The 2017 Clio Cloud Conference is fast approaching, taking place September 25 and 26 in New Orleans. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Monica Bay talks to Joshua Lenon, lawyer-in-residence for Clio, about the conference including who will be speaking and special announcements like the Legal Trends Report. He also shares what makes his position at Clio unique and what makes Clio stand out as a law practice management software company.
Joshua Lenon is an attorney who currently serves as lawyer-in-residence for Clio, providing legal scholarship and research skills to the cloud-based practice management platform.
Law Technology Now
A Sneak Peek at the Clio Cloud Conference
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Monica Bay: Hi. I am Monica Bay and welcome to Law Technology Now. We have a terrific guest today, Joshua Lenon and many of you know him already. He is very, very active in Clio and I am going to start by asking you what inspired you to go to law school?
Joshua Lenon: I have always been interested in how the world works. So I studied linguistical theory in undergrad, for example, to learn how people think, how language informs how people think and I discovered a part of history study, the impact of law on shaping the way the world currently operates.
And so I went to law school hoping to learn a little bit more about what’s behind the curtain and how our society makes choices, how we choose right from wrong, how we pick winners and losers, and how I can maybe help implement some of those policy choices along the way.
Monica Bay: And Joshua, you have a very interesting title. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got it and what it is?
Joshua Lenon: Certainly. So my title at Clio is the Lawyer in Residence and it is a really unique title. It came about for a couple of different reasons. One, I am in Clio as a lawyer, but I am not the in-house counsel. So Clio actually does not have an in-house counsel when I joined five years ago. They had really great guidance and representation from a Canadian law firm called Gowlings. They have since merged and are now WLG Gowlings.
And so when I joined the organization, they weren’t hiring me to guide the organization from a legal advice standpoint, but instead to apply both my insight and connections into the legal industry to help shape the product and our approach to the community of legal professionals.
So rather than me reading contracts all day and taking a look at leases and figuring out our employment contracts and things like that, instead I really dive into community building and taking a look at our products, both from a functional standpoint and from a privacy, security and compliance standpoint.
And at the time there really wasn’t a job description for what I was doing. Now we are starting to see kind of an emerging role in a lot of the bigger technology companies, where they have something called product counsel and that’s specifically what they do is they take a look at the product and approach it from a legal standpoint.
But given that I was acting as both an internal education resource for Clio on lawyers, an external education resource for lawyers on Clio and cloud computing and focusing very heavily on building the most secure and compliant products for law firms, we really just felt that there was no existing term for what I do. And so I picked Lawyer in Residence, in part because I thought it gave me a lot of flexibility in how to approach my role and I have been right, I haven’t had to change my title in five years and yet my role has grown and progressed throughout all those five years. It has been an amazing time at Clio.
Monica Bay: Certainly is an interesting title. I am sure some of our readers might not be familiar with Clio; I am sure most of them are, but for the folks who might not know about it, can you tell us a little bit about how did you start, what is your goal and who are the folks that work with you or using your work?
Joshua Lenon: Sure. So Clio is a cloud-based practice management system. So it helps lawyers manage their case files, their contacts, their communications, their invoicing and billing and even their trust accounts. And what’s unique about it is it’s entirely cloud-based, so we run on a browser on your computer and on an app, on your mobile phone or on your tablet.
Now, Clio is probably the first cloud-based practice management solution to come to market. It was created back in 2008 by our Founders Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau, and they saw at the time that solo, small and boutique law firms really weren’t being catered to by the software industry. You had kind of the traditional providers and they had a one-size-fits-all solution that was designed for big law and priced for big law.
And so, anybody who wasn’t able to pay that price was just kind of left out in the cold. And working in concert with the Law Society of BC, it’s the Bar Association for British Columbia; they put together a little pilot project taking a look at some of the significant risk faced by smaller law firms.
For example, they are much more likely to have malpractice claims filed against them, and those malpractice claims focus on things like missed calendar dates and missed deadlines, miscommunication and a failure to necessarily comply with certain legal standards.
And Jack and Rian knew that not only could they build a tool to help with all of those problems, but by leveraging the cloud, they could make it a cost-effective program in a way that had never been available to solo and small law firms before.
So they launched the product back in 2008 at ABA TECHSHOW. They were immediately called crazy, dangerous, a threat to the legal profession and they knew they had a hit on their hands. Since then we have grown wildly. We have about 150,000 legal professionals using Clio right now in 78 countries around the world, where a member benefit with over 50 bar associations and law societies on three different continents now, I think three continents. And we are the largest and most widely used practice management system out there.
Monica Bay: Okay, the area has now become very mature. I have two questions. The first is who now are your competitors, and secondly, I use 365 with Microsoft and I love being on the cloud, absolutely love it, but how do you deal with when you do have that, how are you protecting it so that the bad guys can’t get into it and get your stuff?
Joshua Lenon: Certainly, okay. So let’s start with the first question, who do we consider our competitors? There are a lot of upstarts. We have even had customers of Clio go out and create exact clones of Clio and attempt to replicate our success.
We don’t actually consider the latecomers to be competition. For the most part, they are direct rip-off, they only compete on price and they don’t have the full support solution, the full security solution that we offer.
But I want to continue on the complication real quick and I will tell you whom we do consider competition. We consider the big two gorillas in legal technology space to be competition, so LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters. LexisNexis less so since they just canceled one of their competing products with us and Thomson Reuters we are competing against.
Now, this is the curious part, we are not competing against their practice management solution. We are competing against their Westlaw research engine, because that’s where they make their big bucks. And so they throw in a practice management solution as a loss leader to Westlaw, pay a lot of money for Westlaw; we will give you the practice management software. So we have to sell against Westlaw, not against their practice management solution. That’s been an interesting challenge.
Monica Bay: Okay, so let’s switch for a little bit here and you have your annual big event is coming up very, very shortly. So tell us a little bit about the conference.
Joshua Lenon: Thanks. So Clio is hosting our annual user conference. It’s called the Clio Cloud Conference, and I believe this is our fifth year, if you believe that. We started it in part because we were finding that a lot of our users really wanted to meet the people behind the product. We spend a lot of time interviewing our customers, learning what their needs are, working with them on support and training calls, and so there is a relationship that’s being built between a lot of lawyers and a lot of Clio team members. And we felt that it was time to start meeting them in person.
So we launched our first conference in Chicago and we only had about 150 people attend, which for us, we thought was a huge success. We had great speakers, including Ed Walters of Fastcase and a lot of interesting back and forth on learning about cloud technology, learning about the business of running a law firm and learning about using Clio to the full extent of the software.
Since then the Clio Cloud Conference has grown enormously. So this year we are going to have 1,000 lawyers in attendance. We are going to be in New Orleans in late September, and we are going to have, again, great speakers come and give talks on their area of expertise. So they may be great business people or great marketing people or great technology people and they will come, and these are keynote speakers at any other conference, holding intimate sessions with our attendees, and so you can learn a lot about the business of law.
It’s also a great way to network with other tech forward lawyers. So one of the things that’s become very interesting for us is we really enjoy the relationship that we have with the law firms that use Clio, but we are starting to see a network effect happen at this conference, where people come year after year to build relationships with similar practitioners, to build out their own referral networks, and to learn from each other as much as they learn from the speakers that Clio brings in.
And then the last track we have is what we call Clio University, where you can go to basic or advanced classes in Clio and learn how to really get your money’s worth from the software.
Monica Bay: So are most of the folks who are with you, are they small firm and solo practitioners primarily or is it a broader list than that?
Joshua Lenon: So it is broader, but I want to qualify that by saying Clio is customer-based, pretty much tracks the spread of lawyers, the distribution of lawyers amongst different size law firms, so there will be a lot of solos there just because there are a lot of solo lawyers, but you will also have lawyers all the way up to Am Law 100 attending the Clio Cloud Conference.
Monica Bay: And did you say that, I didn’t hear exactly what you said on, is your sixth year or did I mishear that in terms of the last one?
Joshua Lenon: I believe it’s our fifth year. I just did a quick count on my hands, and I believe this is our fifth Clio Cloud Conference.
Monica Bay: Okay, and I would assume that as you were mentioning that a good value on that, and I have heard about your thing from many years obviously, but quite a lot of companies now are doing this. I think it’s a smart move because it gets folks interacting with each other and you identified some of the positive things on that.
Joshua Lenon: Thank you. Yeah, the fact that people get to interact with each other, and we actually build that time in, so it’s not rush from session to session but instead really get to know lawyers from around the world, and learn from each other, because I think one of the big values. We also work really hard to bring speakers from outside of the kind of a normal legal conference circuit. We do have those experts as well. But we think that law is a multiple disciplinary activity. There is a lot to learn from people both who are lawyers and people who are doing great things outside of law that can be applied in law. So we work very hard to bring unique speakers that are coming from.
An example would be that we are bringing an astronaut to come and speak this year on what it took to become an astronaut to be one of the few people to slip the bounds of earth and how he has applied that same approach and attitude towards, well, his terrestrial activities and what we can learn from that. So it’s going to be an amazing talk.
And we also bring in speakers like Preet Bharara, the former US District Attorney who is known for prosecuting incredibly complex financial crimes and going against mobsters and other organized criminal activities, and what we can learn from his work on these incredibly complex legal situations and how he is continuing to carry professionalism forward in the practice of law both as a new law professor and as a former prosecutor.
Monica Bay: And I understand that you have some women speaking in that area as well, how about them?
Joshua Lenon: We do, yeah. So we actually find ourselves on making sure that we have a diverse speaker roster. For example, one of our keynote speakers is, I am going to totally mispronounce her name, and I apologize to her in advance, but, Haben Girma, and she is the first blind deaf attorney to graduate from Harvard Law School, and she is going to come and talk about the idea of accessibility, both for clients and how there are accessibility challenges in terms of accessing justice, but also for lawyers, and how the different challenges that each lawyer face are surmountable, and she will use her personal example to walk you through that.
We also work very hard to make sure that our session speakers are diverse as well and so we will have — I think we are going to have parity right now between women and minorities and your kind of normal White male speakers that you see in a lot of other conferences, because we want our conference to reflect legal profession and we know that the legal profession is more than just any single type of person, just like there is no single type of law.
Monica Bay: So going on to the import of the tech, I mean, it’s been such an interesting road I was the editor-in-chief of Law Technology News and I moved to New York in 1998, and it was an amazing opportunity, I mean, when I first got my ticket I did it on an electric typewriter, and the resistance to tech for such a long time is finally breaking down and the millennials are much, much better on understanding why it’s so crucial to have technology in it because otherwise it’s going to just collapse. How do you exploit that and how does that help the people who are using your systems and going to the conferences?
Joshua Lenon: So there still is a core group of lawyers who are resistant to add a new technology, and part of that is, I think the financial incentive to invest in technology for a lot of law firms is sometimes not fair. A lot of companies talk about efficiency so when you go by the hour, efficiency isn’t necessarily the thing that you focus on when making these types of financial decisions on investing in technology.
So Clio is actually really focused not on making you more efficient, we do that, but showing you how to apply modern technology to either improving your own personal experience in practicing or that of your clients. So an example that I can give is, we have a feature in the software where you can ask your clients to pay either a trust request so deposit directly in your trust account or pay an invoice using a built-in credit card solution, and what we have found is that the law firms that have taken up this solution tend to be paid 33% faster than lawyers who do not take up this solution. And that’s a statistic that we can demonstrate to show that investing in this technology gives you a better experience as a lawyer and your client as well, so you are not waiting for them to mail you a check, they are not having to go out and actually get a check, because many people just don’t even keep physical checks anymore, and instead, you are able to clear your accounts receivable quickly and easily and not have to worry about getting paid, but just focus on being a good lawyer and it’s that type of benefit that we are able to demonstrate and overcome people’s resistance into technology.
Monica Bay: So what was the decision to go to New Orleans?
Joshua Lenon: So we have been in Chicago for many years and Chicago, as you know, is quite a legal town with the American Bar Association being headquartered there, the ABA TECHSHOW happening there annually, a lot of people think of Chicago as the place to go and talk about legal, and it’s also, quite rightly, a central airport hub and we knew that making a conference successful early on meant reducing any friction in getting to it.
And now that we are a little bit more mature and we have grown up, we thought it was time for a change of pace to give people something new, especially for those who are returning, we have a very high return rate at the Clio Cloud Conference, as well it’s something exciting for people who have never attended before. So if Chicago wasn’t drawing them then let’s see where else we can go. In New Orleans, the Louisiana State Bar Association has always been a great friend of Clio. We have worked very closely with them and helping their attorneys who unfortunately had to deal with some really interesting challenges with certain types of like weather phenomenon over the last couple of years and things like that.
And so, their practice management advisor Shawn Holahan has been really a strong proponent lawyer investing in technology to both protect themselves and their clients from situations like that, and we have worked very closely with her. So when it came time to look around for a new location, Louisiana was one of the places that immediately sprang to mind.
It’s a vibrant city, phenomenal facilities for hosting a conference, a really great food scene, which is actually important to us at Clio. We are West Coast-based and we really enjoy good food and we knew that people will be excited to go there, so that’s why we changed.
Monica Bay: So we are running out of time, so is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you are burning to tell our audience?
Joshua Lenon: Oh yeah. There is so much more happening at the Clio Cloud Conference. It’s where Clio releases their big news every year, so I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you that just like last year, we are going to talk and go further in depth on our groundbreaking Legal Trends Report where we have 40,000 law firms contributing data, enabling us to make some really interesting analysis on what works for the practice of law and what doesn’t, and this year we are going deeper in that, we’ve got more data, more announcements.
Last year we announced our mysterious Project Apollo where we were going to be making some major changes to the structure and functionality of Clio and those are going to be revealed at the Clio Cloud Conference as well. And so we encourage people to attend. We are about 90% sold out right now, but there are a few tickets left. If you cannot attend, we will be live streaming our CEO’s opening keynote on Monday the 25th, so be sure to swing over to Clio, social media or our Facebook page and look for the announcement on that live stream and you will be able to watch it via YouTube.
Monica Bay: So Josh, I want to give you a chance to tell our readers how they can reach you?
Joshua Lenon: Certainly, so the best way to reach me is via Twitter. You can reach me at @JoshuaLenon, but I am also happy to connect via LinkedIn or you can e-mail me at HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]” [email protected].
Monica Bay: Joshua, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. And if you like what you heard today, and I sure hope you did, please rate us in Apple Podcast. We will see you next time in the next edition of Law Technology Now.
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Jared D. Correia: Hi. My name is Jared Correia. I love fondue, long walks on the beach, and I have a large collection of Grover Washington albums at my home.
Oh, I also host a podcast on Legal Talk Network called The Legal Toolkit, where we talk about law practice management issues and Warren Zevon every month. Check us out on iTunes, Stitcher or HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com”legaltalknetwork.com.