ALPS In Brief Podcast — Episode 29: Falling in Love with the Cloud

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ALPS In Brief Podcast — Episode 29: Falling in Love with the Cloud

On this special Valentine’s Day episode of ALPS In Brief, Mark sits down with Joshua Lenon, lawyer in residence and data protection officer for Clio, to hear firsthand how cloud products can make your law practice more secure and efficient. Fall in love with new features of law practice management and growth software that will keep your data safe and sound.

Transcript:

MARK:

Hello, this Mark Bassingthwaighte the risk manager with ALPS and welcome to another podcast, ALPS In Brief, the podcast that comes to you from the historic Florence Building in beautiful downtown Missoula, Montana. And I’m so pleased to have as our guest today Joshua Lenon, who is a lawyer in residence with Clio. And Joshua has done a podcast earlier with us in terms of one of our early initial podcasts, and I just wanted to invite Joshua back to discuss some developments in Clio. But Joshua, before we jump in can you just share a little bit about yourself for those that may not have heard the first podcast?

JOSHUA:

Sure. Thanks, Mark. It’s really nice to be here. So, I’m Joshua Lennon, I’m Clio’s lawyer in residence, and that means I am attorney admitted to New York, but I help Clio out of Vancouver, Canada with legal research into the intersection of technology in the practice of law. I also serve as Clio’s data protection officer, helping us with compliance issues and research into the special privacy and confidentiality needs of legal technology and how we can really increase the security and protection of both law firms and their clients through the use of technology. I’ve been doing this for about six years now, I’ve been really lucky to be a part of the explosive growth of Clio and I quite frankly have one of the best jobs in law, I think.

MARK:

I would agree. What has happened with Clio is really exciting. One of the reasons I wanted to visit with you is Clio has recently celebrated their 10th anniversary, as I understand it, and I’ve also heard that your 2018 Clio Cloud Conference, which occurred last fall in New Orleans was quite an event. And I thought we’d just start out by having you share sort of what’s going on. What are the exciting things that … What made 2018 a big year for Clio?

JOSHUA:

So, there are a couple things that made 2018 a really big year for Clio. One of the words that leaps to mind is “growth.” We’ve grown both externally in terms of the number of law firms that we work with. We now currently work with 170,000 legal professionals in 90 countries around the world. We also have continued to grow our relationships with organizations like Bar Associations and law societies, whereas we’re now offered as a member benefit by 66 different Bar Associations and law societies around the world. Excitingly, one of the oldest law societies in the world, the Law Society of England and Wales is now offering Clio as its exclusive cloud based member benefit, which is kind of cool. So, we get to go over to England and visit amazing historic locations that have influenced the common law around the world. So, that’s been really cool.

MARK:

That is cool now. It just underscores you do have a very cool job. Please continue, what other exciting things are going on?

JOSHUA:

We’re growing like a weed internally at Clio as well. So, we actually just topped 350 employees, so that’s 350 experts in their field, either building the backend of Clio or providing award-winning customer support to our customers. And one of the things that kind of leapt our head count forward is we acquired our integration partner Lexicata. What’s interesting is because we’re cloud-based, we actually integrate with a lot of different pieces of software out there, so not just things like the email that a law firm uses, but also highly specialized tools that target the legal industry. And we have approximately 160 integration partners right now, and one of our oldest and most popular is a company called Lexicata. They designed a client intake application that enables firms to really walk a potential client through the discovery phase, the consultation phase, and finally the retention phase of becoming a client with the law firm. And we realized that this was an area of legal technology that we could be performing better at, and so we took a look like any organization does. Do we go out and buy a piece of software that does that, or we build it ourselves?

And we had such a great fit, both organically and technically with Lexicata that it just made sense to merge. And so it’s our first acquisition ever as a company. We brought on 30 new employees in office in L.A. and a whole new software suite, which means that we now help law firms not only manage their practice but manage the onboarding of clients into their practice. And that’s been an incredible accomplishment in 2018.

MARK:

Yeah, that’s a really big deal and kudos to you guys. That’s exciting news, that really is. One of the things that I took note of from the cloud conference … I didn’t attend but I have been on the site and just looking at all the different speakers and it looked like it was a fantastic conference. But I was very interested too in the Legal Trends Report. And you had given a presentation not too long ago, I believe, sort of talking a bit about the legal trends report, and I was interested in … You talked a bit about lawyer missteps, and I think Lexicata plays into this. Can you kind of explore a little bit what you learned out of Legal Trends and how Clio is helping lawyers?

JOSHUA:

Absolutely. Yep. So, in case your listeners aren’t familiar with the Legal Trends Report, it is an annual report that we’ve put out for the past three years. We always release it around the Clio Cloud Conference, which tends to be in the autumn, and it focuses on two different types of data. So, the first is data contributed by our customers through the use Clio as software. And I use the word contributed because it’s something that you can opt out of, but while we don’t look at any confidential information, I want to be very clear about that, we can look at certain meta-data around the way lawyers use Clio. So, for example, lawyers need us to keep track of how long a bill has been open, and is it past due? While we can’t see the clients or the amount, we can see that an anonymized aggregate state, so again, very, very at arm’s length we can see that certain percentages of bills stay open for a certain percentage of time.

And so, that’s the type of data that we bring into the Legal Trends Report, but on top of that we also use really extensive outside research on a variety of different topics, both with lawyers, and in 2018 we started talking to clients and how they are interacting with lawyers. What was interesting is, in the client research that we did in 2018, we found that clients are really signaling that they want to work in particular ways with law firms, and when we asked the exact same question to lawyers we found there was mismatch. So, one example is scheduling appointments. It turns out that clients really want a very seamless, single touchpoint method for contacting a law firm and scheduling an appointment. They don’t want to do a back and forth in email, they want to be able to pick up the phone or go to a website and just have an appointment made quickly and easily.

And we found that lawyers were the opposite. They wanted back and forth, usually because they may not have access to their schedule, or that they may be interrupting other important billable activities. So, there’s this mismatch or misstep as you said, between how the clients are expecting to interact with the lawyers and how lawyers are interacting with their clients. We went on in the report to identify eight different areas of mismatch between client expectation and lawyer service and how that can create frustration between the two parties, and may be an issue when it comes time for clients to refer new business to a law firm.

MARK:

Interesting. Interesting. Just as an aside, is this report available to the general public, or attorneys if they have any interest in taking a look?

JOSHUA:

Absolutely. So, it’s available for free. You can get to it by going to Clio.com/LTR. So, that’s C-L-I-O.com/LTR, which is short for the Legal Trends Report. That’ll actually take you to a website where you can download all three versions of the Legal Trends Report, that’s 2016 through 2018, each with a little bit of unique research in each year. We’ve also provided some tools on that website based off of the research as well. So, for example, you can actually take a look at the billable rates per practice area, per state for both lawyers and non-lawyers and compare your own rates to them to see if you’re charging maybe a premium for a high value product, or if maybe you’re thinking about being a volume-based law firm, and are your rates then competitive with the law firms around you?

MARK:

It sounds like a lot of great information there.

JOSHUA:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

MARK:

Any news on new features being released?

JOSHUA:

Absolutely. So, in addition to acquiring Lexicata, we’ve actually been rewriting it and we’re launching it in January of 2019 as a completely new system that we’re calling Clio Grow. And so it takes all the great features of client intake that Lexicata had already built, puts a little bit of Clio research and design on top of them and makes it more deeply integrative with the Clio Practice Management Solution. So, if you’re looking to bring on a client intake tool, it’s going to be a seamless experience between the two. In addition to that, within Clio’s Practice Management we’ve actually added a ton of new features. One of the things that has been most well received is we’ve built in payment plans into Clio right now. In 2017 we added built-in credit card processing because our research found that if a law firm had the ability to accept credit cards, they actually get paid about 33 percent faster.

MARK:

Yeah, doesn’t surprise me at all.

JOSHUA:

Yeah, and so if we can help our customers have a better accounts receivable, we figured we should. So, we negotiated a very sweetheart exclusive deal with LawPay and LawPay is now built in to Clio and can help you accept credit card payments. If you turn on LawPay in Clio and it’s provided at no additional charge, then you can also turn on payment plans and it allows you to take an invoice, structure a series of payments including how often it gets paid, and we’ll just run that automatically in the background for you. It’s been incredibly well received with people helping individuals in particular, so family law lawyers for example, or traffic and DUI/DWI lawyers are finding it to be a really helpful tool for bringing clients in, helping them afford legal services, and helping the law firm’s bottom line. So, that’s been an incredibly well received one.

One that I think is really neat on top of that is a feature we’re calling Clio Launcher, and it is a downloadable plugin that you put on your computer, and any time you see a document in Clio, if you click on it it will just open that document in whatever appropriate piece of software is on your computer. So, if you’ve got a Word document stored in Clio, for example, you click on it, it’ll open in Word and then when you click Save, it will save it directly back up to Clio’s servers. So, there’s a really seamless now work flow between having Clio as both your billing engine and your document management engine behind your law firm, whereas before we found that people just needed a little bit more of a sync between the two, and they were choosing to integrate tools like Dropbox or Google Drive, which are still there, but now you can get the free unlimited storage that comes included with Clio and not change your workflow at all but have ready access to your documents.

MARK:

Yeah, yeah. That sounds awesome.

JOSHUA:

Yeah, I like that one a lot.

MARK:

Am I correct that Clio is moving into the mobile space as well?

JOSHUA:

Absolutely. So, we’ve had a mobile app for years, available on iPhone and Android as well as an iOS tablet app. And what’s really interesting is there’s been kind of change in mobile architecture.

MARK:

Okay, alright.

JOSHUA:

And so this is probably highly technical for your audience but before when you were building apps, you would have to have really highly specialized language depending on the phone you were building it for. And a little while back, app developers realized this was kind of ridiculous. If I have to write the exact same thing in two different languages for an iPhone and an Android phone, that’s a huge amount of overhead, and it actually diminishes the ability to improve an app, update it quickly, add new features, because we have to write the exact same thing twice but it different languages. So, there’s been a shift and this is mostly led by some of the bigger tech companies out there towards developing single source languages that allow you to develop really quickly. So, Clio’s onboard with this. We’re converting our mobile apps to this single language which is called React, and we’re actually using it to release a variety of different apps, so not just a Clio app now, we actually just put together a free timekeeping app that’s available on the iTunes store. So if you are a solo lawyer and you don’t really need a full practice management solution, maybe you’re just starting out, maybe you’re working part time but you still want to keep track of your time, we’ve got an app for you.

And we build feedback cycles into our apps, so if you download it and it’s not the right fit there will always be a feedback link, tell us what we can improve. And we’re going to keep doing things like that, adding new apps and third party services using rapid development techniques, so that way we can find the best fit for law firms and lawyers out there.

MARK:

And what is on the horizon for 2019? Any exciting things that-

JOSHUA:

Oh, so yes, absolutely. One of the things that I’m really excited about is … We talked a little bit about the Clio Cloud Conference and it was another area of explosive growth for Clio in 2018, and so we had 1,500 lawyers from around the world come and meet with us in New Orleans. And we had, as you said, just absolutely phenomenal speakers. So, we try to pick the best speakers both inside legal as well outside legal, so that way we’re learning what works for everybody. So, for example we actually had a great speaker come and talk about stress and how stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s how you react to stress that needs to be your focus of your attention, right? Not the removal of it. You know?

MARK:

Right. Right.

JOSHUA:

We had people from Stanford who came and talked about designing your life, and how we often times think of our professional life as separate from the rest of our life and really it’s all just one big continuum.

MARK:

Yeah.

JOSHUA:

So, how are you including the idea of your practice as a part of your life? And this is I think really important for lawyers because we consider ourselves professionals. It’s an identity as well as a career, and if we’re not thinking of that identity as both a part of our personal lives and our professional lives, we feel a lot of stress, for lack of a better word, between the two. So, if we approach it with a clear vision, while we may not be able to eliminate that stress we can definitely control how we react to it and our understanding of how other people are reacting to it as well. I found that to be very eye-opening.

MARK:

Yeah.

JOSHUA:

So, 1,500 lawyers, phenomenal speakers, a really great party on top of that, but we ended up outgrowing the conference center that we were at, so there’s no way we’re going to fit next year, so we decided to move. And in 2019 we’re going to be in San Diego, California.

MARK:

Oh, now there’s a nice spot.

JOSHUA:

Yeah. And we’re expecting to add another 500 attendees.

MARK:

Oh my gosh.

JOSHUA:

And we’re already half sold out, which is amazing.

MARK:

That really is. Wow. Wow.

JOSHUA:

Yeah. So, I’m sorry, I sound like I’m really hyping Clio a lot but it’s just been a great year.

MARK:

It has. And you know, why I like to visit with you from time to time … My role is Risk Manager, but I’m not, again, a traditional Risk Manager in the sense that I manage the risk of the ALPS corporation, I am hired to be a Risk Manager for all of our insureds, and for many attorneys you don’t have to be an insured to work with me. Call and ask questions. And I, from a risk perspective for so many reasons just believe strongly in the value of a product like Clio, in terms of … I could sit here and talk for probably 20 minutes on why I think moving to the cloud is a good idea and doing all of the things that you folks are doing in terms of the tools that you bring to the table for lawyers. I see that as essential.

But let me ask in closing here, give you a chance to comment on one thing. What I’m starting to hear a little bit, there is, in light of some of these major breaches that we have seen and crypto jacking and ransomware attacks just being rampant with everybody, but you couple that in terms of the risks of cyber breaches of some sort with what has been a really bad tough year in terms of 2018 with Facebook. I would just like to have you share some thoughts on the value, how would you counter this, “I don’t want to move to the cloud because look at Facebook. I don’t want to move to the cloud because these guys are next on a major ransomware attack.” Do you have some thoughts?

JOSHUA:

Yeah, I do. I actually think there’s never going to be a complete elimination of risk, and I think any technology vendor who tells you that they’re 100 percent secure is pulling the wool over your eyes.

MARK:

That’s right. Absolutely. Yeah.

JOSHUA:

Yeah.

MARK:

Yeah.

JOSHUA:

But I do believe that there are vendors out there who are transparent in their security protocols, who are committed to the specific needs of the legal industry and they’re definitely very specific, but also are keeping in line with the security requirements of clients and I think this is a really important point that most lawyers don’t think about. There’s a lot of privacy and security law that is being imposed upon clients right now and those clients are in turn turning to their law firms and saying, “How are you living up to this standard with my files?” And so, you need a tech vendor who recognizes not only your ethical duty of confidentiality, but your client’s regulatory duty of privacy, and combines technology in a transparent way to facilitate both. And even that won’t eliminate the risk 100 percent.

MARK:

Oh, right. You’re never going to. That’s impossible. I hope our listeners understand that. Am I hearing, understanding correctly that what I think differentiates companies like Clio is that when you approach the build, the software and hardware build in terms of how … Am I hearing that the design from the bottom up is really looking at what are the obligations lawyers have, what are the regulatory issues clients face, and where security is thought through from the beginning as opposed to, “Hey, let’s build this cool thing and call it Alexa.” I’m not picking on Amazon here, but …

JOSHUA:

It’s been a bad day for them today, so yeah.

MARK:

Do you appreciate where I’m going? It sounds like, and I just want to confirm that I’m hearing this correctly, that design in terms of preserving confidences and security are very much part of the design process from the very beginning, as opposed to a last minute, “Oh we should think about that”?

JOSHUA:

Yeah. Actually there’s an industry approach that’s called privacy by design and in some instances it’s required, legally speaking. So the general data protection regulation out of Europe is really trying to push privacy by design on a whole host of different businesses, but yeah, it absolutely needs to be a part of any consideration when it comes to building technology that handles sensitive data, which I think we’re beginning to discover is all technology handles sensitive data at this point.

MARK:

Yeah.

JOSHUA:

So, how we do it at Clio is as per our terms of service, we actually take on some of the responsibility of that risk, where we commit ourselves to industry best practices and we are very transparent in whom we use as part of our backend. It’s called sub-processors and privacy law under GDPR, so we’re required to disclose those sub-processors. We’re required to vet those sub-processors. We’re required to see that they meet the same contractual obligations to us that we commit to you. And so, there’s a shared risk that comes with using a good transparent vendor, but it is a risk and I don’t think we can ignore that. I do think that dollar per dollar, cloud computing gives you the best security for your money right now when you pick a transparent reputable vendor and the economies of scale that could be affected with cloud computing outweigh anything a small law firm can put together on their own.

And the one other counter point I would give to that is I think a lot of lawyers believe that because they’re small that they’re also obscure, and that nobody’s targeting them. And what we’ve seen is unfortunately, things like Malware that people may not be targeting them specifically but they’re still being caught in these giant dragnets of security risk.

MARK:

You bet.

JOSHUA:

And so if you’re trying to go it alone, what you’re really doing is you’re just setting yourself up to be caught in one of these dragnets.

MARK:

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I hope our listeners … That’s one to note. Well, listen Joshua, I have taken more time than I think I should. I know you’re a busy man here. I really appreciate your taking the time to visit with us, and to all of you listening I hope you found something of value here. My desire with this podcast really is just to try to have you hear firsthand the value of what cloud products can bring to the table in terms of enhancing your practice from a security side, to just creating all kinds of efficiencies. So, if you have been hesitant to look at these kinds of things up till now, I hope you will rethink it. You’ve got at least one Risk Manager here at ALPS saying hey, this is a really good idea. And from an insurance industry perspective I certainly think now’s the time to make a move.

So, Joshua, again thank you very much. I appreciate your time. To all of you listening out there, if you have another topic you’d like to hear discussed at some point in the future or a guest you’d like to have join us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can reach me at mbass@alpsnet.com. Thanks for listening. Joshua, have a good one.

JOSHUA:

You too, Mark. Thank you.

MARK:

You bet.

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JOSHUA LENON is an attorney admitted to the New York Bar.  He studied law at St. Louis University School of Law, obtaining a Juris Doctorate and a Certificate in International and Comparative Law. Joshua has since helped legal practitioners improve their services, working for Thomson Reuters’ publishing departments in both the United States and Canada. Joshua currently serves as Lawyer-in-Residence for Clio, providing legal scholarship and research skills to the leading cloud-based practice management platform from Vancouver, Canada. He’s been a guest lecturer for movements like legal hacking and legal technology at schools like MIT, Suffolk Law, and Vanderbilt, as well as before organizations like ReinventLaw and the ABA Law Practice Futures Initiative.

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Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, an attorney’s professional liability insurance carrier. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented over 400 continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management, ethics, and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.