C L I O C O N 2 0 2 2 - P O S T M O R T U M
I have just returned from a three-day adventure in Nashville, where I had the privilege of attending the 2022 Cloud Clio Conference. For those who don't know, Clio is a cloud-based legal software provider and the first legal tech company to achieve "unicorn" status with a valuation of one-billion dollars back in 2021. This year was Clio's tenth year of hosting their conference, the first time it's been held in person since 2019.
The first thing that you noticed about the 2022 ClioCon was the size. In an era where in-person meetings are bringing in a percentage of their pre-pandemic numbers, Clio managed to bring together over 3,000 lawyers, judges, paralegals, and technologists. Upon checking with the ABA meetings and Travel team, I was surprised that this was a larger gathering of the legal industry than at the 2022 Annual meeting.
While the evidence is anecdotal, the event was attended mainly by solo, small, and midsize firm lawyers, many of whom have practices that focus on people law. In a keynote address encouraging people to connect with professionals outside their practice, attendees were asked to raise their hands. This straw poll was an informal way to gauge what practice areas were represented. Many hands were raised for Family law and Bankruptcy attorneys. Trial attorneys were one of the least represented groups in that exercise. I have just returned from a three-day adventure in Nashville, where I had the privilege of attending the 2022 Cloud Clio Conference. For those who don't know, Clio is a cloud-based legal software provider and the first legal tech company to achieve "unicorn" status with a valuation of one-billion dollars back in 2021. This year was Clio's tenth year of hosting their conference, the first time it's been held in person since 2019.
I suspect this change reflects many of the efficiencies that Clio and its software offer to practice areas where firms often experience a higher volume of cases. It may also indicate ClioCon's changing nature from an Industry event to a more customer-centric event, which I will touch on later.
Another noticeable attribute is the fact that having an ABA presence (inadvertently, as I was there in my individual capacity) seemed to be greatly appreciated by many vendors and conference attendees. These Attorneys craved Innovation and found it encouraging that the ABA had a presence. We picked up many new social media followers and subscribers to our newsletter. Most notably, there was a lot of interest in our Emerging Careers in Legal series, which we launched with the YLD this month. I believe there is great value to the ABA appearing at these events in more significant numbers to emphasize our commitment to the future of the Legal Profession. Special thanks are owed to our members who were also in attendance, Patrick Palace, Kim Bennet, Irene Mo, and Zack DeMeola. Patrick Palace, CFI Vice Chair, and I record an episode of the Center for Innovation Podcast "The Innovation Network"
There were many great sessions, such as AI in Law, Innovation in Courtrooms, and Building KPIs for your firm. I will highlight two in greater detail; the 2022 Clio Legal Trends Report Highlights and Pyramids and Moats.
First, my favorite session each year is the highlights of the Clio Trends Report. This report is a data-driven look at trends drawn from Clio's user data of the past year. The session that highlights the trend reports is often one of the most attended events of the conference.
This year's report focused a lot on how lawyers spent their time as work environments have settled into hybrid settings since the impacts of the pandemic have lessened. For the first time in the report's history, there was a drastic uptake in attorneys delegating tasks and better utilization of allied professionals. This shift may be the start of what many of us have anticipated for the year: more collaborative work environments with multi-disciplinary professionals.
Another trend was raised in the report that dealt with fee structures and how lawyer's fees have not risen consistently with the rapid inflation seen over the last year. This trend is much more alarming for those concerned about the widening access gap, which continues to grow. We know from the LSC data that roughly 80% of people don't have meaningful access to legal services and that this number represents the middle-income tiers. Alarmingly Clio's data highlight that this problem may get even worse. While fees may or may not go up soon, history shows us that this underserved population could be in for even less access, not more.
The second session that stood out was Mark Britton, the former CEO of AVVO, a session entitled Pyramids, and Moats. This session was a deep dive into how to build a firm that excels at building value for customers. He highlighted high-tech and low-tech firms that use free resources to help attract clients and create relationships. He also talked about how once you build those client bases, you can use low-friction technology and practices standard in eCommerce to keep those clients, a practice he compared to building motes.
While the conference was an excellent opportunity to network and learn, it's impossible not to notice that ClioCon somehow has a bit of an identity crisis. In the past, it always felt less like a user conference and more like an industry conference, a gathering of innovators and forward thinkers whose goal was to help the legal industry thrive in times of change. That was not how it felt in 2022, as it seemed like it was trying to do both often at the expense of itself.
The volume of sessions was sometimes overwhelming, with many sessions that in previous years were packed felt empty. The lower numbers of attendees in many sessions could be because running parrel to every session on building a more agile firm or on how lawyers can grow their firms to serve underserved markers was a session on maximizing your use of Clio software.
Noticeably absent from ClioCons Session was the conversation about regulatory changes and experimentation. In the past, many panels focused on the regulatory space and its changing nature, and in 2022 access to justice sessions mainly concentrated on technology. The lack of any programming touching on regulation is a drastic shift from past ClioCons. I have no hypothesis as to why this change was made.
I'll share some thoughts on the technology companies that stood out to me. First Readback.legal jumped out. Readback is a court reporting service that uses an AIbased speech-to-text tool to make instantaneous digital transcripts of virtual depositions. I had the opportunity to test the tool itself and saw that its latency was short, and its accuracy was high. It employs some human oversight, and that causes the live transcription to appear jumpy. While it doesn't seem like a ready tool to close the access gap, I could see a broad application in rural courts to provide low-cost court transcription services. However, its CLO indicated that the technology is currently aimed at depositions where there is more control of ambient noises.
Another standout in tech was InfoTrack. InfoTrack is an efiling platform that integrates with CRMs like smokeball and Clio. Info track solves a scaling problem that many small and midsize firms struggle with: managing the volume of documents that can be a massive challenge, especially in high-volume areas of people law. Currently available in 7 jurisdictions (and, of course, those 7 being the big players like New York, Texas, and Illinois), I could see this having a massive impact on lawyers being able to lower costs and aid more clients. Anyone who knows me knows I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with chatbots. Enter Tom Martin and Lawdroid, who was also present. Lawdroid builds chatbots designed to help create frictionless customer experiences and has been used to build bots for intake, triage, and helping complete forms. Law droid is a 2021 legal rebel.
The expo offered various vendors, not just the usual stable of CRM or Ediscovery companies that have been the mainstay of legal tech conferences in 2022. Other tech standouts worth checking out were Blue-Well (a workplace collaboration tool), Embroker (a tech-enabled insurance brokerage platform), and Law Clerk (a placement service that marries the legal profession and the gig economy). The write-ups above merely scratch the surface of what was a vast and thankfully diverse expo hall.
ClioCon has grown to a size where it can't be ignored. Clio's explosive growth has undoubtedly affected the nature of ClioCon. I got the sense that it was much more of a sales or user conference than it used to be. Its impact on the industry and its ability to draw the attention of professionals who are prepared to embrace and shape the future of legal is apparent. Clio is a must-attend conference for lawyers who believe technology and innovation are the tools that can narrow the access gap.