This year’s Clio Conference in New Orleans just concluded. Clio calls itself a cloud based law practice management software company. Every year, it holds a conference with lots of razzle dazzle, speakers and parties. And it always skates where the puck is going.
This year was no exception. While it offered a slew of new products (here’s a good article from Bob Ambrogi on these new ones), here are my top 10 takeaways on the conference itself.

1. If Jack Newton, the CEO and one of the founders of Clio is not the Steve Jobs/Elon Musk of legal tech, I don’t know who is. 10 years ago he created a product, grew it immensely and continues to innovate. Last year he gave us the first comprehensive Survey of the legal profession (see below). This year, a new interface and software program. And to top it all off, he gives us a honest to goodness technology conference with dazzling keynotes, great content, high energy, music, parties and fun. No one else in the industry seems to understand that people are drawn to good presentations, good speakers, welcoming atmosphere and, of yes, music. Clio knows how to succeed in this space better than anyone.

2. Clio is successful because it listens to its customers. 1200 attendees, 150,000 legal professionals using in 90 countries.240 employees in 4 offices. All in less than 10 years. You don’t get there without being attuned to the market and knowing and listening to your customers. Prime example: this year Clio even set up labs where you could go play with the new products and were strongly encouraged to …OFFER SUGGESTIONS. There’s a complicated marketing idea.

3. This year’s theme was transformation. True to the theme, the headline keynotes were chosen with care. The first was from the astronaut, Chris Hadfield, who gave one of the most inspiring talks I have ever heard.

Col. Hadfield talked about how NASA transformed itself starting by accepting President Kennedy’s moon shot challenge (“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”) and finishing with the miraculously successful moon landing some 7 years later.


The next day’s keynote was from Haben Girma, the first deaf/blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. After listening to her and getting to know her a bit, graduating Harvard Law may be one of her lesser accomplishments, believe it or not (You should see her dance!). Haben showed us that we all have disabilities and that tech and innovation transforms us and helps us overcome them. My favorite Haben quote from her talk “there are always alternatives”.

4. Under the no detail goes unnoticed category: while I know nothing about event planning, the idea of announcing the location of next year’s conference and then offering a special low rate for it an the end of the conference when everyone is jazzed seems brilliant. 50% of those attending next years conference have already signed up…and paid. Wow.


Does Clio have its sights on big law?

5. Does Clio have its sights on big law? While Clio is king in the small to mid size market, I suspect its looking to expand to big law. Newton mentioned for the first time that Clio now has AmLaw 100 clients. And that the new Clio software will allow each firm to customize the version for itself. And Clio now integrates with Outlook 365. And its looking at all sorts of data about the profession (which by the way made me also wonder whether Clio is not only going after bit law but may also be ready to take on ALM).When I saw the demo of its new products, I asked the rep why Clio didn’t market more to big law. The answer was the proverbial Cheshire Cat grin.
6. Clio has recognized that instead of a practice management company, it may really be a data and data analytics company. Last year, it mined its massive data and came up with a pretty elucidating survey. This year it improved that survey and asked a lot more questions. While the Survey still shows that many lawyers continue to work too hard to bill and collect too little, it now also shows that most people still find lawyers through referrals. So what’s the key question to ask your clients? Will you refer me to someone else. Find out who your detractors, passives and promoters are and then double down on the promoters. That’s a pretty simple marketing plan driven by data and knowing what questions to ask.

What does the survey show is the main thing clients want? Responsiveness. Frictionless and mobile transactions


7. And what does the survey show is the main thing clients want? Responsiveness. Frictionless and mobile transactions. So Clio has initiated Project Hermes to connect with mobile and the cloud and help lawyers reach clients in this frictionless way. Again, using data to Figure out where the future will be and then transforming to get there.
8. While I was listening to all the great speakers and looking at the Survey results among other things it occurred to me that the Survey outcomes and recommendations are not limited to small law but completely scalable to big law. Yet I’m the only big law lawyer at the conference? While I noted the same thing at ILTA, the additional whammy at Clio was that the audience was composed of lawyers—the small and mid size lawyers who may soon kick our big law ass.

Will small and mid size lawyers who may soon kick our big law ass?

9. Clio plans to give some $6 million in free software to law schools, paralegal programs and nonprofits. Clio is also launching a $1 million developer fund to support innovative legal startups and is launching a competition that will award a $100,000 prize to the best new Clio integration between now and the next Clio conference. Obviously designed to do good but also smart business: like Google, Clio is using its muscle to attract future customers, discover innovation and advance integration.
10. Oh and that new product. Its pretty impressive and continues to be cloud based and most importantly visual and simple to use. Clio brags that it encompasses a new design, better performance, better integrations and countless improvements to existing features. But more importantly is how Clio developed it Clio spent hours and hours with lawyers and law firms, talking to its users, testing and monitoring feedback from surveys and interactions.

So that’s my take. Having now attended ILTA, ALM and techShow all in the same year, I couldn’t help but think that of all of them Clio seems the most focused on where the puck is going and skating there the fastest. Its no coincidence that Newton recognized in his keynote that to thrive companies have to reinvent themselves every 5 years. Yet we work in a profession that candidly hasn’t reinvented itself for a long time, if ever. I have a feeling if we ever do, it will be because Newton and Clio dragged us there kicking and screaming. And those who go there first will probably be Clio customers.