Neil J. Squillante is the founder and publisher of TechnoLawyer, an award-winning network of free email newsletters for lawyers...
Adriana Linares is a law practice consultant and legal technology coach. After several years at two of Florida’s largest...
Lawyers, if you’re looking for a new tech product or don’t know what you might be missing, tune in for some great ideas. In this episode of New Solo, host Adriana Linares talks to Neil Squillante of TechnoLawyer about TL NewsWire’s top 25 products awards. The top-25 list, determined by reader interest, gives a wide-ranging look at the most useful and sought-after tech products and services for the legal industry.
TL NewsWire’s Top 25 Products Awards
Intro: So you are an attorney and you have decided to go out on your own, now what? You need a plan and you are not alone. Join expert host Adriana Linares and her distinguished guests on New Solo. Tune into the lively conversation as they share insights and information about how to successfully run your law firm, here on Legal Talk Network.
Adriana Linares: Hello and welcome to another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I’m Adriana Linares, I am your host. I am a legal technology trainer and consultant and I help lawyers and law firms use technology better.
Today is going to be a great episode. I’m very excited about today’s guest Neil Squillante from TechnoLawyer and I’m of course having a great day, because this is my week at the San Diego County Bar Association, so that’s where I’m recording from today.
But before we get started, I want to make sure and thank our sponsors.
Thanks to our sponsor Clio. Clio’s cloud-based practice management software makes it easy to manage your law firm from intake to invoice. Try it for free at Clio.com.
LAWCLERK is where attorneys hire freelance lawyers. There are no signup or monthly fees, only pay the flat fee price you set, increase your profits, not your overhead. Learn more at lawclerk.legal. And they are offering a rebate for New Solo listeners, that’s a $300 rebate after your first project and you will use the code New Solo 300 to get that. Thank you to them for that.
We would like to welcome our new sponsor CourtFiling.net, eFile court documents with ease in California, Illinois, Indiana and Texas. If you file in Los Angeles Superior Court, you know that eFiling has recently become mandatory and CourtFiling.net is there to help.
All right, got through that administrative stuff. Hey Neil.
Neil Squillante: Hey, hey Adriana.
Adriana Linares: How are you?
Neil Squillante: Good. Glad to be here. It’s my debut on New Solo.
Adriana Linares: I know I can’t believe I haven’t had you on before. I should have you on as a regular especially considering some of the things we’re going to talk about today. So I’m sorry I missed you in New York City at Legalweek last week. How was it?
Neil Squillante: It was great. You missed out on some good parties, good events and a great trade show actually.
Adriana Linares: You know, I don’t know if I’ve told you this or if you’ve heard this from me before but I call myself a Floridiot, because I’m Floridian and I don’t travel well into cold weather and I’m always ill-prepared as far as clothing goes. So I had planned to be there, you and I actually planned to host some wine outing together and when I looked at the weather, I flew, so I left San Diego, flew to Las Vegas for the ABA mid-year meeting and to see Van Morrison in concert.
And then looked at the weather in New York and said, I am not going to expose myself to that weather. So literally because it was cheaper to do this flew to JFK from Las Vegas, sat in the airport for three hours and hopped on, on airplane back to Florida.
Neil Squillante: That is actually the best way to experience winter in New York, is indoors.
Adriana Linares: Could not bring myself because people say well, you won’t spend that much time outside but the thing is you do, even just waiting for the cab outside of JFK I was like forget it, I’m just going to go to where it’s warm, and it was beautiful down there. So I’m bummed that I missed all the activity and I loved that week and all the stuff that happened, so maybe next year.
Neil Squillante: We’ll see you next year.
Adriana Linares: Yeah for sure next year. I wish they would move it to June or July that damn conference.
Neil Squillante: Or to Las Vegas.
Adriana Linares: Gosh yeah, San Diego, Orlando, how about New Orleans, we do good conferencing in New Orleans. Neil, tell our listeners in case they haven’t heard of TechnoLawyer, which would be crazy if they haven’t. By the way listeners if you have not gone to technolawyer.com and subscribed, please do that while you’re listening to this episode unless you’re driving.
But Neil, tell us a little bit about TechnoLawyer and what it does for the industry and how readers can subscribe and the newsletters and all that, because it’s such a great resource.
Neil Squillante: Sure. Thank you. TechnoLawyer is in my opinion the leading resource for lawyers and others in the industry interested in topics like legal technology, law firm management, marketing, all the associated things with running a law firm. And we publish a bunch of email newsletters for lawyers and what we do is we curate the legal web for you.
So our newsletters are the only ones you need pretty much. By the way, we link to virtually all the Legal Talk Network podcasts in our various newsletters.
Adriana Linares: Yes, and then they go to technolawyer.com, create an account and then just through a very simple checklist can check all of the email newsletters that they would like delivered to their inbox.
Neil Squillante: Exactly. And the price is right too, it’s free.
Adriana Linares: It’s free. And then tell us a little bit about what those different publications are?
Neil Squillante: Yeah, well let me start with the one we’re going to focus on today, TL NewsWire, we refer to that as the gold standard in legal technology journalism, and you’ll see why in a few minutes, but we cover new products in depth in that newsletter. So it’s the best way to stay on top of what’s going on in product development for lawyers.
And another interesting newsletter that you used to be involved with Adriana is BlogWorld, which is our newsletter that keeps you apprised of everything that’s going on in legal technology and the larger technology world as well; everything from iOS tips to the latest laptop reviews, to law practice management tips and so on and so forth.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, that’s one of my favorites. I curate myself a lot of articles or I should say I try to tweet, re-tweet and I’ve got a couple of places where all those things go and I always just go straight to BlogWorld, why would I bother calling the entire Internet for the best articles of the week when it comes to legal technology and practice management when I can just open up BlogWorld. So yeah, that’s definitely one of my favorites. Well good.
Neil Squillante: Thank you. Yeah. Not only that but we also categorize everything for you. So this way if your only interest is practice management, you can go right to that section.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I agree. It’s really, really well done. So good and you’re right, the price is right, it’s free, we love it. All right, so let’s talk about TL NewsWire, this is very cool it’s going to be — we’re going to talk about your Top 25 Product Awards for 2019 and tell us a little bit about how this list of award winners comes about.
Neil Squillante: Sure. Well, we got together in smoke filled room – no, I’m just kidding. Actually we at TechnoLawyer have nothing to do with these awards really accept to just count up all the votes. So the way this works is in each issue of TL NewsWire, we, as I mentioned, report in depth on a new product and by new product it can be a new version of an existing product, and of course, in these articles we link to that product’s website.
These links are trackable and so as our subscribers read these articles and then click on these links they’re actually voting, and they don’t even realize they’re voting. So these awards — we count up all those clicks and the 25 products with the most clicks win the TL NewsWire Top Products Award.
And the great thing about it is that this is a true grassroots award that reflects genuine interest among the subscribers.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I love it. It’s like an interest meter for your readers.
Neil Squillante: Yeah exactly, that’s a great term.
Adriana Linares: And you have — about how many contributors do you think, not contributors but readers are clicking through you, because you’ve got a really great reader base.
Neil Squillante: TL NewsWire has about a little more than 10,000 subscribers. As far as the click data that’s confidential, but a lot of people do click on these articles and of course, as people will see today, we’re going to talk about 25 that have got the most clicks.
Adriana Linares: Yeah well great. Let’s get started, let’s start with, let’s countdown, like I was thinking we should count up in the irreverent way that I do a lot of things, but oh that would be so anti-climatic. So let’s countdown Number 25.
Neil Squillante: Number 25, Amicus Attorney, and this is one of three awards for AbacusNext, which a few years ago acquired Amicus Attorney. So Amicus Attorney is one of the godfathers of practice management.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, definitely OG.
Neil Squillante: Yes, what’s OG?
Adriana Linares: An Original Gangster, don’t worry, I just learned that myself when somebody called me that.
Neil Squillante: I need to study up on my pop culture reference.
Adriana Linares: Definitely, so an OG of practice management programs, Amicus Attorney without a doubt.
Neil Squillante: Yeah and now that they’re in the AbacusNext family, they’ve been able to add a bunch of new features that platform provides such as you’re able to host it in applicant’s private cloud, which is a sort of desktop in a cloud environment. You can take client payments through Abacus Payment Exchange.
Now, it has court rules through Abacus Court Rules, but most significantly and the primary reason for their award is they launched a mobile app that runs on iPhone and Android.
Adriana Linares: Oh excellent.
Neil Squillante: And the cool thing about it is you can record calls and email messages and record the time you spent on them and automatically create a time record.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. Okay sounds good. What about Number 24?
Neil Squillante: 24 is TimeSolv, this is cloud billing software. So if your firm has complex billing needs, chances are TimeSolv can handle it. I recently had dinner with the CEO guy named Raza Hasan and really interesting back story.
TimeSolv was originally owned by Thomson Reuters and Raza was working there as a product manager and he got together with some outside investors, acquired TimeSolv and he’s been the CEO ever since. This is many years ago and ever since then, he’s grown it into one of the leading billing products out there.
What’s also really interesting about TimeSolv, particularly for small firms that really don’t have the resources to hire an entire back-office and perhaps are struggling to find a good bookkeeper who understands the legal market, is they have something called TimeSolv Outsourced Legal Billing, which can actually become your back-office and mail bills to clients and if you have large clients that use eBilling system like LEDES they can even submit your bills to that, to the LEDES system.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. I love that sort of service. I will tell lawyers and clients as much as you can outsource what you can, that makes sense and that sounds like a great solution. So —
Neil Squillante: Yeah, and they have you approve everything before everything goes out. So it’s almost as if it you really do have your own back office working for you.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. Well great. If that sounds like something of interest to y’all please go take a look at that, because I know a lot of firms aren’t able to collect what’s due to them, because they just can’t get the bills out.
Neil Squillante: Yes, that is important.
Adriana Linares: Tell me about Number 23.
Neil Squillante: Number 23, DocMoto 4.0. This is a Mac-based document management system and I recently interviewed the CEO Neil Cameron for a Learned Paper. Learn Papers are research reports they’re in my opinion the best research reports in the industry. And the interesting thing that I learned as far as this company’s back story is that a lot of their customers are new law firms and these law firm founders know one thing when they start their law firm, they don’t want to use Windows and so they use a Mac in their new law firms.
But then they eventually realized that the Finder which is sort of the underlying visual environment for Macs is not a very robust document management system. So they look around and DocMoto pretty much has a monopoly.
Adriana Linares: Excellent.
Neil Squillante: It’s document management for Macs. So anyway with Version 4 they added a more Finder like interface and also very sophisticated email filing, so you can automatically file email messages in your document management system.
Adriana Linares: From within mail I take it.
Neil Squillante: Actually it’s at the server level.
Adriana Linares: Oh excellent, okay. I’m going to remind my listeners that I am a huge advocate, if not total pusher, for sophisticated document management system in a law firm whether you are one or 100.
So if you’re a Mac user please take a look at this product. It sounds like it’s going to solve a lot of problems. If you’re a solo I feel like it’s okay, you can kind of get away for a minute without a document management system but the minute you add a second person even if it’s a part-timer assistant or anything like that, I just think good document management is critical. So please look into sophisticated document management systems; Finder, Explorer, those aren’t going to cut it, Dropbox doesn’t cut it. OneDrive and Google Drive they don’t cut it.
Please look at specific products built for lawyers and helping you manage your documents better.
Okay, Number 22 also in a critical part of managing your law firm?
Neil Squillante: Yes. This is a Florida company.
Adriana Linares: Are they?
Neil Squillante: Yeah. This is Nordic Backup, and really interesting philosophy behind their software. Their philosophy is yes, of course, they’re called Nordic Backup so they take care of backing up your data including open databases like Outlook and QuickBooks, which some products don’t do. But their philosophy is that they focus really and they are chief differentiators on the restoration side, because let’s face it.
You could take an external hard drive, plug it in and copy all your files over right, so that’s a backup, essentially. Not as sophisticated of course. But the hard problem is what happens if you need to restore 5, 10, 15 PCs quickly because you’re out of out of business otherwise, and thanks to incorporating ShadowProtect, which is the leading restoration software, you can get up and running quickly with Nordic Backup. Not just after something like a natural disaster but also as after a ransomware attack.
Adriana Linares: Right. That’s exactly what I was thinking. Okay, well good. That sounds great, and then 21?
Neil Squillante: AbacusLaw. So this is the second award for AbacusNext, and this is a practice. This is also a no gee, I suppose, practice management product.
So because it’s on the AbacusNext platform, you can host it in Abacus private cloud. It has court rules, and one of its chief differentiators is with regard to intake. AbacusLaw has what’s called Practice Area Solutions or PALS for short, and these are very practice areas specific workflows to make sure you don’t miss anything in a typical personal injury case or real estate transaction, whatever your law firm does. These are checklists, documents et cetera that automate the processes.
Adriana Linares: Can you tell me the main difference like why would a lawyer choose between either Amicus or AbacusLaw? Are they similar or different?
Neil Squillante: Well, they’re similar with regard to their core feature sets.
Adriana Linares: Okay.
Neil Squillante: I think they where they do differ, for example, if intake is very important to you, you have a high volume personal injury practice, then AbacusLaw might make more sense, and there are probably various other reasons once you explore the products.
Adriana Linares: Great. Excellent. That’s right because they’ve got the Practice Area Legal Solutions so they do have those practice areas. So you might go look at them and see if they’ve built a PALS for your area of practice. That sounds good.
Neil Squillante: 20, this is the first of two awards for NetDocuments, which I know you know well, that product well.
Adriana Linares: I love NetDocuments.
Neil Squillante: Yeah, NetDocuments is likely the leading cloud document management system, speaking of document management, obviously that’s a topic that runs through these awards. And there was a product out there called KM Thread, which was essentially sort of like — if you’re familiar with Microsoft Teams or Slack, these are internal chat systems and Thread KM was similar except focused on the legal market.
It was acquired by NetDocuments and now it’s called ndThread and the big advantage of using ndThread instead of something like Slack is that your conversations, your chat conversations get stored in NetDocuments in the right matter.
So this way nothing is an information silo.
Adriana Linares: We should say to just out loud in order to get ndThread you’ve got to be a subscriber to NetDocuments to start, so you can’t get ndThread without NetDocuments guys.
Neil Squillante: That’s right.
Adriana Linares: Which I love and again, back to that conversation about practice management programs and again if you’re a solo or small firm don’t think for one second that these products are unattainable, that they’re too expensive, they’re actually all reasonably priced as far as the document management systems go.
So definitely look into those.
Okay, Number 19, another one of my favorites.
Neil Squillante: 19, Casetext, yeah, there is a lot of activity and startup companies in the legal research space and Casetext is one of them, and they eliminate the need in many cases to have to formulate your own search queries which is one of the most difficult things about legal research and one of the most time-consuming things.
So instead they’ve built an AI system called CARA, and what you do is let’s say you get a brief from opposing counsel, you simply upload that and in an instant, CARA in Casetext spits out all the cases in that brief but also additional related cases that perhaps opposing counsel is hoping you won’t find or that opposing counsel didn’t find that may help you make better arguments in your brief.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. I call Casetext another one of my favorites and it is, but when it comes to the legal research world, I feel like all the new and “alternative legal research tools” are my favorites. There’s just so much good stuff going on in that world.
Neil Squillante: Yeah, and by the way one other cool thing. I was a Managing Editor on the UCLA Law Review and Casetext may very well put managing editors of Law Reviews out of business, because when you copy say a quote from a case, you can copy the Bluebook citation, so you don’t have to formulate the Bluebook citation yourself anymore.
Adriana Linares: It’s brilliant. I love it. All right, Number 19 now. This is one of those ones I’ve never heard of.
Neil Squillante: This Number 18.
Adriana Linares: 18, sorry, sorry.
Neil Squillante: NOVO Compare. If you are exchanging complex documents like contracts with clients or other lawyers, you eventually might run into some limitations or annoyances with Microsoft Word’s built-in track changes and so when you go out to look for a more robust document comparison product, you’re going to find three or four products out there and they’re all very good and the differentiator for NOVO Compare is that’s actually the lowest priced product out there, so it may appeal to your audience of solos and small firms.
And one of the cool things about it is that number one, you can magnify the changes which is speaking of vision issues for middle-aged people, like us, and you can also very quickly — if you have a lot of documents to compare, let’s say you get three versions back from different people, there’s a tool called QuickCompare, so you can rapidly get those comparisons running.
Adriana Linares: This thing sounds awesome. Can I tell a personal story real quick? So my boyfriend is a lawyer and gets very complex commercial leases back and forth and a couple of days ago, he just uses Word’s native compare, which for the most part is really fine, you know how what you’re doing, and you know how it works, it’s fine.
But for some reason it kept crashing, kept crashing, we couldn’t figure out the problem was, and I said well, let me look at the document right. So I look and there’s a giant table in it, and that’s where Word just couldn’t — like it threw up, could not stomach this giant table. So what was interesting was when we changed the view instead of being in like layout view which is the normal view where you can see the page breaks and the headers and footers, we just switched it over to what they now call Web layout but it was called draft mode and then it ran.
So anyway, long story short, I sent this to him and I said please go buy this for $99, because this looks great, sounds great and for $99, why wouldn’t you even just try it, that just — it’s just so reasonably priced.
So that’s great and I’m excited to hear about the QuickCompare that sounds like a very good product. Very reasonably priced.
Neil Squillante: And one thing with tables too is there can be a lot of spacing issues with tables and Microsoft Word might pick those up as changes when you go back and forth.
Adriana Linares: Right.
Neil Squillante: And Microsoft Word might pick those up as changes when you go back and forth, but they’re really not changes at all and NOVO Compare will ignore that stuff.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. That sounds like a great product. It’s on my list to learn more. Tell me about Number 17.
Neil Squillante: 17 SimplyAgree. So, back in the day when I was a young lawyer, FedEx had a cottage industry for deal closings, because lawyers would have to overnight signature pages to all the party signing an agreement. Email eventually killed that business for FedEx, but email only solved the problem of having to get to FedEx by 9 o’clock. It didn’t really solve the organization problem.
Things are still all over the place very hard to project manage. So what SimplyAgree does is it centralizes all of the closing signature pages into a cloud app so that you can see who assigned, who needs to be nagged again and so forth, and then when everyone has signed all the signature pages, you can with one click create a closing binder to send everyone.
Adriana Linares: I love that.
Neil Squillante: So it solves, it’s a very simple tool that that solves an important issue because obviously half the lawyers in this country are negotiating deals for a living.
Adriana Linares: Yeah no kidding, no, that’s great, I love that one too, it’s on my list. Number 16, I just had the founder of Number 16 on my last podcast.
Neil Squillante: Yeah, and I saw the founder at Legaltech actually and if you were there, we could have all met up together.
Adriana Linares: Had I only made it.
Neil Squillante: So next year. Yeah, no Lawmatics is a really interesting product, it’s the only one of its kind as far as I know in the legal industry. So, people have probably heard of Salesforce and various other products out there that fall under the term marketing automation. What these products do and they can get very expensive are things like drip campaigns for example, a prospect fills out a form on your website and then you send that person a series of email messages to qualify them without having to waste any of your human resources on that person until they become a qualified lead.
So it’s very cool stuff, but it can get very expensive and none of those products out there care about the legal market or know anything about it. So what Lawmatics is, it’s a marketing automation except designed for the needs of law firms. It’s also much cheaper than many of the products out there, which is great.
And for example, it can do drip campaigns, but in addition, because it’s focused on a legal market, when a person become — converts from becoming a lead to becoming a client, it can actually send that person an engagement letter to sign.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, it’s brilliant and so Matt Spiegel who’s the Founder had originally gotten broken into the legal technology world by developing MyCase, which he ultimately sold and then came back into the industry with this product and I think it’s well-designed and it’s priced affordably. So that’s a great product to have on your list.
Neil Squillante: Number 15, Firm Central so this is a Thomson Reuters’ product and it’s emblematic of an important trend going on in practice management software. And this is what I call the new development of all-in-one practice management systems. So these are your core practice management features and billing of course, but also full financial accounting.
So in other words, a replacement for QuickBooks. And the advantage of all these products cropping up that include accounting is that when — because they’re under the same umbrella as all your client data, the accounting system can do a lot more because it knows a lot more about your firm than QuickBooks ever could.
And so, to give you an example in Firm Central which now includes accounting, there’s a feature called Auto-Posting, which can automatically post client payments into all the proper accounts automatically without your back-office having to do any of that work.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. You know when I talk to lawyers who are looking for an all-in-one, it’s the biggest problem right now in the chasm of practice management programs which is if you pick what I refer to as a modern practice management program, it’s going to be cloud-based but it’s not going to be an all-in-one for the most part.
Actually you had on last year’s TL NewsWire Top 25, CosmoLex, which CosmoLex is one of the few cloud-based practice management programs that includes accounting. And so this is the problem I get into as a consultant is when they call and they go well, we want something that’s an all-in-one and then point them to cloud base and then they’re not, so you’ve got to add on QuickBooks, like you said.
And so I will always say I know believe me, I can’t believe it either, it’s 2018 or 2019 and we still don’t have a lot of good modern all-in-one solutions. So this sounds like something that firms who are looking for something like that can take a look at.
Real quick though, this is probably going to be Windows based and desktop, right?
Neil Squillante: No, no, this is cloud.
Adriana Linares: Oh it’s cloud. Okay good, okay cloud, cloud. Oh excellent.
Neil Squillante: Yeah. My take on this is Thomson Reuters owns ProLaw which is a legacy product, it’s for accounting and so forth. Firm Central is their more modern cloud-based product that runs just in any web browser.
Adriana Linares: Oh great okay.
Neil Squillante: And one thing to add on this topic because it is an important topic. I’m very bullish on all-in-one products and I think that’s where we’re headed. The only thing holding them back is accounting firms, because CPAs want QuickBooks.
Adriana Linares: They do.
Neil Squillante: And they can strong-arm a lot of law firms into using QuickBooks or thinking they need to use QuickBooks.
Adriana Linares: Right, and I’ll tell you one of the things I see with my clients a lot which makes me come unglued is the accountants that won’t go to QuickBooks Online. And I’ve had two firms in the past six months that were forced by their accountant to buy QuickBooks desktop, where now you run into a different problem where if you have gone to a cloud-based practice management program, it’s not going to work with desktop, it’s going to go to online.
So yeah, I think the accountants are definitely doing a lot of the blocking sometimes when it comes to these especially if you’re a smaller firm and you kind of are at the mercy of your accountant. Pushback you guys, hold your ground.
Neil Squillante: Since you mentioned that let me put in a quick plug for CohnReznick, which is our accounting firm.
Adriana Linares: Sure.
Neil Squillante: And we use QuickBooks Online, we’re not a law firm obviously, so QuickBooks is the best fit for us and they have a login and they can access our data anytime they want. So they are totally on board with at least that aspect of modern accounting.
Adriana Linares: I love it. How do you spell it?
Neil Squillante: C-O-H-N-R-E-Z-N-I-C-K.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. Okay Number 14.
Neil Squillante: Number 14 is Clio, which is a product you know well and actually I’ve worked with quite a bit. I’m sure you know better than I do, so I should probably turn this over to you, but let me — some interesting things going on at Clio, so of course Clio is the 800-pound gorilla of cloud practice management.
You ask around the industry including our competitors and they — and people will say that Clio is the biggest product out there. They recently got into the client intake game when they acquired Lexicata. So this is that important part of the process right when a lead becomes a client.
So last month, they actually split the product in two. So now they have something called Clio Grow, you could probably speak more to this than I can, but my take is, my understanding is Clio Grow is using Lexicata technology for client intake and then the core product that was always known as Clio is now called Clio Manage. And if you use them together it’s called now Clio Suite.
But anyway, the reason for this award, this is for Clio Manage and because of new features like Outlook Integration, Batch Billing where they actually went and spent time in 60 different law firms to figure out how law firms send bills out and also the Add Time Tool for capturing un-billed activities.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. So Clio has long been one of my favorites as well and it’s a lot of that has to do with the fact that I go back in time as far with Clio as I do with TechnoLawyer. So I have just known the product for really long time. But I will say and I always say with all honesty that the document management system that’s built into Clio is awful. It’s basically a flat document management system. Of course, it integrates with Dropbox and OneDrive and Google Drive and all that. But I rarely install Clio into a law firm without NetDocuments for the most part.
So if you haven’t taken a look at a cloud-based practice management program and Clio is on your shortlist actually any of the cloud-based practice management programs, back to my mantra of please add a sophisticated document management system.
Neil, do you know if DocMoto integrates with any of the modern cloud-based practice management programs just off the top?
Neil Squillante: I don’t know offhand but it is very Mac focused though and being a document management system, well, I suppose NetDocument has got around this somehow but the application that you use it through is also runs on the Mac, it’s a native application.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. Well back to our original point which is just go and study and look at these document management systems and please get one. What about lucky Number 13? Man, I love the guys that run this company.
Neil Squillante: Yeah great company, a well-run company. This is their first of two awards in the TL NewsWire Top 25 Products of 2019 and this is their eponymous accounting and billing product called Tabs3 and the name of the company is Tabs3 Software. And what they did with Version 19 is that they redesigned the entire product top-to-bottom every screen.
So it’s much more modern, takes advantage of large screens that we’re all using nowadays. Users can pin active matters to Navigation Panel so you can customize things and access information more quickly, a very mature, stable, robust billing and accounting system.
Adriana Linares: Yeah I agree, and this is going to be Windows only.
Neil Squillante: Exactly, that’s Windows only. They are — the one we’ll talk about their other award is a cloud product.
Adriana Linares: Yeah and I think Number 12 is also Windows only. So tell us about Number 12.
Neil Squillante: Yeah this is Needles 5.0, so this is another interesting back story. A few years ago I got word that Needles was going to launch Needles 5.0 and it never materialized.
So it was Vaporware essentially, and a couple years ago the company changed hands and there’s a new CEO now named Ryan Pakter. I recently interviewed him in a learned paper and he completely reorganized the software development process there.
They got Needles 5.0 out the door quickly and in addition they even added features like text messages that were not on the original roadmap.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I get a lot of questions from law firms about the ability to text messages to their clients when it comes to reminders for appointments or things they need, so that’s pretty, pretty cool.
Neil Squillante: Yeah, the reason it’s important for product like Needles is a lot of their installed base are Personal Injury Firms.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Neil Squillante: And so a lot of clients of personal injury firms particularly if they’re younger may prefer using text messages instead of email.
Adriana Linares: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. So I know that they’ve always sort of geared themselves toward PI, have you found or did you learn during your interview with Ryan that they are able to accommodate other practice areas or they kind of sticking to we do personal injury.
Neil Squillante: They have clients all over the map, in fact, similar to AbacusLaw. They have these elaborate, in their case they call them Case Types, in which you can set up complex custom fields and other systems for many practice areas, not just personal injury.
For example, I think they have a lot of bankruptcy lawyers using it as well and so they’re geared towards that practice area too.
Adriana Linares: Oh excellent. Okay, well good tip. I have not heard of Number 11.
Neil Squillante: Not many people have because it’s brand-new. It literally just launched I think a few months ago, and we covered it right at the end of 2018. So this is matters.Cloud, and as the name is very suggestive, this is a cloud-based document — I mean sorry, practice management program.
The founder used to work at LexisNexis, managing a product called LexisOne, which I don’t think any Americans know about, but it’s a popular practice management system in the UK that also delved into ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning, and he left LexisNexis, started matters.Cloud, and true to his nature matters.Cloud isn’t just practice management software, but it’s also a CRM system.
So it goes along with this trend similar to Clio acquiring Lexicata, focusing on the part of the of law practice prior to the client coming on board, which of course is an important and delicate process. You want to make sure your sales funnel is humming. And so that’s sort of a differentiator at this point in time.
Adriana Linares: And do you know is it geared toward solo-small, or it’s just a product that’s probably looking at the middle market?
Neil Squillante: No, I would say this is geared at solo and small law firms.
Adriana Linares: Great. I love that. More options for everybody to learn from. Well, it looks like we’ve reached the — well, we’re about to reach the Top 10. So before we do that, we’re just going to take a quick break, listen to some messages from our sponsors and come back and cover the Top 10.
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Adriana Linares: All right, we’re back, back to New Solo and I am Adriana Linares. With me today is Neil Squillante of TechnoLawyer. Before we left off, we had covered the first 15 Award recipients from TL NewsWire’s Top 25 Products of 2019 and now we’re going to get into the Top 10. This is exciting. Here’s another one Neil that I hadn’t heard of, BriefCatch Number 10.
Neil Squillante: Yes. This BriefCatch is one of several really interesting products out there in a new category that I call Legal Writing Bots or Legal Writing Checkers and I think eventually everyone, even the best writers in the legal industry are going to have to use products like this to make sure that their briefs are as well-written as possible.
So, people out there may have heard of Grammarly, which is a similar app except focus on the general market, and Grammarly will run through whatever you’ve written, make suggestions.
What BriefCatch does is it’s focused on legal writing and so it’ll actually give you a score, five scores when you submit your brief, reading happiness, sentence length, flow, paunchiness, plain English, to make sure you’re not using too much legalese and you can then go — it also makes suggestions you can accept or reject their suggestions and keep running it through that test that scoring system again until you actually have the perfect brief. So it’s a no-brainer even if you’re a talented writer to start running your briefs through BriefCatch.
Adriana Linares: And do you have any idea if it’s cloud based, or Windows, or Mac?
Neil Squillante: Currently, this works with Microsoft Word on Windows. So it’s essentially an add-in.
Adriana Linares: Great.
Neil Squillante: And one thing I should note is why should you trust this software? The guy behind it Ross Guberman is a legal writing consultant and he realized that he can only be in one place at one time and so what he did is develop the software so you can essentially benefit from his experience without actually having him reading over your brief.
Adriana Linares: Cool. I’ll get that one started to learn more about it. Tell me about Number 9.
Neil Squillante: Number 9 is Centerbase. This is another of the all in ones and in fact, this is their second year in a row winning the TL NewsWire Top 25 Products Award. They won last year on the back of their document management system that they added and they’re winning this year because of the accounting system that they added. So similar to Firm Central, you don’t need QuickBooks if you use Centerbase. Everything you need is in the software.
Adriana Linares: Awesome, sounds good. What about Number 8, one of our sponsors.
Neil Squillante: Number 8 is LAWCLERK, which is a personal favorite of mine and you can think of LAWCLERK as the eBay of legal services. So on the one hand, you have solos and other lawyers who might want to expand their practice but without the fixed cost of a full-time employee and on the other hand you have a lot of lawyers out there who are in-between jobs or looking for an alternative career and LAWCLERK is an online marketplace that connects the two.
And so a solo can subcontract projects out to a lawyer that has the right skill set and recently LAWCLERK added a new feature in which you can put together a virtual team of your favorite freelancers. So you can effectively run a virtual law practice through LAWCLERK.
Adriana Linares: Yeah like we’ve had them on the podcast as well so if this is something that sounds interesting to you, go back and listen to that podcast. We interviewed Gregg, one of the founders. Okay Number 7?
Neil Squillante: Yeah. This is the second award for NetDocuments and this is ndMail. I love email so I really like this product a lot.
Adriana Linares: You love email?
Neil Squillante: I love email.
Adriana Linares: Oh God, I hate email.
Neil Squillante: I think most people secretly love email. But we can debate that another time. So ndMail is the winner here and one of the problems with email, I’ll admit, there are some associated problems is that a lot of “documents” nowadays are actual email messages right. So you want to store those email messages in your document management system. They’re just as important as all the Word documents and PDF documents in there and it’s so — to date that’s been a very clunky process in all these document systems, a very manual process.
What ndMail does is it uses artificial intelligence so because email is highly structured. It has a from, it has a to, it has a subject line, and so forth and so looking at that data, it can figure out where you likely would want to file that email messages and if it’s right with one click, you’re just done and it automatically saves it. So this way a colleague of yours can access important email messages.
Adriana Linares: I love that. I think again thinking about my clients and members here at the San Diego County Bar that come in to see me and looking for help with managing their matters that for sure is probably the number one issue is how do I deal with all the emails and make them part of the digital file.
And so ndMail sits inside of Outlook and helps you of course at this point unfortunately it’s mostly — it’s designed and geared toward Windows users. So back over to DocMoto if you’re a Mac user, take a look at these two products and see if they help.
What about Number 6? This is another one I really love and they integrate directly with NetDocuments.
Neil Squillante: Yeah Symphony OCR is an interesting product because Middleware isn’t quite the right description but for many years, people didn’t even know they’re running Symphony OCR because the product is often bundled with a document management product like Worldox or NetDocuments.
But lately Trumpet, which is name of the company has been marketing Symphony OCR directly. But anyway long story short is that according to Trumpet, roughly 30% of the documents in a law firm are dark, in other word if you scan a document but you don’t perform OCR on it, it’s not searchable because it’s just an image. And what Symphony OCR does is it just sits there in the background, automatically converting any documents like that to make them searchable.
So this way when you’re searching through your document management system or even just windows if you’re not using a document management system or the Finder if you’re using a Mac, it’ll turn up all the documents when you put in those keywords.
Adriana Linares: Yeah it’s a great — great tool. Number 5, Smart Time 5 is number 5.
Neil Squillante: Yes Smart Time 5, so traditionally Smart Time — Smart Time is a time capture application that can automatically capture the time you spend working in documents. If you don’t like that method of time keeping, it offers all other forms of timekeeping as well it really — no matter whether you’d like to reconstruct time, it has tools to help you figure out what you did and so on and so forth.
But traditionally, it has been used only in the Am Law 200 because it requires a server and maintenance and so forth. With Version 5, they are now entering the small firm market with a cloud version. And so you no longer need to host the software at your firm and can access all the same tools that the big firms get to use.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. Neil, you’ve mentioned a lot of products that are geared towards solos and smalls and I know you have a great newsletter for small law firms. Tell us about it I almost forgot to ask you.
Neil Squillante: Yes thanks. It’s called Small Law and if you work as a solo or in a small law firm, you got to get this newsletter. Each week we curate links to the best podcasts and articles and even videos sometimes related to two of the most important topics for managing a small law firm that is law firm management and law firm marketing. It’s really the only newsletter you need to stay on top of everything going on in the world of small law firms.
Adriana Linares: Great. So far so good but before we go on let’s take a quick break and listen to a message from some sponsors.
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Adriana Linares: All right we’re back from our break. Thanks to our sponsors. Let’s move down the list. And Number 4, an OG —
Neil Squillante: Number 4.
Adriana Linares: Of practice management.
Neil Squillante: Yeah at least 30 years of history behind this product.
Adriana Linares: Absolutely.
Neil Squillante: This is this is Perfect Practice and they were at Legal Tech. So yeah this is one of the legacy practice management systems and you can pretty much do anything you want with it. It’s known for being extremely flexible. So you can truly customize it to completely run your firm. One of their differentiators is something called smart field so that can auto populate information based on other information that gets entered into the software so can automate various processes and along with that automation or things like checklists and workflows as well.
Adriana Linares: Great. Yeah I like that. I think one of the things I always try to push and remind lawyers is as they’re building and modernizing their practice, you want to get input one time and then be able to push that information into as many other workflows, documents or places as possible. So I think that’s critical.
Neil Squillante: Exactly, exactly.
Adriana Linares: Now Number 3 has a funny spelling but it’s probably going to be pronounced Kurent.
Neil Squillante: Kurent, that’s right it’s Kurent, this is owned by Tabs3 Software. So this is their second award. So Tabs3, as I mentioned, is rock-solid building and accounting software but it runs on Windows. And so a couple years ago, the company set out to create a lighter-weight billing product that runs in the cloud for smaller firms and the result of that is Kurent.
And we covered Kurent has such a rapid development cycle now that we actually reported out twice last year initially at the beginning of the year when it launched and then later when they added trust accounting and so they’ve been on a tear adding new features. And one other point to add is recently Tabs3 Software acquired CosmoLex.
So they now have a solution for pretty much every aspect of the market. So you’ve got Kurent for very small firms and solos that just want billing software. You’ve got CosmoLex for any size firm that wants all in one cloud software and then you’ve got the legacy Tabs3 and PracticeMaster for companies that want Windows-based software.
Adriana Linares: Cool. Great. That sounds good. We love those guys at Tabs. Oh Document assembly is one, is like the holy grail of document. I mean of document management tell us about Number 2.
Neil Squillante: Yeah so the last, the top two ranked products here are both document assembly. And so perhaps we are finally entering the Golden Age of document automation.
So Number 2 is HotDocs Advance and this is another win for AbacusNext which recently acquired HotDocs. So HotDocs is the leading document automation software out there. And there’s really nothing you can’t do with it, in fact it’s not only widely used the legal market but also other markets like finance, including big banks.
So the downside traditionally has been that you kind of needed to hire a consultant or developer to create templates for you. So the big change with HotDocs Advanced is they’ve hidden all the code behind a very easy to use system where anyone who’s technically proficient can actually create templates without having to hire an outside consultant and so that’s a major step forward without giving up any of the functionality.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. I love that. And that has always been the problem with HotDocs, so say you really needed a developer to help you not just build it but then keep it alive. So that’s really good news for those of us that are interested in document assembly. Okay drumroll please, I am not a good drum roller but let’s pretend Number 1.
Neil Squillante: Number 1 is a product from Infoware called Word DA and this is quite an accomplishment because a sibling product of theirs called Word LX was the Number 1 winner last year.
So Word DA is a Microsoft Word add-in that essentially transforms Microsoft Word into a document assembly tool. So you can create templates, you can store clauses and so you can very rapidly assemble whatever, a will, a trust, a real estate contract using various clauses and these templates. And when you pair it with Word LX, which is not required, it actually gains more power.
For example, let’s say, you make a mistake, you put in the wrong person’s name, if you have Word LX running as well, Word LX will store everything you’ve entered so that you can just change the mistake and it’ll automatically change it everywhere in the document.
Adriana Linares: That’s great. The more that I can get lawyers to learn about and use Word better and more easily the happier I become. So that sounds like another great product that I hope people follow up on.
Neil Squillante: Yeah it’s essentially a feature that Microsoft should have added if it cared more about the legal market.
Adriana Linares: Yeah. I love that. It’s true. Well cool Neil that was fun, that was —
Neil Squillante: Yeah thanks.
Adriana Linares: The whole lot of them.
Neil Squillante: Thanks for counting them down with me, I appreciate it.
Adriana Linares: No that was great. I wanted to just real quick sort of review that you had a chart that you sent along with this that 24% of the interest of your readers was in practice management programs as far as — well I guess you can tell me a little bit more about this chart it would make more sense if you told us because you had 24% for practice management and accounting and billing and then everything else was a little bit smaller but it’s just interesting that that core practice management and running your law firm better is really where the big interest lays.
Neil Squillante: Yeah let me start with a little plug. Now this podcast has been awesome and very grateful for you inviting me on to run through these but do not miss our announcements, make sure you subscribe to TL NewsWire where you can read about all these products and of course, we’ll link to their websites and in that issue of TL NewsWire will be this chart that Adriana is referring to, in which we — the chart categorizes all the different products.
So yeah, the big two categories not surprisingly are accounting and billing products and practice management. But what I really like about this year’s winner is that you have a lot of products, well let me use the word solo, a lot of solo categories. So we have a legal writing product, a legal research product, collaboration, backup software, OCR, virtual law firms, with LAWCLERK and one of the other big categories of course is document automation, which were in the top two spots as well as document management which we’ve been talking about throughout the awards.
Adriana Linares: I love it. I feel like there’s a growing interest and maybe it just comes from having more information and resources like TechnoLawyer where lawyers are starting to learn about an ecosystem of products that can help build their practices better and you’ve got almost everything covered here.
Neil Squillante: Yeah no, you definitely could use these awards as a roadmap for products that you might want to cobble together for your law firms you can help it run more efficiently.
Adriana Linares: Awesome well thanks so much Neil for coming on. I absolutely appreciate it before I let you go do you want to give everyone a little fine friend or follow TechnoLawyer information, should they go looking for where to learn more?
Neil Squillante: Sure just search Google for TechnoLawyer and you’ll find us or just enter technolawyer.com in your favorite web browser.
Adriana Linares: Excellent. Well thanks everyone for listening to another great episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. If you’ve liked what you’ve heard today, we would certainly love for you to subscribe, rate us and give us a good review on iTunes. We’ll see you next time. And remember you’re not alone, you’re new solo.
Outro: Thanks for listening to New Solo with host Adriana Linares. Tune in again to learn more about how to successfully run your new practice, solo, here on Legal Talk Network.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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