Reflections on Clio Cloud Conference 2016

Our firm just returned to the office from the Clio Cloud Conference in Chicago this week.  For those who did not attend and are thinking about it for next year, we thought it would be helpful to hear our thoughts on the conference.   

Brianna Schroeder: I arrived at the hotel Monday morning and settled in for the CEO's opening keynote. I expected a mildly interesting old man, but his presentation opened with loud dance music pumping through the packed conference hall and gobs of Clio employees running through the aisles to the stage. My preconceived notion of a legal conference was about to be smashed. CEO Jack Newton weaved a tale of boyhood dreams of being an aeronautical engineer that turned into an adult goal of disrupting the legal space with technology. The history of Clio was a great opening backdrop for #ClioCloud9 in Chicago. Jack explained Clio's goal is to increase a lawyer's efficiency to allow them to create more and do more from anywhere in the world, thus making more time for the rest of life to happen. The focus of the conference was utilizing available tech tools—software, apps, mobiles, laptops, networks, cloud computing, and big data—to better the practice of law (and life) for clients and lawyers. 

Todd JanzenMy initial impression was that this was something very different than any law conference I had ever been to. First, the Clio staff was everywhere and engaging with the attendees on a regular basis. Second, the vendors all had productivity software that was designed to make law practice easier and more efficient. At most law conferences, you try to avoid the vendors, but at this one, we actually visited most of them. 

Brianna:  There were a few different "tracks" for the breakout sessions. Clio Introduction, Clio Master, Legal Technology, and the Business of Law. At any given time there were at least four presentation options, along with a host of extras like Clio lab support (the "Smart Bar"), screenings of legal gems like My Cousin Vinny, and time to peruse the software vendors. Some vendors had great products to offer—see Todd's review of Lexicata, below. Other products seemed to overlap with services we already receive from Clio and were therefore unnecessary. Others were conceptually awesome (AI legal research, trademark docketing, communication in the cloud) but just weren't a fit for Janzen Ag Law.  


Todd:  The breakout seminars were overall, pretty good.  The highlights for me would be Ken Adam’s Traditional Contract Drafting is the Worst.  I’ve been a fan of Ken Adams for years, ever since I read the Manual of Style for Contract Drafting (1st Ed.)  His practical tips for doing away with needless legal jargon in contracts helps keep me inspired when drafting.  Although his presentation was an outlier at the conference, his stepping outside of the mold seemed to fit right in. 

Brianna: I also enjoyed Ken Adams' presentation and wholeheartedly agree with his drive to get rid of the "witnesseth" and "WHEREAS" clauses in legal contracts. Rubbish.  

Todd:  Another highlight was Anthony Marrone’s Run Your Law Firm Like the Best Small Business AroundMarrone analogized running law practice to being a contestant on Shark Tank and challenged practitioners to think hard about how they sell what they do and how they grow their practice. What are your sales? How are you going to scale your business?   

Brianna: A few of my favorites included Greg McLawsen's How to Run your Law Firm From India and Darth Vaughn's Investing in Yourself: Tech Competence in the Modern Law Firm. Greg's presentation focused on using groundbreaking legal tech tools to mobilize a law practice, allowing an attorney to work from anywhere (including the Himalayas). Darth's presentation (and I still don't know if that is his real name) highlighted the importance of using the full capabilities of existing tech products to improve efficiency in a law firm.  

Todd:  There were also some disappointments, to be honest. Melanie Heller’s Size Doesn't Matter branding presentation fell flat with the audience. I’m still not sure what we were supposed to take away from that presentation. I agree with one of the comments on the Clio conference feed: Size actually does matter, because being a small law firm allows you to embrace change more quickly, and be more efficient.    

Brianna: There are a few areas I'm waiting for Clio to improve. Some parts of the conference seemed especially geared to family, divorce or immigration lawyers who do more form-based work. Our agricultural practice does not rely on pre-populated forms so those sections missed the mark for me. I'm looking forward to better integration with Microsoft Outlook calendars. Perhaps next year Clio could invite reps from the established tech companies to help with integration issues (I'm looking at you, Apple and Microsoft). But my overall review of the conference is highly positive. The takeaway feeling of "Cliocon" was that we are standing on the precipice of a whole new world of automation, artificial intelligence, cloud-computing, and general legal technology. Clio is on the leading edge, and I'm glad we're leveraging it in our practice.    

Todd:  I strongly agree with Brianna on her recommendation that Clio get Apple and Microsoft reps to attend next year’s meeting. Maybe we can lock them in a room together with instructions not to come out until my Clio, Outlook, and iOS calendars all properly sync! At the very least, I think it would be neat to have few breakout sessions to learn new ways to use my iPad or Surface in the office. 

Brianna:  One of the highlights has to be the #AskGaryVee keynote with Gary Vaynerchuk. I did not know what to expect from Gary, but his performance was engaging and inspiring. It’s great to be reminded that change is a constant in any industry today, and you either get on board or lament about how things used to be.  

ToddLast but not least, I want to mention Lexicata, the type of CRM app we’ve been looking for since starting Janzen Ag Law. I’ve heard word of mouth marketing is the best kind, because you are more likely to believe a friend or peer’s review of a product than you are from the marketers that make the product. That must be true, because Lexicata was recommended to us by an attorney joining us for lunch and telling us how great it was for his practice. 30 minutes later we were at the booth signing up with the CEO himself, Michael Chasin. 

We can’t wait to attend next year. 

 PS: Thanks for the socks!