Excuse this commercial interruption, but I wanted to acknowledge and extend a huge thank you to MyCase, the practice management company, for becoming the first sponsor of my recently launched podcast LawNext.

Starting LawNext was somewhat of an experiment for me. As I explained in a recent post, I had been podcasting for 13 years as cohost of Lawyer2Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network. But I wanted to try something different — to be more hands on, to be more nimble, and to own what I was doing. And, frankly, I wanted to see if I could make a little money at it.

No sooner had I released the first episode in July than I heard from MyCase about the potential of becoming a sponsor. A few phone calls and emails later, it was official. Starting with Episode 13 posted earlier this week, you’ll hear some “words from our sponsor” during the show (plus an offer for a free trial).

By the way, we have other slots for advertisers and sponsors. If you’re interested, shoot us an email at info@lawnext.com, or email me directly at ambrogi@gmail.com.

Last week was a perfect storm of breaking news in the world of cloud-based practice management software. It was a week that saw the acquisition by Tabs3 Software of CosmoLex, the appointment by PracticePanther of a new CEO, and the acquisition by Clio of CRM platform Lexicata, all bookended by Clio’s 10th anniversary on Monday and its Clio Cloud Conference on Thursday and Friday.

Although it was a week of upheaval in many respects, it was also one, in my opinion, that reflected the fact that cloud practice management has finally matured to the point where there is no doubt it is to be taken seriously. And Clio stands as Exhibit A for how this market has matured, having developed from feisty upstart to a mature, well-established company that is helping to drive legal innovation, both for itself and the legal industry at large.

Thoughts on the maturing of this market and what it means for legal professionals is the topic of my column this week at Above the Law: Cloud Practice Management Software Grows Up.

The cloud law practice management company PracticePanther is announcing today that it has named Soumya Nettimi as its chief executive officer. Cofounder David Bitton, who has been CEO since starting the company in 2012, will remain with the company as chief marketing officer, and cofounder Ori Tamuz will continue as chief technology officer.

This is the second major news development this week involving a practice management company. On Monday. Tabs3 Software announced that it had acquired CosmoLex.

Nettimi began her career as a private equity investor at Blackstone Capital Partners in New York City. Since then, she has worked in a number of management roles, most recently as a senior product leader at Amazon Web Services. She has a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford Graduate School of Business and an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University.

Because of scheduling and travel conflicts, I was unable to speak with either Nettimi or Bitton this week. However, both agreed to answer questions I submitted to them by email. Their answers follow.

Questions for Nettimi

1. What was it about PracticePanther that interested you in becoming its CEO?

I was excited to join PracticePanther for two main reasons — the people and the product.

In just a few years, the team at PracticePanther built the leading solution in legal practice management software. I’m in awe of their passion, hard work, and dedication to our mission of making the lives of lawyers and paralegals easier. The people at this company are our greatest asset, and I’m thrilled to learn from them and lead them into the next chapter of growth.

Whenever I speak to customers, vendors, and other industry professionals, I consistently hear that PracticePanther is the most powerful and easiest to use product in the market. I am excited about the strong foundation the team has built and the opportunity to continue building on it. The potential of this company is limitless, and I believe we are just getting started.

2. What does your experience and knowledge bring to PracticePanther?

I started my career as an investor at Blackstone in New York City, where I worked closely with management teams on key strategic and operational decisions. Since then, I have held management and product leadership roles at Protea Investments, Serena & Lily, and Amazon Web Services, where I have built expertise in setting long-term vision and strategy, understanding and developing products that address critical customer needs, and hiring and motivating diverse teams.

I genuinely believe in “customer obsession,” one of Amazon’s leadership principles. This will be a key tenet of my management style at PracticePanther. I am excited to bring my range of experiences and fresh perspective, the team’s passion and dedication, and ASG’s expertise and community together to fuel this next chapter of PracticePanther’s growth.

3. What are your goals for the company over the next year or two?

The main goal for PracticePanther is to honor our mission of making the lives of lawyers and paralegals easier. In order to do this, we plan to continue to deliver the most robust and easy to use practice management solution coupled with best in class service. In the next few years, we plan to accelerate the growth of our business by investing in our team, releasing new features and updates, and looking for new and innovative ways to delight our customers.

4. Practice management is a competitive field. How do you see PracticePanther as distinct from its competitors?

I believe we are distinct in three main ways. First, we have the most robust, intuitive, and easy-to-use product on the market. Second, we innovate rapidly and release new features faster than any of our competitors. Third, we provide unparalleled levels of dedicated training and support to our customers. We also benefit from the shared knowledge, expertise, and resources of the ASG community. The team at PracticePanther focuses solely and wholeheartedly on our mission of making the lives of lawyers and paralegals easier, and this dedication comes through in the customer experience.

5. It appears you’ve never worked in the legal industry. Do you have any concerns that will hinder your ability to run a legal tech company?

I have a lot of faith in our team at PracticePanther and in our deep collective expertise. Though I haven’t worked directly in the legal technology industry, I have worked extensively with law firms of all sizes in my career to date. I plan to take a thoughtful approach to expanding my knowledge of the industry and understanding our customers’ pain points. Overall, I believe that putting my experience set and differentiated perspective together with the team’s legal expertise will only enhance our ability to serve our customers and the market.

Questions for Bhitton

1. Describe what your role will be now.

Ever since day one, I have always been heavily involved in sales and marketing, as that is my core expertise. I am extremely excited to be taking on the CMO (chief marketing officer) role full time, doing what I’ve always loved, and felt passionate about. My ultimate goal is to increase awareness of PracticePanther worldwide, increase the number of integration partnerships, and continue growing exponentially.

2. What led you to settle on Soumya? What do you believe she will bring to the role?

Soumya is firstly an incredible, humble, honest, kind, and genuine person, that instantly connected with our team and core values. When we first met her earlier this year through ASG, we were immediately impressed by her intuitive grasp of the business, ability to inspire and lead people, and track record of scaling businesses and teams. She shares the same vision and excitement for our business, our team, and our members. Her commitment to preserve and enhance our culture, and continue innovating our software, made her the stand-out candidate we could only dream of. We are confident she will bring her years of experience and obsession with customer and employee satisfaction to PracticePanther, leading to happier members, a more fulfilling workplace, and new exciting features for tens of thousands of lawyers in over 170 countries worldwide. We are so excited to have her leading our team for years to come!

Rocket Matter is today announcing the latest round of updates to its cloud practice management platform, and they include the first of a planned series of practice-specific modules, this one for insurance defense, as well as enhancements to batch billing said to speed the process by 80 percent and improvements to the platform’s overall engineering to make it faster and more responsive.

The insurance defense module, which can be purchased as an add-on for a monthly cost of $9 per user, provides the ability to use LEDES billing codes across the Rocket Matter platform, including with timers, tasks, calendar events, and document uploads. Users can also capture LEDES codes while working in
Outlook and Word documents via Rocket Matter’s Office 365 plugin (see image above).

Mapping LEDES fields.

Larry Port, Rocket Matter’s founder and CEO, told me that other practice-specific modules will be released, but he declined to say when or for which practices.

For those in a firm who run and submit bills, Rocket Matter has added the ability to audit LEDES invoices to identify common rejection errors. Also, when LEDES invoices are run in Rocket Matter, they can be paired with human-readable invoices so that administrators do not have to parse an arcane, pipe-delimited LEDES file.

Batch billing inline activities.

Rocket Matter has long offered batch billing, allowing firms to generate all of its bills at once. With today’s release, Rocket Matter says it has significantly improved the speed of its batch billing by over 80 percent. Port told me that firms can now generate hundreds or thousands of invoices in just minutes.

Another new feature is the ability to bulk-edit time entries from the batch-billing grid. Legal administrators no longer have to leave the billing screen to make adjustments to matters, and they can make multiple changes at once. Additionally, users can now print the batch billing screen in a clean format for auditing,
eliminating the need to run pre-bills for many firms.

There is major acquisition news today involving practice management technology. Software Technology LLC, developer of Tabs3 Software, a leading desktop law practice management program, has acquired CosmoLex, one of the leading cloud-based practice management platforms.

With the acquisition, Tabs3 is now able to provide solo and small firms with complete suites of billing, financial and practice management software in whichever “flavor” they prefer — desktop or cloud. The acquisition gives Tabs3 a combined customer base of over 100,000 legal professionals in the United States and Canada, the company said.

Tabs3 CEO Dan Berlin

CosmoLex will remain a standalone product and become a division of Tabs3. Rick Kabra, who founded CosmoLex in 2013, will be president of the division, and his entire New Jersey-based team will remain with the company. CosmoLex customers will see no change in pricing or services, Kabra told me.

Tabs3 is a nearly 40-year-old company, founded in 1979 and based in Lincoln, Neb. Its desktop product includes billing, financials and practice management. It also has a cloud billing and trust accounting program, Kurent, designed for solos and small firms.

“We are thrilled to welcome CosmoLex to the Tabs3 family as we continue to build the leading platform for practice and financial management software for solo to midsized law firms,” Dan Berlin, president and CEO of Tabs3 since 1984, said yesterday. “CosmoLex plays a significant role in our vision to be the software partner of choice for every solo to midsized law firm in the United States and Canada, whether they desire cloud, desktop, or hosted desktop software.”

CosmoLex founder Rick Kabra

Kabra told me that he sees several advantages in this acquisition for customers of both companies. For CosmoLex customers, Tabs3 is a profitable company with the resources to continue to develop and improve CosmoLex’s cloud technology and features. For Tabs3 customers, they now have the option to switch to the cloud seamlessly, supported by the same company and team they already work with.

This is also good news to the network of technology consultants and referral partners who resell Tabs3, Kabra said, because they will no longer be forced to choose between recommending a desktop company or a cloud company.

In a phone call yesterday afternoon, Berlin said that he is excited about the acquisition becomes if fills out and complements his company’s product offerings. With the three-product line of Tabs3, Kurent and CosmoLex, the privately-held company will be able to provide a full range of financial and practice management services to firms from solos to mid-sized, whether they want cloud or desktop.

He said that he has heard from several Tabs3 customers who want to transition to cloud-based platforms, not because they are dissatisfied with the product, but because they want the flexibility of the cloud. He also hears from customers who are on cloud platforms but want to move back to desktop.

One of his first priorities now that the acquisition is complete is working on making migration seamless either way, whether a customer wants to move from desktop to cloud or cloud to desktop. Another focus will be on combining sales and marketing efforts to expand the market for all three products.

The deal was concluded last Friday and announced to partners yesterday afternoon.

I last wrote about MyCase in April, after I was given a briefing at ABA Techshow on updates and enhancements to the cloud-based practice management platform. Since then, MyCase has continued to add new features and capabilities.

In a recent call to brief me on these changes, Nicole Black, legal technology evangelist at MyCase, and Matt Walton, director of marketing, said that the company’s product development roadmap continues to be heavily influenced by customer feedback. Many of these most-recent changes came about through customer suggestions and interviews, they said.

Here are the major changes to MyCase since April.

Lead Tracking

Among the most-recent changes to MyCase  is the ability for firms to track prospective client leads. This feature allows users to enter information on a lead, much like they would for a contact, and then track and follow-up with the lead. If the lead becomes a client, then the information can be converted to a contact.

When you add a lead, you can identify its source and then track its status. For active leads, you can see various analytics, such as how many have been converted this month versus all time, how many have been added this month versus all time, your top-three referral sources, and the number of leads associated with each of the top-three sources. Analytics can also be set to show the last 30 days instead of the current month.

MyCase introduced lead tracking just this month and continues to build it out based on customer feedback, Black told me.

Dropbox Integration

MyCase users can now link their Dropbox accounts. Once they do, all of their open cases in MyCase will have a Dropbox folder. Within that folder, users will be able to see all the files and folders for that case stored on Dropbox. By clicking on the Dropbox icon next to a document, they can open the document in Dropbox Online for viewing and editing.

Documents can also be accessed and edited directly within Dropbox, either in the cloud or using the desktop app, and any changes will be reflected in MyCase.

Mobile App Updates

MyCase has made three notable changes to its mobile app:

  • Staff calendars can now be viewed in the mobile app. Previously, users could see only their own calendars in the app. Now they can see the full staff calendar.
  • Firm and case documents can now be viewed, emailed and texted from the mobile app.
  • Timers for capturing time are now available in the mobile app.

Enhanced Reporting

MyCase continues to add to the selection of reports a firm can create, with 15 now available. The two latest to be added are case revenue reports, to show the financial performance of a single case, and fee allocation reports, to see how the individuals who have billed for a matter contributed to the overall revenue collected for the case.

In addition, the case list report has been updated with the ability to add any custom field for a case as a column. The report can be further customized by moving columns and deselecting default case fields.

Other reports previously available in MyCase are aging invoices, accounts receivable, user time and expenses, firm time and expenses, case time and expenses, trust account summary, trust account activity, non-trust retainer and credit account summary, non-trust retainer and credit account activity, case list, statute of limitations, electronic payments, and credit card fees.

LEDES Billing

LEDES billing is now available so that users can generate invoices in LEDES 1998B format. After enabling LEDES billing globally for the firm, which is done within the client-billing settings, LEDES billing can be selected for any case and will have all UTBMS codes available for use when entering time.

For cases in which LEDES billing has been activated, when the user goes to create a time entry, the user will see fields for entering the activity code, task code and expense code. When a bill is created for the matter, it will be formatted for LEDES with the appropriate UTBMS task and expense codes.

Automated Billing Reminders

Users can now set automated billing reminders to remind clients that an invoice is overdue. Earlier this year, MyCase added the ability to send billing reminders, but the reminders had to be sent manually. Now, reminders can be sent automatically.

These reminders are turned on by default for all new matters. The default is to send an automated reminder seven days before the due date, on the due date, and seven days after the due date. Firms can customize the reminder schedule.

Other Billing Enhancements

MyCase has made several other changes with regard to billing:

  • Users can now save a default activity description. Then, when entering a time or expense, if the user leaves the activity field blank, the default activity will be automatically entered into the field.
  • Users can create invoices without creating a corresponding case, so that they can send an invoice unrelated to a pending case.
  • Recent invoice activity now appears on the dashboard.
  • Users can add custom messages when emailing invoices.

Case Stages

Users can now create case stages to help them track the movement of a case through its lifecycle. Users create their own sets of case stages and can have multiple sets for different types of cases and different practice areas. For example, case stages may be Discovery, Pretrial, In Trial and Settlement. As a case moves through its stages, users can update the information so that everyone in the firm can be aware of where the case stands in its lifecycle.

 

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:

The practice-management platform Clio recently notified long-term customers who had been grandfathered on an older pricing plan that they will now have to switch to Clio’s current pricing plan.

The grandfathering came about in February 2015, when Clio adopted a three-tiered monthly subscription plan in place of its prior single-price plan. (See: Practice-Management Platform Clio Converts to Three-Tiered Pricing.) When it did so, it offered existing customers the option of being grandfathered into their existing features and pricing.

Those existing customers had been paying $49 per user per month, the price Clio had charged since its launch in 2008. (Some were paying even less, thanks to discounts through bar associations.) The three-tiered plan is $39, $59 or $99 a month if paid annually and $49, $69 or $109 if paid monthly, depending on features. (These plans also qualify for bar discounts.)

But those legacy customers had received no feature updates in the years since, apart from essential security and compatibility updates, and Clio decided it was important to bring them in line with its other customers.

“We feel it is important that all of our customers have equal access and opportunity to the features and functionality that Clio offers today, such as an Outlook 365 integration, Clio Payments, and Evergreen Management,” Sasha Perrin, corporate communications manager, told me.

Perrin said that the grandfathered customers were being transitioned to the middle-tier Boutique plan because it most closely reflects the discontinued plan in features and functionality, while also adding features. However, customers are free to choose any plan, she said.

One customer told me that he was annoyed by how Clio handled the increase, “announcing that my bill was going up roughly 35% and acting like they were doing me a favor.” But after he reached out to Clio, they gave him a further discount off the Boutique price, so that his overall increase was small.

Perrin said Clio gave customers advance notice of two billing cycles (roughly 60 days) if they were on monthly plans or a minimum of 60 days if they were on annual plans. “We communicated the transition to customers in a multitude of ways, including email, in-app notifications, and various support channels,” she said.