Legal Practice Management Software

In just two weeks, the sixth Clio Cloud Conference kicks off in New Orleans. I have attended all five of the prior Clio conferences and, as I wrote last year, I have uniformly praised each one. This year’s conference has a great line-up of keynote speakers and presenters, including Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, MacArthur fellow, and New York Times best-selling author, who is one of the most compelling and inspiring speakers I’ve ever seen.

All of that said, here is one other reason to attend: For the first time this year, Clio will present a $100,000 Launch//Code prize to the legal technology company that is chosen as the best new integration with Clio. (I will be one of the judges who select the winner.)

Today, Clio announced the five finalists that will compete for the prize, out of more than 50 submissions. They are:

  • ClientSherpa, an application for automating intake of new clients.
  • Logikcull, a platform that automates e-discovery and data management in litigation and investigations.
  • MyFirmData, a product that allows firms to create custom reports using information stored in Clio, including financial data and custom fields.
  • Tali, an application that allows lawyers to track their time using only voice commands.
  • Your Firm App, which enables law firms to create custom-branded native applications on iOS and Android.

On the first day of the conference, Oct. 4, each of these finalists will present a three-minute pitch on their app’s innovation, impact, and business potential to a panel of industry experts and in front of a live conference audience.

The winner will be announced the next day, during closing keynote.

The judging panel that will select the winner is composed of:

  • Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of Clio.
  • Jules Miller, partner at IBM’s Blockchain Accelerator and partner and co-founder of Prose Ventures.
  • Billie Tarascio, a Clio customer and the owner of the Modern Law Firm.
  • Me.

You can still register to attend the conference. Information on registration can be found here.

When last I checked in with the practice management platform PracticePanther last March, it had just taken a “large” private equity investment. At the time, CEO David Bitton told me that the company had seen exponential growth over the prior year, doubling its customers. Since March, the company has rolled out a number of new features and integrations. I recently spoke with Bitton to catch up on the latest news.

He started by telling me that the company continues to grow. It has tripled its staff this year, to 50 employees. The PracticePanther software is now being used in 172 countries, thanks in part to the software being offered in multiple languages. It also has an API (application programming interface) that makes it fairly easy to set up integrations with other applications for lawyers.

Here is a recap of the major new features and integrations that PracticePanther has introduced in recent months.

Integration with Lawmatics

A product I’ve been meaning to review but haven’t yet is Lawmatics, launched earlier this year by Matt Spiegel, the lawyer who founded the practice management company MyCase and was its CEO until its acquisition by AppFolio in 2012 and then its general manager until 2015. Lawmatics is an innovative platform for law firms that automates client relationship management (CRM), client intake and marketing.

Now, Lawmatics is directly integrated with PracticePanther. With the integration, a firm can use Lawmatics’ to market to potential clients, follow-up with leads, and finalize the retention. Then, once the client retains the firm, all of the information that had been entered into Lawmatics on the new client can be sent to PracticePanther to automatically create an associated contact and matter.

Dedicated Outlook Plugin

As of this writing, this plugin was awaiting final approval from Microsoft and was expected to become available within a week or two. It will let users log-in to PracticePanther from within Outlook, where they will be able to see details about contacts and matters, add contacts to PracticePanther, log emails to PracticePanther, and track time for matters.

Dedicated Gmail Add-On

Add a time entry from within Gmail.

A Gmail add-on allows a variety of interactions between Gmail and PracticePanther. Once it is installed, then whenever you open an email, a PracticePanther panel opens to the right of the email. If the sender or anyone else included in the email is already in your PracticePanther contacts, you will be able to see that in this panel and also see the person’s full information from within PracticePanther. If they are not, you can click the add icon and a form appears with all the PracticePanther fields to add the contact’s information.

The add-in also lets users save emails directly from Gmail into PracticePanther or save them to a specific matter on PracticePanther. The add-in also lets users create new tasks and time entries from within Gmail.

Integration with Tali

I’ve written a number of times about Tali, the voice assistant that lets you log billable time via Amazon Alexa or Google Home. With this integration, users can now use Tali to either record time or log time through voice commands.

To log time with Alexa, for example, a lawyer would say, “Hey Alexa” to activate the device, then continue, “Tell Tali to log an activity for the Smith matter.” The device then asks the lawyer to describe the matter, to which the lawyer might answer, “Prepare for deposition.”

The information is stored in Tali, where it can be associated with matters in PracticePanther. From there, specific entries can be exported to PracticePanther or the “Sync All” button can be selected to push all unsynchronized entries to PracticePanther.

Custom Invoice Templates

PracticePanther users now have the ability to create multiple customized invoice templates. In addition to a default invoice template — which firms can use as is or customize to their liking — firms can now create as many additional invoice templates as they want. In particular, firms can construct the layout and fields in an invoice to adapt it to a particular practice area or case type. Thus, a firm could opt to have a different invoice format for each of its different practice areas.

Invoice customization also provides options for setting different defaults for payments, such as to always use trust balances to pay a particular type of invoice, for taxes, and for specific fields to include on the invoice.

Flat Fee Billing

In addition to adding billable time entries and expenses, users can now also add billable flat fees. Users can log flat fees upon completion of the services, rather than have to wait until the billing stage. Users can also log a discount and have it appear on the subsequent invoice. Flat fees can be logged to specific attorneys for reporting purposes.

A second option allows users to log multiple flat fees in a single operation.  This is done through a new “Multiple Flat Fees” page within PracticePanther, where the flat fees can be logged for different clients and matters and attributed to different attorneys.

Payment Plans

Panther Payment Plans is a feature offered in cooperation with the payment processing platform LawPay. It lets firms securely save a client’s credit card on file, and then automatically charge them a fixed amount against bills or retainer payments on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Restricted Login

With this feature, law firm administrators can restrict the ability of employees to log in to PracticePanther to specific IP addresses. This could be used, for example, to prevent certain employees from logging in outside the office or from a home computer. Only those with administrator credentials can set these restrictions.

Auto Suggest for Tasks and Events

Now, when a task or event is created within a matter, PracticePanther will auto-suggest names of attorneys or paralegals to whom the task should be assigned, based on those names having been previously associated with the matter.

The practice management platform Clio yesterday rolled out a feature called Clio Launcher that opens documents for editing on your desktop computer with one click and then saves them back to the appropriate folder in Clio.

It works on both Windows and Mac computers (but not Chromebooks) and for any type of file, including documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, videos and images. It requires either a Boutique or Elite subscription to Clio and thus is not available to those on Clio’s lowest-tier Starter plan.

The advantage of this one-click editing is that it eliminates the steps of first downloading a document from Clio when edits are required and then re-uploading it when you are done.

Use of Clio Launcher requires installing an app on your computer. The first time you click to open a document from within Clio, you will be prompted to install the app. Thereafter, it runs in the background and is available whenever you want to open a document from within Clio.

Next to each document in Clio is an icon for opening it externally. When you click that, the Clio Launcher opens the document in your default desktop editor for that type of document, such as Microsoft Word or Excel. When you are done and save the file, it is saved back to Clio with the edits. Clio also tracks prior versions of the document.

Be aware that Clio Launcher does not notify you if someone else in your firm is editing the same document at the same time. Clio says it is working on that functionality. However, if that happens, both edited documents will be saved as separate versions.

Read more:

Panther Software, Miami-based developer of the cloud-based law practice management platform PracticePanther, is announcing today that it has taken an investment from Alpine SG, a portfolio company of the San Francisco private equity firm Alpine Investors.

The parties are not disclosing the amount of the investment, but PracticePanther CEO David Bitton described it as “large.” Bitton and cofounder Ori Tamuz, PracticePanther’s CTO, will stay on with the company in their current roles.

Alpine specializes in investing in middle-market companies in the software, online and business services industries. While its investments span a range of industries, this appears to be its first in the legal sector.

PracticePanther has seen exponential growth over the last year, doubling its customers, Bitton told me during a recent interview. He believes that PracticePanther is now the third-largest cloud-based practice management platform and will soon be second-largest.

(Customer numbers are hard to verify for practice management companies. The consensus seems to be that Clio is largest, MyCase is second largest, and Rocket Matter is third or fourth.)

Bitton attributes that growth to both customer service and his platform’s ease of use. Alpine will help them do even better on both fronts, he believes.

“The reason we love Alpine is that they have a people-first approach,” Bitton said. “The goal for them is to help us be a better company and provide even better service.”

The funds will be used for research and development to further expand PracticePanther’s functionality and third-party integrations, as well as for marketing.

“We are honored to be partnering with PracticePanther and such a talented team,” Mark Strauch,

partner at Alpine and chairman of Alpine SG, said in a statement announcing the investment. “David and Ori have built an incredible product and company. We are excited to work together to continue growing the business and delivering an exceptional customer experience.”

PracticePanther was founded by Bitton and Tamuz in 2012. In 2015, it raised $3.5 million in a private funding round of mostly friends and family. In 2016, it expanded its product internationally by adding a translation engine that automatically switches languages based on the user’s IP address.

PracticePanther also recently announced an integration with the deadline calculator LawToolBox.

AdobeStock_55249877-1-1024x482.jpeg

A troubling advantage that big law has over small is how attorneys use technology to efficiently and securely communicate with clients, according to the 2017 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report.

In firms of 100 to 499 attorneys:

  • 75% have secure web portals while only 12% of solo firms and 26% of 2 to 9 attorney firms have secure web portals
  • 51% encrypt emails while only 24% of solo firms and 31% of 2 to 9 attorney firms encrypt emails
  • 60% encrypt files while only 37% of solo firms and 35% of 2 to 0 attorney firms encrypt files

For firms with 500 attorneys or more, the gap is even wider.

You should be minding it, if you care about the future of your firm.

Client Portals Close the Gap

“Firms are now starting to understand that clients determine their success. They can refer to you and return to you, they can boost your reputation. That’s why the focus is going to be increasingly on the client, and technology is an effective way to direct it,” points out Heidi Alexander, Esq., Director and Law Practice Advisor, Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program.

Alexander points to client portals as a critical technology must-have for firms that want to achieve the client-centric competitive advantage. It’s no wonder, considering that client portals can single-handedly provide the technology small law firms need to catch up with big law.

Here’s how: These online interfaces allow you to securely exchange documents and messages with clients. The best are completely encrypted, and are integrated with law practice management software to streamline information sharing and matter management.

“If you’re an attorney and not using a client portal, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity,” warns Alexander.

Client Portals Help Promote Ethical Responsibility

Jim Calloway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, concurs.

“To me, one of the most important issues is secure communication of confidential client information, and lawyers really need to consider whether emailing most anything is appropriate,” he insists. “That’s why I recommend client portals. You can certainly use email – to remind your client they have something to look at in the client portal.”

Jim’s concerns are echoed in the latest mandates by the American Bar Association’s Committee on Ethics and Legal Responsibility. Formal Opinion 477, issued in May, requires lawyers to make a reasonable effort to secure client communication – or be in breach of legal ethics.

Client portals are probably the easiest and least expensive way to adhere to those mandates. Consider that subscriptions to law practice management solutions that include client portals cost:

  • Less than half of a monthly average cable or cell phone bill,
  • Or about 10 billable minutes a month for a lawyer who charges $250 an hour.

These practice management solutions also provide the tools you need to streamline every aspect of your firm’s operations, from tracking hours to creating documents to file management and more. The highest quality client portals come with practice management solutions that have world-class cybersecurity. Find out how to identify them by checking out this fast read:  Checklist: The Five Most Important Cloud Security Measures.

Calloway admits, however, it still remains challenging to convince some lawyers of their value.

“Like many things in life, 95% of the time everything goes fine. There aren’t many lawyers on the street who have been really humiliated because their emails have been hacked,” he explains. “But when it happens, it’s going to be bad. We have an independent, ethical responsibility to protect our clients’ confidential information and that’s why it’s so important for lawyers to err on the side of caution.”

Alexander agrees.

“Look at the other professionals using portals. How do you interact with your doctor? They’re using a client portal,” she notes. “These portals improve and increase communication, and your client feels more comfortable knowing they’re secure. You can more easily keep them updated on their case and make it easier to work with you. I really think all small law firms should be using one.”

Dashboard shows details of a matter

In September, I reported that practice management provider Clio, at its annual Clio Cloud Conference, had unveiled “the new Clio experience” — a top-to-bottom re-engineering and redesign of its practice management platform, which it dubbed Project Apollo, after the Greek god of healing and light. Having now had a chance to explore Apollo, I thought I’d offer more details.

As I wrote in that September post, there was perhaps an even bigger announcement from Clio at that conference — that of its future course. Whereas its mission so far has been to move law practice management to the cloud, its mission going forward is to move law practice to the cloud and, in the process, to, as its motto now says, “Transform the practice of law, for good.”

“The idea of practice management is a relic of the old way of framing what legal software can do.” CEO Jack Newton said during during a media day visit to Clio’s headquarters in Vancouver, B.C., which I wrote about in a column at Above the Law. “So the next chapter is to move the practice of law to the cloud. Eventually, all sorts of other facets of practicing law will get pulled into the cloud. The idea of practice management will become a limiting way to describe what we do and what our vision is.”

See also: My Podcast Interview with CEO Jack Newton on Clio’s Future Course.

Clio sees Apollo, its redesigned platform, as a major step in that direction. It envisions the platform becoming the backbone of a modern law firm’s technology stack and the hub of an ecosystem of what are now nearly 70 integration partners and that will continue to grow.

Exploring Apollo

In over a year developing Apollo, Clio spent more than 600 hours and 60 days visiting law firms, consulting with clients, conducting user testing, and monitoring feedback from customer surveys and interactions. It encompasses a new design, faster performance and some 220 feature improvements.

Clio has also created a new version of its API (application programming interface) that will allow it to better connect its ecosystem of integration partners, and it has launched a new App Directory to make it easier for its customers to find integrations appropriate to their practice.

From the top navigation bar, you can search, see recent matters, start a timer, add new items, and toggle back to the legacy version.

For now, Clio subscribers have the option of toggling between the legacy and Apollo versions of the software via a toggle switch in the navigation bar. Eventually, that toggle switch will disappear and all users will default to the new version.

One notable improvement in Apollo is global navigation. The navigation panel now sits on the left of the screen, instead of the top as before, where you can access tasks with a single click. The panel is collapsible to give you more screen real estate.

The search bar is now atop the navigation menu for quick access. Search now includes custom fields created by the user. Next to the search bar is a Recents button to access the 10 most-recent items you’ve worked on.

The new Timekeeper feature shows your time for the day.

The new application was built using a single-page architecture. That means that, when you click on links to move around within the application, the left and top navigation bars stay in place. Only the center of the page reloads, making pages load more quickly. Clio says its platform is now five times faster. While I can’t quantify it, I can tell you that the pages load very quickly.

Another time-saving feature of the new design is global create. Wherever you are in the application, the Create New button is available at the top right of the screen. Click it to quickly add a new matter, contact, task, time entry, expense entry or just about anything else that can be done within Clio.

The Global Create feature lets you create a new matter, contact, or anything else.

Timekeeping has been enhanced by allowing users to start the timer with a single click, without having to enter any matter details. Also, a new Timekeeper button, accessible from anywhere in the application, allows you to quickly see and edit all your time entries and totals for the day (or you can toggle back through prior days). Click any entry to start a new timer for same matter.

Invoicing

A new Activities page shows all your activities in a data table. Columns in the table can be resized, hidden and added to create the view you like. Activity can be filtered by date ranges, keywords, matter, firm user, and other fields.

The Matters page now also displays as a data table with configurable  and collapsible columns. The Create New Matter page has been condensed so that all fields fit within a single page. The top of the page is where you enter standard information about the case. Expandable sections farther down on the page let you add billing preferences, custom fields, automated tasks, and related contacts.

List of matters shows as a data table with configurable columns.

Also revamped is the matter dashboard page, to provide more information at a glance. At the top, the page shows current financial information for the matter, including total time and expenses, any outstanding balance, and available trust funds. Farther down, the dashboard shows the matter details. A box on the right shows contact information for the client and for any related contacts. Below that, a new Timeline replaces the previous version’s Firm Feed, showing all firm activity on the matter.

Other changes worthy of note:

  • Apollo allows bulk billing of all clients with outstanding amounts due and also bulk application of trust funds to invoiced amounts. Bulk billing can also be limited by date ranges for billed activity or by responsible attorney. The platform has improved features for previewing, editing and sharing invoices.
  • From the Communications page, when you create an entry to log a phone call, you also get the option to start a timer for the call. When you close the log, a pop-up lets you also create a time entyr for the call.
  • Clio now integrates with Microsoft Office 365 and has improved email synchronization. Users can now link emails directly into Clio from Outlook, push attachments from Outlook into Clio’s document management system, and track time within Outlook.

About Those Integrations

A key differentiator of Clio over other practice management platforms is its integrations with third-party applications that extend its capabilities. At its September conference, Clio announced 12 new integration partners, bringing the total to more than 70. It also launched a new App Directory to make it easier for users to find applications that match their practice needs.

Homepage of new app directory

These integrations cover a range of categories, from accounting and client intake, to e-discovery and legal research, to timekeeping and workforce management. Note, however, that most of these third-party integrations require their own subscriptions, in addition to the Clio subscription.

And Coming Soon …

In addition to Apollo, Clio is working to finish another development project, which it calls Hermes, and which will be a secure, mobile-optimized communication platform for lawyers and their clients. Think of it as a legal-specific variation on communication applications such as WhatsApp or Slack.

The application will enable lawyers to securely message with colleagues and clients, initiate secure video chats, exchange documents, and more, from mobile or desktop. Clio was demonstrating a prototype version at its conference in September but had not announced a final release date.

Pricing

With Clio’s rollout of its new platform, it left its pricing unchanged. Clio offers three plans. When billed annually, the per-user monthly costs are $39 for the Starter plan, $59 for the Boutique plan and $99 for the Elite plan.

Most lawyers would want at least the Boutique plan, which includes integrated credit card processing, accounting integrations, and Office 365 Business & Enterprise integration. The Elite plan adds court-rules calendaring and other features.

The Bottom Line

For lawyers shopping for practice management software, good options abound. The right choice for you depends on your practice and your needs. As I said above, a major differentiator for Clio is its third-party integrations. No other platform has anywhere near Clio’s number of integrations, and several decidedly avoid integrations, instead taking an all-in-one approach.

That said, I should emphasize that you do not need any third-party integrations to use Clio, although you will probably want a third-party business accounting program. It is a complete platform in and of itself. But the integrations can help make the platform fit better with the particular needs of your practice. And, going forward, the integrations will be the fuel that drives Clio’s vision of moving not just law practice management, but law practice, to the cloud.

Clio has many factors in its favor. It is a mature, reliable and well-funded company. Its new software is intuitive and robust and works equally well on desktop or mobile. It has an excellent reputation for customer support. While its pricing is generally higher than its competitors, it is still within range. Of the many good options out there, you won’t go wrong with Clio.

Led by CEO Jack Newton, Clio staff celebrate the wrap of the fifth Clio Cloud Conference.

What makes a legal technology conference great? I’ve been thinking a lot about this since leaving the fifth Clio Cloud Conference earlier this week. I’ve attended all five and uniformly praised each one. After the 2014 conference, I called it one of the best legal technology conferences I had ever attended. After the 2015 conference, I said that it was déjà vu all over again. And after last year’s conference, fishing for something critical to say, I hit on one complaint — that it was too short.

I feel the same this year. In fact, I feel as if, with this year’s conference, the Clio Cloud Conference has cemented its standing as a must-attend annual legal technology conference. This was no small feat, because this year’s conference was nearly double the size of last year’s, going from 700 to 1,200 attendees, and it was held in a new venue, moving from Chicago’s intimate and stylish Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel to the larger and slightly casino-like Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Yet somehow it all worked, still retaining the intimate feel of prior years’ smaller crowds and venue. (Next year’s conference, by the way, will return to the Hyatt on Oct. 4 and 5.)

[For more on the conference, see At Its Annual Conference, Clio Unveils New Design, New Direction and My Podcast Interview with CEO Jack Newton on Clio’s Future Course.]

But I come back to the question of what makes this conference or any conference great. Part of what has me pondering this is that I came away this year with the impression that the programming was nothing spectacular. I have to confess: I say that based more on the titles and speaker line-up than on first-hand experience. I attended way too few programs, spending more of my time in meetings with vendors and others. Notably, I missed the one keynote that attendees seemed unanimously to agree was among the best keynotes they had ever seen, delivered by Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield.

Preet Bharara delivers one of four keynotes.

And, by the way, Hadfield was just one of four keynotes. In addition to his, keynotes were given by Clio CEO Jack Newton, the amazing Haben Girma, the first deaf and blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School and now a disability rights advocate, and Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was famously terminated by President Trump.

But, setting aside the keynotes, scan the titles of the programs, and there were not any that you couldn’t find at other legal tech conferences such as ABA Techshow or a major state bar conference. As in past years, the programs ran along four tracks, one on legal technology, one on the business of law, and two devoted to basic and advanced training on the Clio platform. There were good programs on marketing, social media and law office technology. There were some particularly cutting-edge topics, such as how to use VR in the courtroom and whether law firms can accept Bitcoins.

I do not mean to be critical of the programs. The topics were relevant and practical and the speakers were knowledgeable and qualified. My point, simply, is that it was not the line-up of programs, alone, that made this a great conference or that made it stand out from others. You could find similar topics and similar speakers (and even the same speakers) at other conferences. There was something else.

Part of that “something else” is the Clio staff. I’ve mentioned this in my write-ups on past years’ conferences, and it remained true this year. Of its 240 total employees, Clio had roughly half in attendance at this conference. These people are uniformly enthusiastic about their company, knowledgeable about their product, and as helpful and friendly as you could ask. No question ever need go unanswered for long here, because a Clio staffer is available at every turn to help. A company’s employees say a lot about the company, and these employees speak volumes about Clio.

(Speaking of staff, recognition for a job well done is due to Lauren Sanders, the special projects coordinator at Clio who is primarily responsible for making this conference happen every year.)

Another part of the “something else” is the venue. As noted, it changed this year, but Clio retained the physical characteristics that facilitate interactions, conversations and collaboration. How many conferences have you been to where there is nowhere for two people to sit down and have a conversation? Not here. The space is designed to ensure that there are places to talk. Exhibitors are front and center, but not in an overbearing way. Booths are discreet and uniform and traffic naturally flows around them. There is the Smart Bar where attendees can get answers to Clio questions and the Clio Lab where attendees can not only see what’s coming in Clio, but even suggest fixes or discuss bugs that Clio designers and engineers will address virtually immediately.

But in my mental struggle to put my finger on what makes this conference stand out, I kept coming back to a tweet I saw during the conference:

Note that this tweet did not come from some legal tech newbie. John Mayer is the executive director of The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, a non-profit consortium of law schools, law libraries and related organizations that conducts applied research and development in computer-mediated legal education and creates tools that increase access to justice.

So when Mayer says he’s never heard so many lawyers talk so much sense about tech and practice, he knows what he’s talking about.

This is what it boils down to, I think. What distinguishes this conference from some of the other conferences out there is the people. It is the sum total of those who attend — the lawyers and legal professionals who come to learn, the speakers who come to educate, the vendors who come to explain (and sell), and the Clio staff who come to guide. It is not that they are all already experts in legal technology. It is that they are all enthusiastic about the future of law practice and the role of technology in helping to shape that future.

Shit is happening, as Mayer said, and this conference is a microcosm of what is happening on a broad scale.

At the Clio Cloud Conference in New Orleans on Monday, I sat down with Clio cofounder and CEO Jack Newton to discuss the announcements he made during his opening keynote. We talk about Clio’s ground-up reengineering and redesign of its practice management platform, Clio’s new goals and directions as it starts its second decade, the just-released Legal Trends Report, and much more.

(Read more about Clio’s announcements in my post earlier this week.)

Stream the interview above or at the Legal Talk Network.

Nine years after it launched as the first commercial, cloud-based practice management platform, Clio has been teasing the legal community with promises of major news, symbolized by the hashtag #newclio. Earlier this month, I was given a preview of the news during a media day visit to Clio’s headquarters in Vancouver, B.C. But, as I explained in a recent column at Above the Law, an embargo prevented me from talking about it until today.

This morning, Clio kicked off its annual Clio Cloud Conference, held this year in New Orleans, with a keynote by cofounder and CEO Jack Newton, during which he announced Clio’s news.

The big news is what Clio is calling “the new Clio experience” — a top-to-bottom re-engineering and redesign of its practice management platform. But underlying that news is perhaps an even bigger story — that of where Clio intends to go from here. Whereas its mission so far has been to move law practice management to the cloud, its mission going forward is to move law practice to the cloud and, in the process, to, as its motto now says, “Transform the practice of law, for good.”

Moving Law Practice to the Cloud

There is a double entendre in “for good,” which can mean both “for the better” and “permanently,” and Clio means both. Let’s start with changing the practice of law.

“When we talked about moving legal practice management to the cloud, we saw it originally as a radical idea,” Newton said during my visit earlier this month. “But now we can say, ‘Mission accomplished.’ The sea change is underway. We’ve created an industry. Now at ABA Techshow, half the companies are some sort of cloud-based practice management tool.”

In fact, said Newton, “the idea of practice management is a relic of the old way of framing what legal software can do.”

“So the next chapter is to move the practice of law to the cloud. Eventually, all sorts of other facets of practicing law will get pulled into the cloud. The idea of practice management will become a limiting way to describe what we do and what our vision is.”

A major step in that direction, Newton believes, is Clio’s redesigned platform, which it has labeled its project Apollo, after the Greek god of healing and light. Clio sees its platform becoming the backbone of a modern law firm’s technology stack and the hub of an ecosystem of what are now nearly 70 integration partners and that will continue to grow.

“With Apollo,” Newton said, “we’ve built the foundation to move the practice of law to the cloud.”

Focus on Customer Experience

More about Apollo below, but first let me get to the “for the better” part of “for good.” And there are two parts to this — helping its customers do better in their businesses and helping the broader legal community through philanthropy.

At its conference last year, Clio introduced its first Legal Trends Report. A key finding of that was that the average lawyer was spending only two hours of an eight-hour day on billable work. That spurred Clio to survey its customers to find out where they needed the most help, and the answer they gave was with getting more clients.

As Clio thought about how it could help its customers get more business, it considered what made businesses in other industries successful. What would it look like, for example, if Amazon started a law firm? It concluded that a key factor is customer experience — not Clio’s customers, but its customers’ clients.

“What we’ve done so far is help firms improve their operational excellence,” Newton explained. “What we haven’t done enough is focus on the customer experience. A huge part of what we need to do going forward is focus on the customer experience side of things and redefine how lawyers work and operate.”

Think of Amazon’s Tide button, Newton said. When you’re running low on detergent, you press a button and have it on your doorstep in hours.

The legal industry needs to think about what are its Tide buttons, Newton suggested. What that will look like remains to be seen, but it will certainly include greater use of mobile and greater use of video chat.

With Apollo, Clio believes, it has engineered a platform that can grow to accommodate and address that client-obsessed way of doing business.

Philanthropic Initiatives

Now on to the philanthropy part of “for good.”

Newton quoted Steve Jobs, who famously said, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe,” in announcing several philanthropic initiatives:

  • Clio is providing $6 million in free use of its software to law schools, paralegal programs and university-affiliated nonprofits, which translates to roughly 100,000 users getting free access.
  • Clio is launching the Clio Fund, a $1 million developer fund that will be used to support innovative legal startups.
  • Clio is launching a code competition, Launch/Code, in which it will award a $100,000 prize to the individual or company that builds the best new Clio integration between now and next year’s Clio conference.

And One More Announcement

In addition to Apollo, Clio has another development project, which it calls Hermes, and which will be a secure, mobile-optimized communication platform for lawyers and their clients. Think of it as a legal-specific variation on WhatsApp or Slack.

“We started to think about what it would look like if lawyers started to communicate almost exclusively over mobile,” Newton said. The answer, Clio decided, is an application through which lawyers can securely message with colleagues and clients, initiate secure video chats, exchange documents, and more.

Clio will be demonstrating a preview version of Hermes during this week’s conference, but it will not be released until later this year.

More About Apollo

In developing Apollo over the last year, Clio says it spent more than 600 hours and 60 days visiting law firms, consulting with clients, conducting user testing, and monitoring feedback from customer surveys and interactions. It encompasses a new design, faster performance and some 220 feature improvements. Clio has also created a new version of its API (application programming interface) to better connect its ecosystem of nearly 70 integration partners, and it has launched a new App Directory to make it easier for its customers to find integrations appropriate to their practice.

Homepage of new app directory

Specific enhancements, according to Clio, include:

  • Global navigation. The navigation bar now sits on the left of the screen, where you can access tasks with a single click. The search bar now sits atop the navigation menu for quick access. Next to the search bar is a Recents button to access the 20 most-recent items you’ve worked on. The side navigation panel is collapsible to give you more screen real estate.
  • Single-page architecture. Now when you click on links to move around within the application, the left and top navigation bars stay in place. Only the center of the page reloads, making pages load more quickly. Clio says its platform is now five times faster than before.
  • Global create. From a button on the right of the screen, wherever you are in the application, you can create a new matter, contact, task, etc.
  • Improved “create new matter” screen. A much more streamlined version of this screen.
  • Billing. Smoother and faster with better bulk billing and integrated credit-card acceptance.
  • Accounting. Ten-time faster synchronization.
  • Payments. Increased speed and accuracy, with improved ability to apply payments across multiple bills.
  • Timer. Ease of use has been enhanced by allowing users to start the timer with a single click, without having to enter any matter details. Also, from anywhere in the application, you can quickly see all your time entries and totals for the day.
  • Activities. More efficient with streamlined precision.
  • Calendar. Enhanced performance and reliability and an improved interface.
  • New integration with Microsoft Office 365 and improved email synchronization. Users can now link emails directly into Clio from Outlook, push attachments from Outlook into Clio’s DMS, and track time within Outlook.
  • Communications. Enhanced speed and ease of execution.
  • Intuitive search. Increased usability, accuracy, and speed. Clio has built a whole new backend for its search, that is says is 20 times faster and much more precise in its results.

“There’s a saying that it takes 10 years to build truly great software,” Newton said at the media briefing earlier this month. “I think we’ve built a great product. But now we want to build a 100-year company. We’re opening a new chapter for our second act.”

At ABA Techshow last week, MyCase, the cloud-based practice management platform, previewed the new version of its app, which it will be releasing for both iOS and Android devices. (Click any image above for a larger view or see an animated view below.)

MyCase would not provide a date certain for release of the app. It will begin beta testing with select customers in the near future and roll it out after it is satisfied that the app has been thoroughly vetted and is ready for large-scale release.

In developing the new app, MyCase says that it carefully studied how solo and small-firm lawyers want to use their mobile devices and the activities they need to be able to do when they’re away from their desks.

The new app will focus on enabling lawyers to do those things well and on leveraging the unique attributes of smartphones to provide better access to information and greater efficiency, the company said.

“MyCase recognizes that it’s an increasingly mobile world and we’re moving forward with our mobile development in a whole new way to reflect this,” Tracy Stevens, vice president of product, said in a statement. “Our expectation is that the new apps will uniquely support the activities that our customers are trying to get done when they’re away from their offices and will be equally as indispensable as the version they use on their desktops.”