Jack Newton is the CEO and co-founder of Clio, a pioneer in cloud-based legal technology. Newton has spearheaded efforts...
Joe Patrice is an Editor at Above the Law. For over a decade, he practiced as a litigator at...
One of the most exciting legal tech shows of the year was ported online and demonstrated how much we’ve learned about virtual events since the pandemic began. Joe got a chance to talk to Clio CEO Jack Newton about the show, the lineup of keynote speakers, and the annual Legal Trends Report.
Joe also ran down Seyfarth’s ransomware snafu and ACB’s performative celebration of laziness.
Thinking Like A Lawyer – Above The Law
Clio Cloud Conference Provides The Pulse Of The Profession
Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts; Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice talking about legal news and pop culture all while thinking like a lawyer here on Legal Talk Network.
Joe Patrice: Hello, welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. I’m Joe Patrice from Above the Law. I am joined as never by nobody, we don’t have Catherine here she — as you might imagine given that we record this the week before you hear it, this is a fairly busy time. There’s senate confirmation hearings and giant tech conferences all going on at once and it leads to us not having a full compliment. But that said, you are in reasonable hands with me, just chatting what we’re going to do for you today is have a quick rundown of a couple of the big stories of the week as we usually do. And then we are going to have a special interview with Jack Newton of Clio about what’s going on at the Clio Cloud Conference which is — if you’re longtime listeners to the show or readers of Above the Law know that that’s one of my all-time favorite conferences to go to.
This year, obviously we can’t go anywhere so it was handled virtually and we’ll talk a little bit about what went on and what was revealed and announced there with jack. But for now, let’s get right into it and talk about some of the big stories of the week and I think the biggest story that we can cover for the week was learning that Seyfarth Shaw has some tech problems. It turns out that over the holiday weekend, the firm was hit by a cyberattack. On the good side, it seems as though it was able to recover and contain the attack and in a way that did not involve any client data being lost.
But you know, we mock attorneys all the time for being — how shall we say this, “Not tech savvy,” which isn’t totally fair because obviously there are a lot of gadgeteering(ph) among lawyers. These are people who had blackberries and their phones do all these cool things. They understand how to look stuff up on Lexus but what they don’t understand is how the technology actually works. They’re very good at pushing buttons on very user-friendly materials but don’t understand why hitting the executable file that’s randomly attached to some suspicious email might be a problem.
So that’s another moment this weekend where we learned that that was a continuing problem among the legal set. Technically, Seyfarth Shaw put out a statement explaining that they were hit by a sophisticated and aggressive malware attack. Which never say that it’s a simplistic or passive attack. I don’t know if that’s just because on the one hand you could argue that that’s because something so simplistic and passive would be easily caught by existing virus filters. The other side would be to say that it’s good PR to pretend that the thing that you got bit by was super sophisticated.
One way or the other though, this was a ransomware attack that seems to have been targeted at not just this firm but other entities as well. And ransomware is one of those things that doesn’t really hit willy-nilly it tends to be something that enters the firm through some bug between the keyboard and the chair as some people quip. Some user error brings it in whether they’re agreeing to represent a Nigerian prince to get their money back or something along those lines. A mistake happens that brings the ransomware into the house and thankfully, the real heroes here were the IT department who are able to catch it and protect the system and prevent anything from being lost or stolen, especially client confidences and data. As we know, law firms are kind of the — soft underbelly of the corporate espionage world. We learned in the — that was the Panama papers situation secrets. You can do an end run around a company’s attempt to keep it secret by going after their law firm which tends to be less savvy historically. Thankfully here, even though somebody screwed up to let this through the door, an IT department was there to protect everybody from themselves this is going to continue to be a big problem in law firms going forward. But you know, it’s just worth noting that this is still out there and if your firm is not prepared to deal with it, you probably should be. Because this is the way of the future now. Speaking of law firms, how have law firms weathered previous economic downturns and come out stronger on the other side? LexisNexis interaction has released an in-depth global research report confronting the 2020 downturn lessons learned during previous economic crisis.
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As we said, one of the big stories of the week that we record this was the senate confirmation hearings for “Judge Amy Coney Barrett” as we have called her the epicenter of the White house COVID outbreak has hearings that were ongoing. One of the biggest highlights the “what will people remember from these scenes involved Judge Barrett holding up a notepad that was empty when she was asked by the senators what notes do you have in front of you as you’re giving all these impressive answers, which weren’t particularly impressive. They were kind of mundane legal answers but whatever, people are easily impressed.
And she revealed that she had no notes which some people seemed to fawn over as though that was impressive. It didn’t particularly seem impressive given the answers but also it really was the most embarrassing possible answer from the perspective of somebody who is a lawyer and has been in this profession. Because whether or not somebody can make answers off the top of their head is less important, I think to those of us who are real lawyers which I know most of the listeners here are and those that aren’t or aspiring lawyers.
Being able to answer things off the top of your head is not particularly impressive what’s impressive from a professional standpoint is how much work you put into getting to the point where you could have answers. Now we would know, we talked in the past with Neal Katyal recently. One of the things that he often says is that he will put together for every argument reams and reams of notebooks that have everything under the sun and then never look at them when the day comes. But he has them and it’s that work that’s the core of being an attorney and the idea that you answer things without notes is really more — display of utter contempt for the process than a display that you’re actually good at the process.
And this then led us into the — it was one of those moments and — everybody fawned over it and then because karma is a bitch, the thing that happened the next day was she ran a foul, of not knowing what the First Amendment actually says. It became a viral got you moment but it also is one of those situations that shouldn’t really be a got you moment because the question itself is stupid. There’s not really a reason why a judge would need to know off the top of their head the text of these amendments. We don’t expect them to render decisions without ever consulting the original text of something without consulting the scholarship and precedent that surrounds it.
There was no real fear that she wasn’t going to know what the First Amendment was, once the time came for her to make a decision whether she was going to ignore what it actually says knowing full well what it says is a whole different question. But she wasn’t going to just not know, that really became — and yes, not having notes probably contributes to that. But it’s also a stupid question why would she have notes explaining what the specific text of stuff was. Why are senators asking questions about “Do you have off the top of your head the rule against perpetuities?” this is indicative of kind of the problem and I know we’ve talked a lot about the bar exam over the last several weeks and my problems with it as a professional licensing device. But it really is the culmination of the problems with the bar exam, like the logical conclusion of all that is where you end up here you end up with a situation where people think that the guide to competence is knowing more obscure details about the law off the top of your head, which is not how law is practiced. It’s not how a Justice would ever act, it’s more important to see — and this brings us back to the notes, it’s more important for us to see that they put work into it.
That a Justice took the time to read things what did they read? “Did they read this treatment? did they also read this contradictory treatment? How did they resolve the differences between the two?” These are the questions that actually show somebody is — name check plug, Thinking Like a Lawyer. That’s what’s valuable to understand whether or not somebody is competent — whether it’s competent to be a first-year attorney or a judge or a justice of the supreme court. There may be differences in degree but it is all about testing that capacity to do the work in this research-intensive profession. So ultimately, while people fond over not having notes and ridiculed her for not knowing the answer to this question off the top of her head, it really should be reversed.
We should be embarrassed as a profession that somebody went into this hearing without any materials and we should be giving her a lot of slack, frankly for not knowing certain things off the top of her head because that’s a stupid test. And that’s why we shouldn’t have it be the way in which we test minimum competency for anything. Anyway, it’s just worrying that this is where everything is now, you know? It’s as though like the whole profession is just missing the whole trick to how it itself should run.
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Well now, we’re going to welcome in Jack Newton, CEO and Co-founder of Clio. Jack has been running a conference all week and we got an opportunity to check in with him about what was going on. And so, we’re going to jump to that recorded conversation now and chat again on the back side. So, we’re joined by Jack Newton. Hey, how are you?
Jack Newton: I am fantastic, thank you.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, so thanks for joining us. You’re in the middle of a fairly busy time for you. And it’s even busier than usual because now you’ve got it over four days.
Jack newton: That’s right, it’s on the home stretch now. It’s the last day of the conference. Super excited for day four to open up shortly here with Seth Godin and his opening keynote for day four. But yeah, it was a weird feeling actually at the end of day two to realize we’re only halfway through. Usually, we’d be wrapping up and popping champagne and celebrating but this year — as with so many things, it felt a lot different.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, I actually — I didn’t think of it beforehand but I really like the idea of making it four days if it has to be virtual. People with different time zones and all just like having shorter days, longer week has certainly helped out a lot.
Jack Newton: Yeah, that was a deliberate choice on our end where we thought about how can we adapt the format to take advantage of some of the elements of virtual and we thought one of the big advantage of the virtual is that you don’t need to walk away from your life, in quite the same way you do is when you go to a real, physical conference. And you know, this way, people can number one; as you pointed out, attend from any time zone. We have people attending from 46 countries around the world if you can believe it so it’s a worldwide event and tried to make the calendar align for as many waking hour time zones as possible.
And we also have left time in the day for people to do the rest of their lives whether that’s kids or work or keeping up with clients. You don’t need to quite go dark in the same way that you needed to for the two-day physical Clio Con.
Joe Patrice: Well yeah, and it’s been such a journey this year for virtual conferences as everyone’s tried to do it, everyone’s learning a new thing each iteration. And I do think that the way in which you’ve done this takes a lot of the lessons that we were picking up from others. I certainly went to some virtual conferences where I thought “Well, but everything’s going on all day and I can’t do this and that. Like a shorter, more targeted day that gives you an opportunity to come in and out as needed. But also, longer time so you don’t miss anything. It’s definitely been an experience that it’s clear that you benefited from coming later in the year and could have seen what some of the other folks had tried and worked out a new system.
Jack Newton: Yeah, well it was interesting when we pivoted Clio Con to being virtual. It wasn’t actually a foregone conclusion for us at all that it was going to be a virtual alternate to the physical conference. You know, back in March when COVID first hit, we are optimistic that “Hey maybe this will blow over by October.” You know, by April we were starting to realize that those hopes were probably misplaced and by May, we were force majeure on our venue and evaluating whether we were going to go virtual or not. In my experience, what my mandate to the team almost was based on my experience of virtual conferences up to that point. So, not commenting on any of the more recent legal virtual conferences but my comment was every virtual conference I’ve gone to has sucked. Just full stop and if we do Clio Con virtual, it can’t suck. That was really the simple mandate to the team.
So, the initial ask from me was go out and research what’s available out there in terms of platforms and other ways we could make this interesting and engaging because I would rather not do a conference at all than do something that doesn’t live up to what people expect of a Clio Con. So, I think you’re right, we’ve learned some lessons from what we’ve seen work and not work at other conferences. We’ve kind of innovated in our own way around what we think could make a virtual conference great and take advantage of — I think it’s important the medium is different than a physical conference and let’s take advantage of some of the things that it permits.
So yeah, I’ve been thrilled with how it’s worked out and you’re right. A lot of what you see, everything from the programming being live to being more punctuated shorter days and being spread out to four days is a very deliberate design to hopefully drive engagement and attendee engagement.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, well and one of the benefits that you have over some other legal conferences is that you’re speaking to a community, really.
Jack Newton: Right.
Joe Patrice: You’re talking to a base of folks who are already somewhat bought in, which is nice because you don’t — there are people who are familiar who have networks and pre-existing relationships that make them want to be there and engaged. And it seems like that’s a big part of making a conference work is having an audience that actually is super interested in the engagement with it.
Jack Newton: Yeah, in fact, I think that’s actually everything there is to making a conference that works. If you have — it’s the community, the attendees that bring that energy. And really, when we ask ourselves the questions. I think the crucial question for any virtual conference is “Why isn’t this a set of webinars sitting on YouTube?”
Joe Patrice: Right.
Jack Newton: And if you don’t have a good answer to that question, it should just be a bunch of webinars sitting on YouTube ready for on-demand consumption and the answer to that question is there’s no community around a webinar sitting on YouTube. And what we try to create with Clio Con virtual and the fiscal event, as well as a community of legal professionals that are innovators that are passionate about the confluence of technology and law and the opportunity to innovate and do things differently in in legal. And it’s the number one thing that we hear back from attendees in terms of what keeps them coming back year after year is it’s not like another conference where you need to spend three quarters of your time just weeding out the people that kind of don’t think about the world the same way you do and aren’t as innovative, and not as forward thinking.
With Clio Con, on you can just you can just jump right in the deep-end in any conversation and know that you’ve got the certain baseline level of mutual understanding with other attendees. What really excited me and made me happy was that I saw that community coming to life in this virtual environment. You saw it happening on the chat, in the sessions you saw it happening at roundtables. We saw people sharing best practices at these virtual roundtables meeting with our support team and other teams, learning how to use Clio better. So, it’s very cool to see people engaging really deeply with each other, virtually.
Joe Patrice: So, for folks who — since this is going to come and the show will have concluded. For the folks who want to go back and do — we already kind of spoiled. If you do want to experience it as a series Webinars, what stood to you? What were your favorite moments of the show as you’ve been going through it? Obviously, we still have a day left so you can — maybe the favorite thing is later today but what have you loved so far?
Jack Newton: There’s a long list but I think — I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Number one, I take a lot of joy in delivering my opening keynote and sharing some of the exciting findings from the Legal Trends Report and dropping some new features for Clio as well. So, I think we had our best and most groundbreaking in a lot of ways. Legal Trends Report ever this year and we can talk more about that later but that was an exciting moment for me. You know, a couple of big features, in particular our partnership with Google and Google My Business and that integration with Clio. I think is super relevant to lawyers today as they’re trying to move their practices to the cloud and stand out on the web in a more distinct way and our Clio for Clients app that allows you to easily collaborate with clients on the go securely, through a smartphone app is another feature I was really excited to take the covers off of. Our keynote speakers have been phenomenal.
We had Ben Crump open up the conference on Wednesday morning with his opening keynote for Tuesday and man, what a powerful speech. He was giving that speech on what would have been George Floyd’s birthday which was profound and moving moment for I think the audience to recognize. And you know, he is speaking to an audience that can have influence and help drive this fight for equality forward. And he really made the most of that moment and had a large impact with our audience. Again, the virtual environment but you saw people commenting in the chat. They were moved to tears and this great shared experience listening to Ben Crump talk about social justice; and so many of the topics that are the forefront of our mind right now around racism and defeating some of the systemic racism that exists in our justice system.
We heard yesterday from Angela Duckworth who is the author of one of my favorite books Grit and she gave — just both an amazing presentation and I had the privilege of doing an hour Q&A with her. So, a lot of great questions from the audience and a unique opportunity for me to ask some of my — number one questions I’ve been holding back for Angela ever since reading Grit years ago. So that was exciting and later this morning, we’re going to have Seth Godin who — I’m sure you know Joe but he’s not super well-known in the legal field but is the marketer of all marketers, author of 19 best-selling books just a phenomenal.
If you read his blog or his twitter feed for five minutes, you’ll fall in love with his ideas on how to stand out and how to define yourself in marketing. Another session that stood out for me and I haven’t had the opportunity to sit on all of the sessions yet because the team was rude(ph) enough to sign me up for hosting and moderating stuff over the course of the conference. But one of the sessions I was able to attend live yesterday was Brian Cuban’s session talking about addiction and recovery. And you know, heard several people comment that it was the most powerful speech they’d seen — any conference, in-person or virtual ever.
He was just raw and honest about his struggle with addiction and his past recovery. I think it’s something, especially in in this COVID era, people are struggling with more or so than ever. It was a message that resonated and I think was really needed for the audience at — the kind of environment we’re all navigating right now. So yeah, that’s the bit of the highlight reel but we’re rounding out — oh, and the live entertainment, I’ve completely forgot to mention. But you know, we’ve had Ben Harper perform live for us at the end of day two. We had Nathaniel Rateliff close out day three yesterday with just — he’s one of my favorite performers and gave an amazing solo acoustic set for the conference. We had Stephanie Izard, one of my favorite chefs and she’s this chef at Girl & The Goat and all the affiliated restaurants in Chicago. She gave us a cooking lesson on Tuesday and Questlove is closing out the conference today. We’ve had the biggest and best live entertainment we’ve ever had at Clio Con as well.
So, that was very cool as well, seeing on social, people sharing screenshots of them jamming to Nathaniel or Ben at home, it was very cool.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, all always over the top at Clio and even if it’s virtual, you managed to do it again. So, it’s a good segue though, because you mentioned your opening keynote and the legal trends report. This is for those of us legal nerds, this is like our favorite part of Clio Con, is that we —
Jack newton: It’s like Christmas for legal nerds.
Joe Patrice: Yeah, exactly. We get to see all the data that you’ve managed to collect over the years. So, what were some of the big takeaways for you from the Legal Trends Report this year?
Jack Newton: Yeah. Well, you and I were chatting about that a little bit in the preamble Joe. This is the biggest and most expansive Legal Trends Report we’ve ever published. I think there’s a few headlines but I would encourage everyone to download and read it. I would be audacious enough to say, “it should be required reading for any lawyer that wants to figure out what the world’s going to look like in the coming months and years.” Because it’s changing and it’s changing rapidly.
There’s been a tectonic shift in terms of how consumers are embracing and adopting technology number one. And we know that — I think anecdotally for our own experiences, we’re doing zoom calls with our parents and grandparents that previously wouldn’t have been able to hardly make a phone call and yet, here we are in a live video chat with them. We’ve seen mass adoption of technology, a massive shift also in consumer expectations.
Not just in terms of how they consume legal services but in terms of how they consume every service. And again, we see this on our front doorsteps with the stacks of amazon packages and the way people buy, the way people are consuming is different. So that that’s one headline and I think some of the takeaway messages for law firms are consumers are expecting lawyers to go virtual. So, we actually saw a majority of consumers tell us that they believe that most legal services can be delivered virtually. They would prefer to meet with their lawyer, consume legal services over a Zoom call over any other format for a meeting.
So unsurprisingly, meeting in-person is not high on the list but this, as well as some other data points from this year’s Legal Trends Report, to me asked — it begs the question “Is there the need for a physical bricks and mortar law office for many lawyers?” And my personal take is that it’s not an emphatic “know(ph) quite yet” but it’s trending in that direction. The way I think law offices are used in the future is going to be vastly different than the way they were used in the beginning of 2020. We’re seeing lawyers also adopt technology very rapidly and for the first time, really in the Legal Trends Report history, we’ve seen lawyers adopting technology more aggressively than consumers believe they are.
So, they’re actually ahead of the curve if you want to think of it that way. Adopting video conferencing, e-signatures, cloud-based tools. So that technology adoption is very exciting to see on the lawyer side. One of the bolder statements that we make in the Legal Trends Report that I reinforced in my opening keynote as well is that we think what ties a lot of the datapoints together in the Legal Trends Report is that the future for law firms is being cloud-based and client-centered. And by cloud-based, what I mean is not the way I spoke about being cloud-based back in 2008 when we launched Clio and this idea that you’re moving your practice management system from on-prem to the cloud.
What I’m talking about with cloud-based is you’re actually moving your whole law firm to the cloud like, you’re thinking about how every piece of your law firm operates in the cloud. How you collaborate with your colleagues in the cloud? How you acquire clients online in the cloud? How you transact and deliver your work product to your clients in the cloud? How you get paid in the cloud? So, it’s this end-to-end journey and this is where we’re seeing legal, I believe for the first time truly being fundamentally transformed by the internet. I think we’re on the cusp of a very exciting evolutionary phase for the legal industry. And being client-centered is something I’m passionate about and you know, I obviously —
Joe Patrice: Literally wrote a book on it. Yeah.
Jack Newton: And I’ve got a lot to say about it and I won’t get too far down that rabbit hole in our podcast here. But what I believe is that lawyers from the ground up need to redesign and re-engineer the way they are delivering legal services to account for; Number one, the fact those services are being delivered over the internet. So, there’s a totally new modality for the delivery of legal services. And legal services have traditionally never been really client-centered in the way they’ve been designed.
They’ve been very much lawyer-centered in the way they’ve been designed even artifacts like the billable hour, I believe are good reflections of how legal services have traditionally been fairly lawyer-centered in their design. And we’re going to have to fix that problem. We see The World Justice Project data telling us that 77% of consumers don’t have their legal needs met by a lawyer. There’s this vast latent legal market that I talk about in my book as well, the 77% of consumers that aren’t accessing legal services. And that 77% that below the waterline part of the iceberg that is growing fast by the way. And the other important datapoint to take away from this year’s Legal Trends Report is that consumers are more unable than ever to afford legal services. They are holding back on accessing lawyers overall because they can’t afford legal services and because they believe currently that the justice system can’t service them. They believe because of court closures and other headlines they’re reading. They actually believe that law offices are closed, there’s almost a third of consumers that told us — and this was another very surprising datapoint from the consumer survey we did.
Nearly a third of consumers believe law offices are just closed outright and that blew me away. And I think it’s a good example of how consumers can sometimes extrapolate incorrectly from the headlines they’re reading to conclude how are law offices operating. So those are a few of the big takeaways from this year’s Legal Trends Report. The final point I’ll make, I talked about some of the data to support this idea of being client-centered and cloud-based.
The data is really exciting, and that we talked about this concept of the aggregation of marginal gains. And we saw that law firms that adopt cloud-based technologies and are client-centered in the way that they design legal services have massive advantages over their peers that that do not.
Joe Patrice: Right.
Jack Newton: If you adopt these cloud-based and client-centered technologies, the net gains you’re driving for your law firm is on the order of a 40 percent increase in revenue relative to your peers that are not adopting these technologies. So, it’s not just a philosophical thing, it’s not just being client-centered because it sounds good and it’s the way you should be delivering legal services.
It’s actually better for your bottom line as well and that’s really the — I think another takeaway headline from this year’s Legal Trends Report for me, as well as this has a massive impact on revenues and can impact both the top line and bottom line for a law firm in a really positive way.
Joe Patrice: Great. I should let you get back to this. Thanks for taking some time to join us. Congratulations on running a conference in the middle of all of this that went so successfully.
Jack Newton: Yeah, well thanks for being part of it, Joe and thanks for having me on the show.
Joe Patrice: Always. Yeah, that of course is Jack Newton, CEO of Clio and author of the Client-Centered Law Firm which you should check out also. And we will be right back.
Well, thank you so much for listening to the show. You should be subscribed, you should give it reviews, not just stars. You should also write something, just that act of engaging by just writing something shows that you’re more interested, which means that it — those entities take that into account when they recommend it to people, so it’s a good thing to do. You should be reading Above the Law, of course, you should be following. I’m @JosephPatrice on Twitter. You should be listening to our other shows. We have that ATL (ph) COVID Cast, as well as The Jabot. You should listen to the other offerings of the Legal Talk Network.
Another thanks to Contract Tools by Paper Software, check out your free trial as discussed and with all of that said, we will be back hopefully with a co-host next week.
Outro: If you’d like more information about what you heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com you can also find us at abovethelaw.com, atlredline.com, iTunes, RSS, Twitter and Facebook. 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.
Above the Law's Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice examine everyday topics through the prism of a legal framework.
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Joe chats with Clio CEO Jack Newton in the midst of his virtual conference.