has launched LawStudio, which it says is an all-in-one workspace that allows litigation attorneys and support staff to build their case. The platform houses case documents, exhibits, depositions, videos and images in a single repository and provides tools for searching, managing, annotating and sharing files. The company offers a 45-day free trial, after which a single license is $299 a month, which includes unlimited file storage and access from any browser.

patentsviewExplore 40 years of patent data. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has launched a new tools for searching and visualizing 40 years of patent data. Called PatentsView, its allows users to explore technological, regional and individual patent trends via search filters with multiple viewing options. The database links inventors, their organizations, locations, and overall patenting activity using enhanced 1976-2014 data from public USPTO bulk data files. The USPTO says the new tool was developed in furtherance of the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and that it enables anyone to examine the dynamics of inventor patenting activity over time and space while exploring patent technologies, assignees, citation patterns and co-inventor networks.

International database of media laws. A new online database launched by the International Press Institute aims to catalog the world’s legal provisions affecting freedom of the press and expression on a country-by-country basis. The MediaLaws Database has launched with information on defamation laws for countries in the European Union and the Caribbean. Plans are to expand both the geographic coverage of the database and the types of laws it includes. The IPI created the database in part to draw attention to the failure of a number of states to incorporate international standards on freedom of expression in their laws.

 

When last I checked in on Firm Central, the cloud-based practice management platform from Thomson Reuters, it had just added rules-based court calendaring through the Deadline Assistant add-on module. In the months since, several other enhancements have been made to Firm Central. They include two-way Outlook synchronization, better email synchronization, custom rule sets in Deadline Assistant, document versioning and a client portal.

The Firm Central calendar now appears in Outlook alongside the default calendar.
The Firm Central calendar now appears in Outlook alongside the default calendar.

Outlook Calendar Two-Way Synchronization

The latest enhancement to Firm Central is two-way synchronization of calendar events between Firm Central’s built-in calendar and Microsoft Outlook. Previously, Firm Central allowed only one-way synchronization between the two. That meant that users who wanted to synchronize their calendars could create and edit events only in Outlook. Those events would get pushed out to Firm Central’s calendar, but events created in Firm Central’s calendar would not synchronize back to Outlook.

Now, users can create and edit events and deadlines for their matters from either their Firm Central or Outlook calendar, and the events will be synchronized between both locations. Events must be linked to a Firm Central matter for them to appear in the Firm Central calendar.

The update also changes the way Firm Central events are displayed in Outlook. Previously, Firm Central events appeared in users’ default Outlook calendar, alongside their other calendar entries. With this update, Firm Central now creates a new calendar that appears in Outlook next to the default calendar. This makes it easier to distinguish practice-related calendar entries from other entries. If the user prefers, the two calendars can be viewed together in a single overlay.

This separate Firm Central calendar can also be viewed on an iPhone, separate from the default calendar. However, the iPhone view is read-only and does not allow events to be added or revised.

Firm Central users will have to install a new Outlook plug-in to activate tw0-way synchronization.

Enhanced Email Foldering and Search

The new Outlook plug-in also changes the way synchronized emails are displayed in Outlook. Previously, the plug-in would create a new folder structure within Outlook for all a users’ clients and matters. For some lawyers, this list of folders could be fairly long and cumbersome to use.

Now, the Firm Central plug-in creates a “recents” folder that shows only the 15 most recently accessed client or matter folders. In addition, there is a new search feature (distinct from Outlook’s search) that searches only Firm Central folders in Outlook and makes it easy to find a client matter. Matters found through this search feature can be added to the recents folder.

Custom Rule Sets

Last July, I reported that Firm Central had added rules-based court calendaring through the Deadline Assistant add-on module. This feature calculates litigation dates and events based on the court rules specific to the designated jurisdiction and then adds them to the user’s calendar. Users were required to use only preconfigured, jurisdiction-specific rule sets, such as the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure.

Now, the Deadline Assistant module has been modified to enable users to create their own custom rule sets and custom events. Users can:

  • Add their own events to an existing rule set. Maybe your firm has an internal practice of always holding a case-review conference after the initial pleadings have been filed. This can be added to the court rule set and will then be scheduled for every case that uses that rule set.
  • Create a set entirely from scratch. This is most useful for firms that have developed their own workflows for specific types of cases. Perhaps you have developed your own set of calendar events for every divorce case. This lets you automate the scheduling of those events.

Custom events can be added as parent events that always appear in the rule set or as children that follow from the occurrence of some other event.

Document Versioning

Document Versioning allows users to have access to previous versions of documents stored on Firm Central. Every time a user downloads, edits and re-uploads a document, the prior version can be retained. The user can revert to a prior version at any time without losing any of the saved versions. Users can also delete prior versions.

Versioning lets you revert to a prior version of a document.
Versioning lets you revert to a prior version of a document.

Firm Central has in-platform document viewing, but not editing. Documents stored in Firm Central must be downloaded and opened in Word for editing. When you next upload the document to Firm Central, it detects the conflict and gives you the option of saving the prior version or renaming the new upload.

Client Portal

Firm Central’s client portal (which I reported on last year but only recently was able to use) provides a place to securely share documents and messages with clients. When the lawyer creates a portal for a matter, the client receives an email invitation to join the portal. The client has to first register and then will be able to access the portal.

The portal allows the client to read documents and share messages with the lawyer.
The portal allows the client to read documents and share messages with the lawyer.

Within the portal, the client can view documents shared by the lawyer and send comments to the lawyer. Shared documents will be marked as “incomplete” until the client clicks the “mark as read” button. A Client Portal widget on the matter page notifies the attorney of recent client activity in the portal and messages from the client. A notification also appears on the Firm Central home screen.

The main matter page alerts the lawyer of activity on the portal.
The main matter page alerts the lawyer of activity on the portal.

After a document has been shared through the portal, the lawyer can revoke sharing simply by selecting it and clicking the “Stop Sharing” icon.

The Bottom Line

Thomson Reuters sells Firm Central for $40 per person per month. Time and billing functionality requires a separate $25 per month subscription to eBillity.

Last year, in a review of Firm Central for the ABA Journal, I said that integration was both Firm Central’s strong suit and its downside. The strength comes from the fact that Firm Central directly integrates with a number of Thomson Reuters products, most notably WestlawNext, which can be accessed from directly within the Firm Central application, but also Practical Law, Westlaw Form Builder and Westlaw Drafting Assistant.

The downside of that is that each of these various integrations requires an additional cost. “For this reason,” I wrote then, “Firm Central is a good choice for lawyers who subscribe to WestlawNext.” But others, I added, may find one of the other practice management platforms to be a better fit.

Selecting a practice management platform can be daunting. Their features and pricing do not all line up in parallel. Firm Central is a much more mature product than when it first hit the market and has many more features than I’ve covered in this update. If you’re shopping for a platform and you’re a WestlawNext user, it should definitely be on your short list. Even if you do not use WestlawNext, Firm Central is worth your consideration.

Here is a round-up of notable news from the last couple weeks:

pdfDocs

TechnoLawyer has announced its TL NewsWire Top 10 and 25 Products of 2015. Its top pick of the year: pdfDocs 4.1 from DocsCorp, which TechnoLawyer praises as designed specifically for law firms and able to handle all the basics while also providing advanced tools. Winners are picked from among all the reviews TechnoLawyer publishes each year based on clicks by TL NewsWire subscribers.

Speaking of awards, Dennis Kennedy is out with his 11th annual installment of the Blawggie Awards, honoring the best law-related blogs, as determined by Dennis. His pick this year for the best overall law-related blog is Law Technology Today, the blog of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. In the category of best new blog, Dennis picks John Simek’s Your IT Consultant.

In other blog news, Jordan Furlong says that he is putting his blog, Law21, on a hiatus for several months. “I’m not shutting down,” he says, and when the blog returns “this site will look very different.” Read his post for more details and stay tuned for further developments.

In research news, there is a new Nexis. LexisNexis has relaunched its signature news and business information service, consolidating all the global versions of Nexis on a single technology platform for the first time. The relaunched Nexis now has multiple language options as well as several new features and capabilities, including easier source selection, a simplified user interface, better sorting ability within folders and search results, split-screen previews and more.

In practice-management news, Thomson Reuters Firm Central has added two-way synchronization with Microsoft Outlook. Previously, Firm Central’s Outlook sync allowed users to create, edit and delete events only in Outlook. Now, users can create, edit and delete calendar events in either Firm Central or Outlook, and have them sync automatically. To take advantage of this functionality, current Firm Central users will have to download a new Outlook plug-in.

Turning now to online dispute resolution, which is something I thought would take off far more quickly than it actually has. Way back in 2001, I wrote an article about services offering ODR, almost all of which are now defunct. That is finally changing, with ODR gaining broader acceptance, as evidenced by the recent announcement by Modria.com that its ODR platform was recently adopted by the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals to provide an online resolution center for cases there. “Taxpayers, agents, and attorneys can now file online, gain instant access to their electronic case files, negotiate settlements, and take actions on cases, all from the convenience of their computers or tablets,” the announcement said. Modria was founded by Colin Rule, one of the true trailblazers in ODR.

Finally for today, the Sony Digital Paper — the not-quite-a-tablet device I’ve written about here, here and here — has released a software upgrade to provide functional improvements, stability improvements and enhanced security. Most notably, the update enables the ability to encrypt the Digital Paper’s internal memory and to use a more complex password. The upgrade also adds support for PDF forms, along with various other improvements.

With that, I wish you all the best of the holiday season. Thanks for reading this year.

DeadlineAssistantScreenshot
Once a deadline is added to the calendar, clicking it opens a box showing the details.

Firm Central, the cloud-based practice-management platform from Thomson Reuters, now offers rules-based court calendaring through a new add-on module called Deadline Assistant. The feature calculates litigation dates and events based on the court rules specific to the jurisdiction.

Deadline Assistant is sold as an additional subscription to Firm Central. The cost is $40 per month for the first user and then $20 a month for each additional user. The basic Firm Central subscription is $40 a month per seat. Continue Reading Firm Central Gets Court Rules Calendaring

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

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

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.

Thomson Reuters announced several new products yesterday, targeting different sectors of the legal market – litigators, corporate counsel and small firms – but all designed around a common theme, that of integrating related products and services through the cloud and mobile devices in order to simplify and streamline a lawyer’s day-to-day workflow.

Even bigger news than the new products, perhaps, was the pronouncement that Thomson Reuters no longer views itself as an information company, but as a “solutions business.”

“We have decided that our long-term vision is not information, it is software tools, solutions, ways to enable attorneys to practice in a more cogent way,” Mike Suchsland, president of Thomson Reuters Legal, told a day-long gathering of legal journalists, bloggers and technology consultants at TR’s Eagan, Minn., headquarters.

The new vision for the company, he said, is that TR “will give our customers a smarter way to work by providing unrivaled legal solutions that integrate content, expertise and technologies.”

“Make no mistake: we’re not taking our eye off the ball on content,” a briefing document that accompanied Suchsland’s comments said. “WestlawNext and legal information will still be at the center of everything we do, and we will continue to honor and build upon our heritage of attorney-authored information, like headnotes and case summaries.”

What this change of focus means, he said, can be summed up in three precepts:

  1. TR will listen carefully to customer needs and invest to solve their challenges.
  2. Building on the tradition that helped shape West and TR, the company will seek to intelligently connect its information, software and services in new ways.
  3. TR will work as one team, across product development groups, tearing down the internal boundaries that have compartmentalized product development. “Our legacy can be a good thing, but can also be a barrier,” Suchsland said.

The four new products announced at yesterday’s event reflect TR’s first forays in this new direction.  They will be formally introduced at LegalTech New York later this month. All are cloud-based, mobile and designed to integrate essential components of an attorney’s workflow. Some build on existing products and some are entirely new.

  • Concourse, a suite of tools for corporate counsel to manage their matters.
  • Hosted Practice Technology, a suite for litigators that combines e-discovery and case analysis.
  • Firm Central, a practice management suite designed for small law firms.
  • Elite and Current Awareness, tools designed to assist larger law firms in business development.

The design of these and all future new products share three elements, Suchsland said:

  1. Mobile will now be at the “heart and center” of what TR does.
  2. The cloud will be the central vehicle for delivering products and services, in order to maximize connectivity across devices.
  3. All product development will focus on the customer, the matter and workflow. Rather than create standalone products, development will emphasize integration, access and workflow.

Thomson Reuters Concourse

The most ambitious of the products TR demonstrated yesterday was Concourse, which draws its name from the center hub of an airport. The idea is to give corporate counsel an easy-to-use dashboard from which they can connect with all the tools they need to use in their day-to-day work and collaborate with other members of their legal team, both within the legal department and at outside firms.

Launchpad
The Concourse dashboard.

Every user, in-house and at outside firms, gets a customizable dashboard. The dashboard is organized around matters, be they litigation, transactions or whatever. From within the dashboard, users can access various software and research tools as well as a secure, cloud-based collaboration space.

TR’s objective for Concourse was to draw together tools that might previously have stood alone on the lawyer’s desktop and then seamlessly integrate them within a cohesive workflow. TR also wanted Concourse to be simple to learn and use and have a design that would minimize data entry.

The dashboard provides a global listing of all matters and all related documents, emails and people. All of that is searchable using essentially the same technology used to search WestlawNext.

The dashboard also includes direct access to:

  • WestlawNext, for legal research.
  • Serengeti Tracker, for matter management, e-billing and analytics.
  • Capitol Watch, for legislative tracking.
  • Reuters News, for current awareness.
  • Legal Hold, a new tool for managing legal holds that is being released at LegalTech.
  • Drafting Assistant Transactional, a document creation tool.

Additional products are in development that will be added to Concourse in the future.

All of this is designed for mobile access as well and can be used from an iPad or other mobile device.

MatterDetails
Details of a matter within Concourse.

Concourse also integrates with the lawyer’s desktop and with Outlook. When you set up a new matter in Concourse, it automatically creates a folder for that matter within Outlook and within your documents directory. Drag an email or document to the folder and it is loaded to Concourse.

Whenever a document or email is uploaded to Concourse, it is checked against WestlawNext and KeyCite. Any citation within a document is hyperlinked to WestlawNext and any items that may no longer be good law are flagged by KeyCite. (Concourse saves two copies of each document, the original and its hyperlinked version.)

Thomson Reuters Hosted Practice Technology

TR also announced yesterday that, as of Feb. 1, it will convert its e-discovery platform, CaseLogistix, from locally-installed software to a cloud-based application. At the same time, it will integrate CaseLogistix with another TR product, Case Notebook, to create a single suite of tools for litigation.

Kris Nimsger, managing director and general manager, litigation solutions, said that the cloud is the more sensible option for e-discovery, given the enormous volumes of data cases can involve and the episodic nature of litigation.

“It makes no sense for a law firm to maintain storage capability around episodic deployment,” she said.

CaseLogistix is a e-discovery platform for search, review and coding of documents. CaseLogistix and Case Notebook will be accessible through a private cloud run on TR’s own highly secure servers. TR will continue to support legacy, on-premises installations of CaseLogistix, but its goal will be to move all customers to the cloud.

Nimsger believes cloud-based e-discovery will save customers money over locally installed applications. To help make that point, TR will assist customers in analyzing the total costs of the cloud compared to a local installation.

Thomson Reuters Firm Central

All all-new product announced yesterday is Firm Central, a practice management application for small law firms. It is TR’s answer to applications such as Clio, Rocket Matter and LexisNexis Firm Manager. It allows lawyers to manage their matters, contacts and documents. Through integration with a third-party add-on, it also can be used for time and billing.

Home
Firm Central’s home page.

If you have ever seen any of the competing practice management products, Firm Central will look familiar. It does not yet have a calendar component, which the other products do have, but one will be added shortly, we were told. It will have a conflict-checking component.

Firm Central differentiates itself from other practice management platforms in two ways:

  • It is integrated with WestlawNext. A lawyer can initiate a research session from directly within Firm Central. And, as was described above for Concourse, documents and emails added to Firm Central are automatically reformatted with hyperlinks into WestlawNext and flags for items identified by KeyCite.
  • It is integrated with Outlook and the desktop. In the same way as was described above for Concourse, Firm Central sets up folders in Outlook and your Windows document directory to match new matters you create. From then on, you can simply drag and drop emails and documents to these folders to load them to Firm Central.

For time and billing, TR decided not to build its own application but rather to partner with a third-party application, eBillity. This application integrates fairly seamlessly into Firm Central, but is an add-on that requires an additional subscription price.

The eBillity add-on will fully integrate with QuickBooks, offering two-way synchronization with both the online and the installed versions of Quickbooks.

In addition to connecting with Outlook, Firm Central will integrate FormBuilder, TR’s cloud-based tool for creating form documents, and CaseLogistix e-discovery application. It will not have a client portal at launch.

TR did not announce a price for Firm Central, but said it would be competitive with other cloud-based practice management products, which generally cost in the range of $30 to $50 a month per user. TR expects to offer bundled pricing on packages that include subscriptions to WestlawNext and the time and billing component.

Firm Central can be run in full on an iPad. An iPhone app will offer access to selected features at first, with full integration expected later.

Karl Florida, managing director, small law firms and consumer, said that TR will continue to add products to Firm Central. “We’re developing a a modular suite of hosted applications for small firms.”

Florida said that he believes Firm Central is a strong alternative to other products on the market. “No one in the market offers integration with legal research, and we have stronger integration with the Windows desktop than anyone else.”

Firm Central will formally launch at LegalTech New York later this month. It will become available to use in February.

Elite and Current Awareness

TR announced three new or enhanced products aimed at helping lawyers be more effective at business development and cross-selling:

  • Elite. Elite 3E, a financial and practice management application, is being “reinvigorated,” according to Allison Guidette, managing director, large law firms. This is being done through the integration of various new and existing business development products. This will enable lawyers to get more data about prospects and opportunities and better filter that data, Guidette said.
  • Practitioner Insights. This is a series of new products created in collaboration with Wolters Kluwer. Each Insight is designed to provide attorneys with comprehensive current-awareness information about a vertical industry or practice area, including industry news, legal analysis and litigation tracking. At launch, Insights will be available for employment, intellectual property, health and antitrust, with securities and bankruptcy to follow soon after. These Insights will reside within WestlawNext.
  • My Business Intelligence. This is TR’s first product designed specifically for the iPad. A business development tool for business lawyers, it will allow them to monitor key clients and industries through watchlists, interactive charts and other tools.

Those of us who attended this day-long series of product and strategy presentations were not able to directly test any of the products. Some of the new products are still in beta and are being readied for their full release at LegalTech or soon after. As I learn more about these, I will provide updates here.

 

 

I continue to be amazed when I discover blogs purportedly written by legal professionals that have zero concept of copyright law or even common courtesy. Here is the latest. First, read this item that I posted yesterday morning to Law.com’s Legal Blog Watch, With the Web, Who Needs Mediation? Now, read this item posted yesterday afternoon to the Paralegal SLO blog, With the Web, Who Needs Mediation? Word for word a rip-off, with not even an attribution. Even worse, the anonymous blogger describes herself as an instructor in law at a community college. Sorry, teacher, but you get an F.