Vol. 40, No. 4

New York State Bar Association pulls content, vendors, and resources into new ‘hub’

by Dan Kittay

Helping attorneys gather the massive amounts of information they deal with each day is the premise behind the New York State Bar Association’s new LawHUB application, unveiled at the recent NYSBA Annual Meeting.

“Our members are pulled in a lot of different directions. They’re inundated with data, information, and legal resources from a variety of areas,” says David Miranda, president of NYSBA. “We felt that our bar association would be in the best position to manage all the information they get, manage all the law practice management tools that they get, and keep it all in one place.”

Miranda compared the LawHUB interface to a smartphone, where users can arrange their most-used items in a way that makes sense for them.

Pick a card

LawHUB is a cloud-based web application, which NYSBA members access by logging in either from a computer or a mobile device. Instead of icons, individual offerings are presented as “cards,” which can be rearranged by dragging them to their desired position.

Each card represents a service or content area that the member has indicated is important, says Kevin Getnick, NYSBA’s executive services counsel. When members first log in to LawHUB, they answer a series of questions about their practice and their interests, so that the software will only show them features that may be relevant to them, Getnick says.

Some cards represent vendors of services such as legal research or practice management tools. Others connect to NYSBA-generated content. The cards provide links to the services or content through an application programming interface (API), which allows for a direct connection to the vendor’s website. The cards generally offer a subset of what the vendor offers on its full website. The APIs can be modified in the future to allow different services if members indicate they prefer them, Getnick says.

With this approach, NYSBA is not able to see what work a member is performing through the LawHUB interface, he adds. While the bar can track which cards get clicked or tapped on, it’s impossible to know what the member does while using the service.

From idea to execution

The idea for something like LawHUB came when NYSBA Executive Director Dave Watson was walking down “vendor row” (the sponsor area) at a NABE meeting a few years ago, Watson says. He liked the idea that someone could go to one place and see all the different types of services available.

“I thought it would be great if we could combine all of that together with our own curated content and deliver it to members,” Watson recalls. “Instead of getting everything in one giant pipe, it could come in as smaller, refined pipes.”

As the idea took shape, NYSBA realized it would take significant resources to create a product that the bar could offer to its members without charge, so it approached its affinity partner insurance company USI for funding. USI agreed to fund the development of LawHUB, Watson says, because it saw that providing lawyers with a tool to better manage their daily professional lives would help reduce incidents of malpractice.

CuroLegal, which offers consulting, practice management tools, and staffing for law firms, was hired to develop LawHUB. The first version of the product, which was unveiled in January, took 18 months to develop, says Nicole Bradick, chief strategy officer at CuroLegal.

“We built it from scratch,” Bradick says. “We work with firms around the country on practice management issues, and really understand legal technology and how lawyers are using legal technology, and we were able to bring that perspective.” The app is built on node.js, a framework of Javascript.

The development process included more than 100 beta testers, says NYSBA’s Getnick. They included member and nonmember attorneys, practice management specialists, and law students.

Future plans

For now, LawHUB offers a gathering of existing services and content available to NYSBA members, in one convenient space, Watson says. Plans call for developing original content unique to the app.

There is a place on the LawHUB screen for users to enter feature requests. If more than 200 members request a feature, NYSBA will add a card for it, Getnick says; it typically takes up to eight weeks to develop a new card. If enough members request it, a card could be added for a vendor that competes with the NYSBA partners already on the service, he notes.

At the recent NABE Midyear Meeting, Watson showed the service to those from other bars, and the response was positive. NYSBA’s focus is on LawHUB as a benefit for its own members, but the bar is aware that there could be opportunities to work with other associations in the future.

“We want this to be something that our members log in to at the beginning of the day, use throughout the day, and log out from at the end of the day,” Watson says.