Missed deadlines are the number one cause of attorney malpractice claims. Fortunately, LawToolBox, a cloud based deadline management system, has the support and know-how to help. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Bob Ambrogi talks to the co-owners of LawToolBox, Jack and Carol-Lynn Grow, about what problems LawToolBox solves and what sets them apart from their competition. They discuss the importance of their integration with various practice management platforms (like Clio, Rocket Matter, and PracticePanther) and future improvements that are in the works.
Carol-Lynn Grow is the co-owner and VP of marketing and sales at LawToolBox where she manages strategic partnerships with platform companies like Microsoft as well as legal software companies.
Jack Grow developed and delivered Law Toolbox, a product to help lawyers automate deadlines based on rules promulgated by the courts in which they practice.
Law Technology Now
Mastering Deadlines with LawToolBox
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Bob Ambrogi: Welcome to Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. This is your host Bob Ambrogi. Today, we’re going to be talking to the founders and owners of LawToolBox. Carol Lynn Grow, the Co-Owner and Vice President of Marketing and Sales, and Jack Grow, President and CEO.
So let me welcome each of you to the show. Welcome Carol Lynn.
Carol Lynn Grow: Thank you. Very excited to be here today.
Bob Ambrogi: Nice to have you. And welcome Jack.
Jack Grow: Hi Bob. Thanks for having us.
Bob Ambrogi: Good to have both of you. I wanted to start by asking Carol Lynn to give us the nutshell. We are going to talk a lot about LawToolBox today, but give us the nutshell version. What does LawToolBox do?
Carol Lynn Grow: LawToolBox is a rules-based calendaring company. So we have been building out since technically the late 90s, court rule-sets initially, and essentially lawyers, paralegals, whether they’re in law firms or legal departments, all need to follow the rules of procedure, and our system automatically allows those folks to select a state and a rule set.
For example, New York Federal Court Southern District or Los Angeles County Superior Court and they can select any kind of a trigger date like a complaint or an answer in the case of a trial date. Our system in LA County will generate well over 60 deadlines that then automatically go into that attorney’s and the group of attorneys’ and paralegals’ calendars, whether they are in a case management system that then populates Outlook or Google or whether they’re using it directly inside of Outlook.
Bob Ambrogi: So Jack, you started this I think way back in 1997, if I have it right, I think I first became aware of you guys in around 2013 as far as I can recall from what I’ve written about you, but you’ve been around for quite a while and you were a practicing lawyer I think when you started this.
So what was the problem you saw or that you set out to solve with LawToolBox?
Jack Grow: Sure, yeah. so I was a litigation attorney at the largest litigation firm in Colorado and I remember sitting in my office and a senior partner walking down the hall and yelling out, I’ve got a deadline to respond to motion in Federal Court and someone would yell from their office, that’s 15 days and someone else would say at three days and then someone else would say no that State Court, Federal Court is 20 days.
So it is a totally chaotic system and we were actually managing deadlines in many ways better than a lot of other firms. We’d have an individual who is designated to solely keep track of deadlines and this person would walk around every morning, and put pink 03:30 reminders on our desks and that was his entire job. And I thought it was incredibly inefficient and kind of beyond that, the deadlines we would have strategic meetings every Wednesday, and the attorneys would sit around and a huge part of what we would talk about was how we could use the rules of procedure to basically set traps for other parties.
For example, in the medical malpractice action, someone would say, file a motion to dismiss the complaint. If there are new medical malpractice, plaintiff’s attorney they won’t know they need to file a stip and get a review, because they will think all the deadlines are stayed, or they will say, someone will say, I’m worried about my case being removed to Federal Court.
Someone else would say then send a courtesy copy of the complaint without filing in state or federal court and they’ll actually trigger the deadline to respond, and then if they move to respond once you — to remove, once you actually filed the complaint, you can ask for attorney’s fees, and I just thought that was an incredibly unfair and inefficient way of managing deadlines.
And around that time, the internet was born and all those ideas came together and with my obsessive personality, LawToolBox was born.
Bob Ambrogi: You actually got a patent, right, in 1999 on rules-based calendaring system?
Jack Grow: That is right. In 1998, applied for patent and that application sat there for four years. During that period of time, the patent office actually didn’t publish patents, so you didn’t know what else was there. So you would file it kind of blind, and it sat there for four years because they were trying to figure out what to do with that entire business class of patents. In 2002, 20-year patent was granted for us.
Bob Ambrogi: That’s pretty cool. I mean there’s nothing more scary for a lawyer than the prospect of a missed deadline or even worse actually, actually missing a deadline.
Jack Grow: Absolutely.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah. So tell a little bit more about how LawToolBox works? I mean there is both a cloud version, and an Office 365 integration. I mean let’s kind of start with I think the cloud version was the original product, how does that work?
Jack Grow: Sure. Well it’s a web app, meaning people come to our website, they sign-up for the service, and just like any other web application they reside entirely within their browser; whichever browser they want to use Mozilla, Chrome or even the Microsoft products. They come in there and they can come in and set up their law firms, set their users, set their matters and track all of their matter deadlines.
That same core concept applies also then to our Office 365 product which resides, resolves entirely within Outlook, inside of Office 365. And kind of the third way that we deliver deadlines is through APIs that we’ve been developing really since 2006.
Carol Lynn Grow: Right. And just to follow-up on that, the third way that those deadlines are getting delivered is through our partners, case management providers that focus on the legal industry.
So just to elaborate on that a little bit. Our niche is generating the rules-based deadlines; whether it’s litigation or corporate or regulatory, and the whole idea is that we make those deadlines available to attorneys wherever they are.
So if they’re using for example, Google or even Lotus Notes, and some of our customers are, they will be using our web-based platform and the system synchronizes into those calendars.
We also find that a lot of law firms out there are getting savvy and moving towards case management systems where they are managing all of their information in one place. So, in those instances, our customers are accessing those same court rules whether they’re for courts or even for transactional matters within a case management platform.
So as they’re creating their matter, they are able to select a rule set and then whenever there are deadlines that need to be generated, they’re sitting right there for them, they just simply click on the court deadlines and they choose complaint to answer motion and it just generates a deadline directly within the case management product and we leave it to the case management solution to then push all the deadlines out into individual calendars. So it really just depends on that organization and what they need.
Bob Ambrogi: So right now, you integrate with Clio, Rocket Matter?
Carol Lynn Grow: Yes.
Bob Ambrogi: PracticePanther?
Carol Lynn Grow: Also PracticePanther, yes, and there will be more announcements coming out in a week or two at ABA TECHSHOW, which we are very excited about.
Bob Ambrogi: More announcements, more integrations with practice management platforms?
Carol Lynn Grow: Exactly.
Bob Ambrogi: So talk about the Office 365 integration, a little bit more, because that’s I think really interesting application of your calendaring software; it almost takes what you do beyond calendaring, almost more into becoming a practice management application or a matter management application in and of itself in some ways.
Carol Lynn Grow: So when you think of where attorneys spend their day, they spend it in their Outlook inbox, really a lot of different types of professionals do.
Bob Ambrogi: Sadly, it’s true.
Carol Lynn Grow: Yes. So we’ve combined the idea of as emails are arriving, whether it’s opposing counsel or from the court, right at that point in time, you can simply select the matter on the right-hand tab of your Outlook inbox and do your calendaring, select the trial date. You get a notice that the trial date has been continued, you just simply click on the matter and type in the new date, and it instantly updates everybody’s calendar.
Our bread-and-butter, our focus, is really all about the deadlines and the calendaring, but if you think about the problem with using Outlook to manage your deadlines is that it’s not organized by matter. It’s a great place to get the deadlines where the attorneys want it. Ultimately, they want to see it on their phones and their Outlook follows them wherever they go.
But outlook inherently is not organized by matter and there’s also no way to generate reports to see what’s going on in this organization or this firm like, what malpractice providers look for is redundancy in those deadlines reporting, reminders all of those kinds of things.
So what we’ve done with our Office 365 solution is we’ve solved that problem of Outlook not having matter centricity and not having reporting and centralization.
So from that standpoint, our focus is really all about rules-based calendaring, but yes indeed Bob, we have created a structure where you’ve got matter-based place to take notes. For example, in OneNote, our system automatically provides basically a skin to pull up the matter in OneNote or a skin to pull up a shared Inbox that then organizes your attachments where you’re saving your emails associated with a matter, you’ve got a shortcut to just see all of the attachments associated with that matter.
We consider our solution very much of a best of breed for everything to do about managing the deadlines, whether that’s linking deadlines to documents and stay tuned for more information about what we’re doing to connect our deadlines with document management. And I’ll let Jack add a little bit to that.
Jack Grow: Yeah, let me just follow-up just a little bit on that. So what we have done is LawToolBox doesn’t store files, we don’t actually even have a calendar, but what we’ve done is create a tunnel from our product into different calendars and different files inside of the Microsoft environment.
And if you think about what almost every case management system out there has done, they’ve also created a way to sync their calendar and their files directly to Outlook. So what we’re doing is we’re using Microsoft as a bridge to connect all of that information directly to partners, through the LawToolBox365 approach.
Bob Ambrogi: Right, so you’re using the tools that are in Office 365, really to enhance what you’re able to deliver.
Jack Grow: Exactly. And we’ve been building those tools for almost five years now. So we’ve got a really sophisticated integration that, I mean we’ve literally just been working on straight for five years, and actually last year, we received an award from Microsoft for Most Business Value. We got a third place award there that we are really proud of.
Bob Ambrogi: You were the finalists for the People’s Choice Award, is that also right, or is that the same award you’re talking about?
Carol Lynn Grow: So the People’s Choice is part of the same kind of an award grouping, but the third place for Most Business Value is really a major one that Microsoft votes on, it was out of 1,700 applications. So it’s a pretty big deal, we were very excited. We got a lot of attention and additional support.
Jack Grow: And the People’s Choice was a separate award to be nominated for.
Bob Ambrogi: And does this is also work with Matter Center?
Carol Lynn Grow: So technically Matter Center, the concept is Microsoft, people live in Word and Office 365 is in the cloud. And all the collaboration if you’re doing it with an Office 365, you’re doing it all within the walls of the Office 365 environment. And so Matter Center made that matter centric.
So if you think about it what LawToolBox has done, is we’ve done the calendaring side of Matter Center, and if you look at what Matter Center is, that’s the document management side of Matter Center. And so, when you combine those two things together what you have is a solution that allows for a lawyer or a legal department; whether they’re a law firm or the legal department to manage their case information in a matter centric way.
So technically Matter Center is something that has been released in GitHub and there are companies out there that are building their own versions of Matter Center. So I guess I’m not technical but they’ve forked the technology from GitHub and then gone and created their own version of Matter Center.
So will we be integrating with those Matter Center solutions with our rules-based calendaring? Yes, we will be and I don’t know if that did it justice. I’ll let Jack jump in a little bit.
Jack Grow: Yeah sure. What I would just also add to that is on the day that Microsoft announced Matter Center a couple years ago, LawToolBox was the only company to actually announce an integration, and we had an app that worked directly with their Matter Center integration that we demonstrated at ILTA out in Vegas.
Bob Ambrogi: So I know that LawToolBox is certainly not the only rules-based calendaring program out there on the market, even though you’ve been around for a number of years. How do you distinguish your product from the others on the market? What’s the elevator pitch for why I should buy your product over something else that I could get?
Jack Grow: Sure. Well first, there’s the deadline content which is we feel like we’ve been developing it for a long time, but we’re more than just a deadline content company. We’re a tech company. So when you think about our 365 integration, when you think about our APIs, where partners can consume those, you can get our deadlines to partner products.
We have really over a number of years developed a number of different ways for people to consume those things. So when you consider our technology and our integrations with Microsoft, that’s a huge deal.
But building on top of that, we’ve since 2013, we become a managed partner of Microsoft and it is a very strong relationship and that has huge benefits not just for our partners but also for our customers. That as we are working together, we can actually use that network and have direct impact on the development of products. In the past two months, we’ve had four or five different suggestions or requests that we’ve made to Microsoft where they’ve actually made modifications to Office 365 and pushed those changes out worldwide.
So we have an ability to kind of work with them that is very unique in our industry. I think our reseller network is really broad and with the reason that’s important for our customers is that it opens up the expertise that they can take advantage of, it’s much broader than if we’re just solely and exclusively doing direct sales.
Our great partners in legal set us apart I believe. So in addition to buying directly from LawToolBox, you can buy LawToolBox through partner products. I think that is a huge deal. And we’ve got wonderful partners and I think they’re just innovative and energetic and that’s really exciting.
The last thing that I would kind of point out, this is my own personal thing is at LawToolBox, I think we have just a wonderful core team and I think that really kind of shines through in our product and relationships and I think that’s a huge deal for our customers as well in offering that type of support.
Carol Lynn Grow: Yeah and just to jump off a little bit on the core team, that’s obviously the cornerstone of any company, and it carries through to this whole concept of when we look at rules-based calendaring, we break it out into three categories. You’ve got court rules calendaring, which is a thing, people all know and think about that.
But when you look at court rules calendaring that can break down into specialty practice areas or there’s a particular county in South Dakota or something where there’s local rules or county specific rules. What we do is we are very nimble and quick to provide if there ever is calculations related to deadlines that are unique to a county or a judge. Those are very easy for us to make available to our clients.
Similarly, let’s say they have some unique practice area. We can very quickly provide a rule set for any type of repeatable deadline, whether it’s court related or regulatory or transactional in nature.
An example that kind of came out of the meetings at Legaltech, New York was a GDPR rule set. So we’re very excited about what we’re doing with the enterprise level corporate legal department solutions, the way we’re integrated into the Office 365 stack for legal that is really focused on compliance and records management. And we think that a system to automate GDPR processing is also a great example of how we can easily provide solutions that make sense to the industry.
Bob Ambrogi: My firm likes to customize its deadlines for certain kinds of matters. Can you help me with that?
Carol Lynn Grow: Sure absolutely. So our technology allows us to at the same time that we provide out-of-the-box rules, we have Build-Your-Own Rulesets, or Build-Your-Own Ruleset can be just a customization of an existing rule set. We’ve done that for insurance companies, we’ve done it for legal departments, we’ve done administrative rule sets.
So we can absolutely do all of that.
Jack Grow: Yeah, in other words just to follow up on that, we have the ability to roll out a calculator that is available only to a specific firm and nobody else. So we can say this firm has this custom calculator that they’re using and they can access it through any of the different ways that people use LawToolBox, whether it’s the Web-App or Outlook Add-In or through our APIs.
Bob Ambrogi: What happens — I’ve got calendar set up for a particular attorney in my firm but that attorney is leaving, what happens then?
Carol Lynn Grow: So when an attorney leaves the system will automatically remove the deadlines for Attorney A and allow Attorney B to be added to those deadlines and everything is automatic. And in fact, when attorneys leave a firm, if the office administrator allows them to take cases with them, we also provide the technology to let them bring cases with the permission of the office administrator to their new practice.
In fact, we’ve gotten a great deal of business from that.
Bob Ambrogi: So we’ve talked about a bunch of different features of LawToolBox, are there other features that we haven’t talked about that either of you wanted to highlight?
Carol Lynn Grow: Sure. So I’ll just highlight that our integration with our partners, bringing the rules-based calendaring into their case management system and the technology to make that seamless and ideal for the end users, I think has been a very exciting thing for our company and our people to see that all in action.
On the Office 365 standpoint integration, I don’t know how familiar the industry is with Office 365 groups but we have fully leveraged Office 365 groups, which is how we have created our native integration inside of Office 365. But we also have versions where our system doesn’t create an Office 365 group, for example, in corporate legal, where a legal department is connecting when they create a matter in their Outlook Inbox using our system. They’re connecting to their own internal groups or SharePoint sites.
So that technology is new and very exciting and part of our enterprise solution for corporate legal. And then similarly we’ve held on to a version of our LawToolBox365 solution that doesn’t even rely on groups. So people can just continue to use our rules-based calendaring inside of Office 365 in the traditional way.
I’ll let Jack give a little bit of a preview to what we’re doing in the area of Microsoft Teams and Bots.
Jack Grow: Yes, one of the things that we’re really excited about right now and that we’re working on getting released here in the next week or two into the Microsoft marketplace is a Bot for the Microsoft Teams product, that would allow people to stock directly to it to pull up deadline reports, and get information on matters and do a number of different things from inside of that environment. And again, that is just leveraging kind of that Microsoft ecosystem to tie into the same database that drives all of our different products.
Another thing that we’re doing that we’re really excited about is we have a ton of data in our system and our EULA contracts allow us to kind of anonymize this data and draw inferences. And so one of the things we’re doing is we are kind of surfacing business intelligence for things like what’s the estimated length from commencement to trial for this particular venue or what’s the average length of a motion in this particular Los Angeles Superior Court, something like that. So we’re really excited about that.
Bob Ambrogi: That’s pretty cool. How will people get that? Is that going to be something you’re going to add on to the product or will that will be something that’s available to your subscribers?
Jack Grow: It’s going to be surfaced inside of our existing products, whether it’s the Web-App, Office 365 or customers that are consuming our deadline product through third-party products using our APIs, we’re going to surface it in all three areas. So everybody’s going to get it. We’re not going to charge additional money for that.
Bob Ambrogi: So what does it cost me to use your product?
Carol Lynn Grow: So with our partnership and our go-to-market with our partners, with our case management provider partners and with Microsoft, we’ve really transitioned towards an easier pricing model that’s based on the user.
So for example, a law firm paying for it on an annual upfront type basis would be $36 per user, per month for a single seat, 29 for 2 to 9 seat licenses, 10 to 19 goes down to 27 and then we’re down to $19 for up to 80. So it is a per user per month charge.
Bob Ambrogi: All right, great. I wanted to just transition briefly before we wrap up and Carol Lynn, ask you about a couple of things I know that you’ve been involved in recently both in working to encourage perhaps greater involvement, greater visibility for Women in Technology. Also, I know that you’re involved with a Microsoft community called Voices for Innovation.
But let’s start with Women in Technology, you want to tell us a little bit about what you’re doing in that area?
Carol Lynn Grow: Sure. Thank you. So I have just over the course of the years, I have just started to notice in kind of more senior level type, I recently had a chance to get involved in some board type relationships and noticing just not very many women at the table at these types of events.
And similarly, I have a 19 year old daughter who is excited about technology but just really wanting to see more women engagement and in leadership roles in technology because we are in a digital transformation. And I’ve just recently started a group in Denver with the International Association of Channel Partners with Microsoft, just founded a Denver WIT Group and have been doing some amazing things with that group; bringing coding clubs, parent led coding clubs to the school district that my 9-year-old son is at. And we’re hoping to see that grow connected at the Legaltech New York event with 23:22 over at Above the Law, and we talked about how we wished that there had been an opportunity for all of these really amazing women to get together and network, really start to do business together.
And we decided we’d make that happen at ABA TECHSHOW, so we’re excited to have pulled together an amazing group of a bunch of women that are leaders at ABA TECHSHOW to really try to bring together the newer women, starting to get involved in Legaltech and start getting to know each other, and sharing business cards and leads in business.
So very excited about that.
Bob Ambrogi: So that’s the opening night of TECHSHOW, March 7th.
Carol Lynn Grow: Yes, that’s right. Thank you. March 7, it’s actually to women-owned business called the Boarding House. So I hope that all of the women out there in technology can come to that. You don’t have to be part of ABA TECHSHOW to come and we’ve got a link on our site and I know Above the Law does as well to go register, and all the donations go to an organization to protect women against domestic violence type issues.
Bob Ambrogi: Awesome. Great, great.
Carol Lynn Grow: So it offers promoting women. And the other question you asked about was Voices for Innovation, I had a chance to go with the group of CEOs, 30 CEOs in July to the White House that were all Microsoft partners, really talking about what’s going on with data privacy issues.
And was just recently invited to join a board on a group called Voices for Innovation, came back from Washington DC last week for my first meeting there and I’m kind of driving the Women in Technology initiative and advocacy for that group and very excited about being part of that and really trying to raise awareness, getting more educational opportunities for our younger, especially the elementary school age group to get involved in technology early.
So that girls in their middle school and high school years are not as self-conscious about finding that seat at the coding table and diving into technology.
Bob Ambrogi: Well congratulations to you on everything that you’re doing in those areas. We’re just about out of time, but Jack, let me give you a chance to have any final words before we wrap up, anything else you’d like to say about LawToolBox or anything else in the world?
Jack Grow: Well, that’s pretty broad. Bob, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and talk to you about all these issues. We are extremely excited about not just what has happened in the past year; but this next year, I really feel is going to be explosive for us.
We had so many things going on and it’s so exciting and so many great partners and great people that we work with that it’s just going to be an exciting year and we are thrilled.
Bob Ambrogi: Well I’m looking forward to following it, and following future developments and congratulations on all your success up to this point. And of course, listeners can find out more about what you’re doing at LawToolBox.com. We’ve been talking this half-hour with Carol Lynn Grow; the Co-Owner and Vice-President of Marketing and Sales, and Jack Grow; the President and CEO of LawToolBox.com.
Thanks a lot to both of you for taking the time to be with us today.
Jack Grow: Thank you, Bob.
Carol Lynn Grow: Thank you. It’s great.
Bob Ambrogi: And that does it for this episode of Law Technology Now. On behalf of everybody at the Legal Talk Network, this is Bob Ambrogi, thanks for listening.
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