This year, I’ve had the opportunity to sample and attend numerous virtual conferences, webinars, classes, and events.
Without a doubt, Clio Cloud 2020 was the best. Not to say there weren’t glitches, like no sound on the core platform on the first day for several minutes, while Clio’s energetic emcee continued despite dozens of attendees alerting the team in chat.
But Clio pressed on. Even when I happened upon programs with producers chatting with hot mics in the background, there were no F-bombs and no angry outbursts of frustration. The team worked quickly as a team to problem solve and not only recover, but put on a stellar lineup of insightful, inspirational speakers, mixed with hands-on product programs, practice advice, and star-studded entertainment.
Even attending as media, I admit being fangirl excited to see Ben Harper performing live just for this audience from his family’s historic Claremont Folk Music Center.
Ben Harper was a fitting guest given his social justice, antiracism lyrics complemented the powerful keynote from famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump, the lawyer representing families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the residents suffering damages from lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan.
One guy in the chat seemed annoyed that Crump was a speaker. Given Clio’s history of inviting a mix of inspirational and thought-provoking professionals, I was surprised by this public outburst. Like so many online forums, the chat could have turned divisive and nasty at this point. But again, the Clio team was present, reminded participants of the event’s code of conduct, and the chat returned to normal. Normal chat for this conference meant an exceptionally engaged audience, filled with a mix of playful banter to thoughtful conversations and helpful practice advice. Many of these continued on in separate break out rooms. I didn’t nose into any of those, but I saw the invites and acceptances in real-time in chat.
One thing I’ve enjoyed most about Clio Cloud live is the energy and quality of the speakers. This was no different in a virtual environment.
Highlights for me:
Jack Newton opened the conference with a centering keynote, then dropped big integration bombshell after bombshell, making good on his promise to improve the client experience by helping lawyers eliminate barriers to legal access. First up: Google My Business, especially significant because Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report found that 86% of client searches for lawyers begin on Google. Optimizing and eliminating client acquisition barriers via Google seems like an obvious tactic. Newton similarly announced integrations with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Teams is getting some deserved attention these days as lawyers learn they’ve had this robust and secure communications tool at their fingertips for quite some time and are now figuring out how to leverage it.
Possibly most important though is Clio’s new app, Clio for Clients. At first blush, a custom app might not seem impressive. But considering Clio’s long term goal to become a household name, a brand trusted by consumers, this is a critical step. On Twitter, Sarah Glassmeyer compared the app to the one used by Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Chicago area, MyChart. MyChart boasts 100 million patients, enabling secure doctor-patient conversations and organizing key medical data, including medications and test results.
As Glassmeyer says, Clio for Clients offers a similar secure lawyer-client communications platform, with the added feature that empowers clients to easily scan and upload documents to share with lawyers.
I’ve seen versions of client-facing apps on the market and in the works. Few have the promise to integrate with as many practical features that are already in Clio’s building legal services ecosystem, including billing.
One thing that MyChart does is keep medical information with the user. It will be interesting to see if the client maintains control of her legal record and can, like MyChart, share the information with another lawyer if they’re, for whatever reason, interested in taking their matter elsewhere.
In addition to the lawyer-search data, Newton and Clio’s COO George Psiharis presented key data points from the latest Legal Trends Report, which pivoted during Covid-19 to provide regular snapshots and study how lawyers and legal services consumers were managing during the early stages of the pandemic.
Bob Ambrogi has a good summary of the findings on his LawSites Blog and Psiharis gives an overview of the report for Legal Talk Network.
Not surprisingly, there was a steep decline in the number of new cases during the very early stages of the pandemic. There was a rebound, though not to pre-Covid-19 levels. What’s especially noteworthy is that the firms that embraced online-first services, especially online payments, legal intake, and client portals — all devices to better communicate with clients — saw more revenue per lawyer than the firms that haven’t yet adopted all three systems. Psiharis says the difference is 40% more revenue per lawyer.
Access to Justice
Shannon Salter, chair of the Civil Resolution Tribunal, Canada’s first online tribunal resolving small claims, condominium disputes, and motor vehicle accident disputes, gave a detailed presentation about the tribunal and how it’s transforming access to the courts.
It’s a model that other jurisdictions are watching closely (and I hope are starting to emulate). Salter spoke about the Civil Resolution Tribunal’s human-centered (and user-centered) approach. One interesting tidbit is that even though 99% of users turn to online options for service, the Tribunal offers access by mail and telephone.
This mix of online, telephonic, mail, and even in-person options is critical for a society that may not have the same level of tech access or may require in-person navigation.
Another point she made that can’t be emphasized enough is that when lawyers, courts, governments, and entrepreneurs are creating tech solutions, the end user needs to be part of the conversation from the beginning. Salter noted that products that seek user feedback at the end stages are invariably going to be flawed, and I’d argue, contaminated by implicit bias.
Indiana University Law Professor Bill Henderson has spent many years studying lawyers, law firm models, and the legal services industry developing around them. In his Clio presentation, Henderson focused on Main Street Lawyers and their evolution from a one-to-one model to a one-to-many legal services delivery model.
Henderson’s overview was delivered with some tough love that only a law prof can get away with. I saw some frustrations in the chat. Many lawyers still find it hard to accept that in order to best run a business and best serve clients, they can’t do and know everything. And in order to implement those tech solutions and new business models, there needs to be more people – people besides lawyers – working toward the same goals.
So it’s possible to have a successful practice and serve more clients at scale if you have a diverse team — of experts in technology, systems, data, client service, etc., — to support you.
The downside, according to Henderson, is that there needs to be different pricing models in the market and vastly more professional skill sets with their talents trained on legal than there are today.
Diversity & Inclusion
Bryan Parker, CEO and co-founder of Legal Innovators, spoke about how and when to use data to create an innovative and diverse workforce. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Legal Innovators this year but I hadn’t heard Parker use the phrase “relentlessly measure” before. It’s a good description of what he and others believe is required to finally move the needle on diversity. In addition to an authentic commitment to improvement, a combo of analytics and accountability is critical for change to happen. Parker argued that rather than a nice-to-have, diversity and inclusion should be a business imperative. That’s the right thing to do for sure. But Parker also says evidence is mounting that diverse operations are more profitable and create jobs and new opportunities through different community pipelines.
Famed marketing expert Seth Godin closed out the conference with a lively, Twitter-friendly keynote that was technically about marketing. To me, his messages all came back to storytelling. He spoke about brand, talent and positioning in the market, all of which does no good if the lawyer’s story doesn’t resonate, if the lawyer hasn’t built trust.
What’s ironic is that Godin gave a futurists spin on some back-to-basics advice. Lawyers, he explained, got caught up in profit-enhancing efficiencies (like hourly billing) that created distance between them and clients.
He also has some practical advice for lawyers, my favorite being: Stop being part of the hourly backwater, adopt technology, get back to the front of the parade where you can lead and begin solving interesting problems.
Updated to correct name spelling.