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Three Questions about Small Firms and Innovation for Clio
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Clio Cloud Conference

Three Questions About Small Firms and Innovation for the Clio Conference

Dan Lear reports from the floor on themes he's exploring at #ClioCloud9.

By Dan Lear

Having arrived at the sixth annual Clio Cloud Conference in New Orleans this week, I’m pretty stoked to be back at what is, increasingly, the legal technology mecca. There are definitely other great legal technology shows but, for a variety of reasons that others have already articulated elsewhere, the Clio Cloud Conference is, frankly, the new standard in not only legal tech conferences but legal conferences.

Clio has continued to set and then raise the bar every year. It’s pretty impressive. And this comes from someone who has organized a fair number of legal tech events (both local and national) and whose former employer had a legal marketing and technology event that, in a fairly friendly way, saw the Clio Cloud Conference as “competition.”

Speaking of Avvo, I’m also excited for this being the first big conference in my post-Avvo employment life. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m exploring a bunch of different opportunities in the legal technology and innovation ecosystem. But even with a fairly wide range of projects and clients on my plate, perhaps completely coincidentally (but more than likely not) a number of themes are emerging from these clients and projects that I’m eager to explore and better understand at this year’s Clio Cloud Conference.

Three Questions

I’ve summed these themes up in three questions that I’ll be exploring during the conference — and I’ll report back on them here on Attorney at Work after the conference.

What are innovative small firm lawyers up to?

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some awesome, innovative small firm lawyers. Sure, BigLaw has all the resources, they have the AmLaw 100, they get all the attention from on-campus interviews at law schools, and they’re most often glamorized and satirized on television. But as we look at a world that increasingly values agility, nimbleness and small teams (see also Amazon’s rule of thumb to never have a team that can’t be fed by two pizzas), I’m convinced that there’s so much great action at the small firm level.

As just a few examples:

  • I’m excited to catch up with one of my small firm friends who is working on a newsletter, growing community and encouraging lawyers to break out of their shells and do something unique. Started almost on a lark, Jess Birken seems to be getting traction with Hack Your Practice and I’m excited to hear more.
  • Erin Gerstenzang’s star keeps rising as well. After launching the Data Driven Ethics initiative, Erin’s been the darling of every legal blogger, podcaster and innovator (not that she wasn’t before). I’m stoked to hear her talk but also to catch up on the latest with her.

There are also lawyers building subscription legal plans, building on technology, and constantly trying to figure out how to scale and improve their already revolutionary practices. It’s going to be awesome to catch up with them.

What are the most interesting startups and innovative ideas percolating in the legal ecosystem?

It’s also clear that the Clio Cloud Conference is one of a precious few places to catch up with, see and discover early-stage startups in the legal tech space. The conference is pulling an audience of early adopters — the perfect target for startups looking for lawyers who are open to trying something new. Clio has also wisely created a startup sponsorship level, creating an opportunity for new blood to buy some visibility at the conference so that it’s not all Wexisberg all the time — and as a smart nod both to Clio’s roots as a startup and their current status as one of the legal tech startup godfathers. While the carrot of Launch//Code has brought many of these early-stage innovators out of the woodwork as well, the Clio conference is quickly emerging as the place for emerging legal tech startups to see and be seen.

What’s the current appetite to reexamine or even change the ethics rules that are, at the very least a chill, if not an outright impediment, to innovation?

Finally, a number of my current projects and clients seem to have some kind of regulatory element. While this is, perhaps, not surprising in light of recent lobbying and regulatory work I did at Avvo, I’m now getting a front-row seat as startups wrestle with these issues in real time. I’m excited for Patrick Palace’s third iteration of the summit on the legal profession. I’m also interested to take the temperature of regular rank-and-file yet innovative, forward-thinking lawyers on the appetite for real change to liberate them and the startups that want to help them.

These are the three questions I’m taking to this year’s Clio Cloud Conference. I’m eager to shop them around, bounce them off friends and challenge my understanding. I’ll almost certainly learn and I know I’ll leave enlightened.

Categories: Emerging Technology, Innovation, News and Trends
Originally published October 4, 2018
Last updated May 11, 2020
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Dan Lear

Dan Lear is a lawyer and legal industry gadfly and the Chief Instigator of Right Brain Law. As a practicing attorney he advised technology companies from startups to the Fortune 100. Since his transition from tech lawyer to legal technologist, Dan’s been featured or published widely in the legal industry press and spoken to at SXSW InteractiveIgnite Seattle, Georgetown University, Stanford UniversityReInvent Law, and the National Conference of Bar Presidents. Most recently, Dan was the Director of Industry Relations for Avvo. Follow him @rightbrainlaw.

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