The last decade has seen enormous advances in legal technology. The tech covers just about every aspect of supporting and delivering legal services, with the laggards in the judiciary quickly coming up to speed during the pandemic.

Until now, legal tech largely focused on automation, data management, productivity and case management.

What’s missing? Client experience.

Clio has certainly made inroads here, working on the delivery side to help lawyers create a better experience for clients, removing artificial or unnecessary barriers to engaging with and serving clients. The new app, Clio for Clients, is another step in that direction, creating a single spot for clients to interact with their lawyers and keep tabs on their cases. 

Another potentially game-changing tool building in the market, Gideon Chatbots. I had a chance to see Gideon’s live demo by co-creators Jared Correia and Elan Fields during Ari Kaplan’s #VirtualLunch Feedback Forum. 

The product was well-received by a generally skeptical crowd of savvy legal tech consumers and developers.

Chatbots aren’t new to consumers, but they’re relatively new to law firms. Gideon is customized to suit law firm needs while shifting the use emphasis to the customer’s vantage point. For the lawyer, the chatbot provides a way to quickly screen cases, conduct necessary intake, and schedule consults. And there’s no coding required for the lawyers.

“We allow our law firm users to build chat scripts in a no-code environment, or use practice area-specific playbooks we’ve developed, to triage leads — as those consumers answer questions, the bot is automatically collecting their responses and tagging them with predetermined labels,” Correia says. “Add those labels up, and they become classifications — so that the law firm can determine who is and who is not a viable client, without any staff or attorney intervention.”

For the consumer, the bot meets the individual where they are, any time, any day, and puts scheduling in their hands. 

Leads that pass a pre-set criteria are routed directly to a proprietary automated calendaring tool built into the software.

Consumers are increasingly familiar with and comfortable with using chatbots to connect them with the best person to solve their problem.

Laurence Whittam, a business advisor with Anchin who saw the demo and has taken a more in-depth look at Gideon, says the tool is different from other chatbots in the market because it’s so specific to legal.

Because of Correia’s experience as a practicing lawyer and law firm consultant, he built customized questions to collect information a lawyer needs while making the process easier for prospective clients. 

“It’s a great tool to qualify and direct a lead that does get [potential clients] engaged initially, saving reception and partners a lot of time with questioning,” Whittam says. 

Jared Correia

If lawyers use this technology to have more meaningful conversations with clients more quickly, this could be immensely valuable.

“Legal consumers get the engagement they want and are also able to take that next step, by booking an appointment — and lawyers only talk to the right clients,” Correia says. He notes that early testing with some 600 beta testers in the market shows Gideon converts twice as many leads to consults than competitive software.

In what Correia describes as a “second wave of legal tech,” the next step for Gideon is to bring more users onboard and add features, including adding payment processing, esignatures, and document automation. 

About a decade ago, in the first wave of legal tech, the focus was on law practice management and productivity. 

In this second wave, spurred by Covid-19, Correia is seeing growing demand for virtual intake processes. 

“Most everybody is in the cloud, and more attorneys than ever have productivity tools specific to law firms at their disposal,” he says. “Now, you’re going to see lots of law firm marketing software enter the vertical, and, we hope to be one of the first movers on that front, and one of the leaders in the space, with Gideon.”