As a sole practitioner at Roche Legal and all round new-kid-on-the-block, I need to keep ahead of the game when it comes to advances in technology, so that I can continually improve the efficiencies in our small business, and the way in which we communicate with our clients. As part of our tech strategy, we operate a paperless filing system at Roche Legal, which is aided by the law firm practice management software provider Clio.
For the last four years, Clio has hosted an annual ‘Clio Cloud Conference’ and this year, I packed myself off for a few days to Chicago to take part in the fun. Although a Canadian company, Clio seem to do most of their business in the States. From humble beginnings, this conference has now grown to be widely recognised, attracting world renowned speakers and, this year, more than 700 attendees.
As well as an obvious plug for Clio’s own offering, there were plenty of events, speakers and exhibitors to keep it an interesting and vibrant two days. Discussions ranged from wellbeing (there was yoga and a park run, of course) to reasons to be excited about the future of technology, artificial intelligence and the law, the business of law, and even how to run your law firm from India with a 4 month old. If anything, the two days of law talk certainly helped me feel energised about the future of ‘Small Law’ and I’ve taken plenty away to implement back home.
On day one, the Key Note talk from Jack Newton CEO and co-founder of Clio, also provided a taster of his soon to be released Legal Trends Report which will be available in full from 17 October 2016. Although mainly applicable to the US, the Report collated from Clio’s own user data, provides interesting statistics on things like hourly rates across States, hours billed per day, collection rates and so on. There has already been much discussion about the content of the report and Jack’s key note speech online. You only need to have a look on Twitter to see what people are saying. It’s created quite a buzz and the Report isn’t even available in full yet.
As a software provider, one of the things that stands Clio out from the crowd is that they seem to be improving their software using feedback from users all the time. Plus, their support staff have always been very good. During the two days, I visited the ‘Smart Bar’ where I could discuss directly with experts from the Clio team, aspects of the system I felt could be improved, as well as ‘getting technical’ with the developers in the ‘Clio Lab’. I am looking forward to seeing what they will roll out next, especially with the new Clio App, which is a huge improvement on what was already a pretty swanky piece of tech.
Although an obvious way to raise the profile of Clio in the wider law world, conferences like this still give ‘Small Law’ a huge opportunity to grow and thrive and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it. The main thing I’ve taken away from my two days in the US is that there are still an enormous amount of opportunities for Small Firms to leverage technology and carve out a truly unique place in the legal landscape. For years, the focus has been on larger firms, mergers, creating large brands and pushing out the small fish. I honestly don’t believe that this is now the case and I’m excited about how small but nimble firms are going to give the large fish a run for their money.
I also feel that the operational and HR side of working in a law firm is changing and many of us need to overhaul our practices. There is plenty that a small law firm can take away from the practices of tech companies like Clio with their cohesive set of values and the way in which their staff are able to encapsulate the brand in a way in which law firms have always struggled. We need to be more open, accessible, fun even. What we do will always be serious business (and rightly so), but I don’t believe the way to grow a firm these days is with a brass plaque on the door, an out of date case management system and a pin stripe suit. Get online, get talking and engaging with the public and give law firms a much needed personality!
[Photo is of Cloud Gate (nicknamed The Bean), a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, that is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in Chicago.]