Commercial World Updates

3763216490_de6b41aa2eI don’t spend all my time dealing with open access ideas, education and open source technology.  Sometimes I cross over to….the commercial world.  An earlier, more cynical version of Sarah would have called that “The Dark Side”, but I’ve matured and I realized that not all aspects of the legal and library business worlds are evil, faceless corporations who are out on a vendetta against me personally, and my profession generally.

MAN that looks crazy when I see it typed out.

To be clear, I don’t think for profit companies are evil…but I do think that all of us need to understand and respect the fact that they are primarily in the business to make money for their shareholders.  I mean, that’s actually what their legal obligation is to do.  So it makes me a little crazy when librarians get up in arms about their business practices from the emotional standpoint of “How could they do that to us? We’re libraries!”  and not assessing it from a business perspective.

But I digress….

Over the past few months I’ve either been pitched products, or learned about them on my own, or attended events that were grounded more in the for profit world than the non-profit one.  My medical issues of the past year and the fact that I seem to be incapable of writing a blog post less than 1000 words meant that I never got around to writing about them, so I’m packaging it up here in an omnibus post. I think I’m going to get a tumblr or something to start putting these short blurbs and links into in the future. Here’s what I’m covering – feel free to scroll down to hit your interests.

  • Clio and ClioCloud9
  • Fastcase
  • Wolters Kluwer
  • Bloomberg



Back in September I attended the ClioCloud9 conference.  Now, I go to a lot of conferences and am on the road way more than I want to be.  I had heard great things about this conference, but at the same time, it seemed to be geared towards practicing attorneys and specifically users of the Clio legal practice and case management software – which I am neither.  But it was local, they invited me, their tools are being used more and more in legal education and I’m a sucker for Canadians.  So I went.


First of all, they call their conference “Clio Cloud 9” which confused me, because I am used to the conference hashtag conventions of “conference name – year”.  But then I finally got it – Cloud 9.  As in happiness.  And boy was everyone happy!   I have to say, after the past few years of dealing with conferences and conversations that involve long meandering, navel-gazing existential crises and an almost mourner dirge for “The Way Things Used To Be”, it was kind of refreshing to hear “Things are changing.  We don’t know exactly what’s happening.  Isn’t it great?!  EVERYTHING IS AWESOME.”

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that happiness isn’t a choice, life circumstances aren’t a choice, but attitude is. And the people at Cli and ClioCloud9 are choosing to approach the changes to legal practice and information with  an eager eye to the future. It’s so easy to fall into a trap of “no one knows where the future of [X] is heading, so we’re going to hang back and wait for everyone to get their ducks in a row before we make any decisions about what we want to do.”  I suspect that the inclination to do this when running a business is very strong, as one needs a market to sell to before selling your widgets.   At Clio, the attitude seems to be more of “no one knows where the future is heading, so we’re going to decide it and make it ourselves and let people follow us.”

To put it in Canadian terms, not only are they skating to where the puck is going to be, but they are also the guy who happens to be hitting the puck in the first place.  It also strikes me as being very much like Apple in the heyday of Steve Jobs – they are making products that lawyers didn’t quite know that they wanted, but once they have them, they wonder how they lived without them.

Let’s put it this way – after seeing some of the things you can do with the Clio Software, I sort of wanted to reactivate my law license and practice law just so I could use it.


Another thing I really appreciated is that they recognized the humanity of lawyers and the fact you do and should have a life outside of your job.  Which, in a profession based on billable hours, is one of the more revolutionary ideas to come out of this conference.  For example, one of their big pitches is that if you use Clio Software you will save on average 8 hours a week. They call it your “Clio Day.”  They showed a video of a single mom lawyer and how Clio allows her to be a parent and run her practice in between school runs.

You have to understand – at that point in time I was drugged up to the point where I was pretty much incapable of feeling human emotion, and yet I found myself almost sobbing at how wonderful this was and at all the solo practitioners out there who are just struggling to do the best they can and OHMYGOD why doesn’t everyone use Clio???  I heard lots of sniffling around me, so it wasn’t just me, either.

The agenda is still available – aside from the ubiquitous presence of Susskind (Who is actually a fascinating speaker, and he did include new tidbits in this talk, but I’ve just seen him A LOT. Yes yes yes..drill manufacturers are selling holes in wood.  Got it.) – it was a really enjoyable and informative few days.  As the name indicates, it’s ostensibly about Clio and Cloud Technology, but in 2014, Cloud Technology is pretty much as ubiquitous as, well,  the presence of Richard Susskind at a future of law conference.  They also had a track just of Clio user workshops, so if you are a Clio User, you could become a power user by the end of it. (And the software engineers were available to make changes to the platform based on requests – sometimes before the day was out.  Impressive and freaky.)   It’s all CLE’d, so I think if I had to still care about that sort of thing, and was choosing between it, Legal Tech or Tech Show, hands down I’d go for ClioCloud just based on the content of the sessions alone.

But there’s more.

ClioCloud is SWANK.  The way I described it to my friend and colleague Elmer was, “Okay, you know around how around Christmas department stores used to make, like, an entire floor “Santa’s Workshop”  and completely transport you to a different world?  They did that with this hotel.  I am in Clio World.”  I did not get to take advantage of the extra-curriculars because I was not feeling up to it, but they definitely work hard during the day and party hard at night.  I’m still kind of mad at myself for not going to the Cubs game.  But it’s all included – as is breakfast, lunch, meals and snacks – in your ClioCloud registration.

So two thumbs up for Clio Cloud and Jack Newton is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever met in my entire life.

FCC disclosure: Clio invited me to this conference and gave me free registration.  Which meant free food and I drank my weight in free bottled sparkling water.  I also got a fun giftbag – on top of the stuff other people got – with the press kit and a wide variety of maple products (most of which I gave to my dad.)  Since ClioCloud started at OhMyGod o’clock in the morning, and I didn’t want to face the vagaries of Chicago rush hour traffic, I got a hotel in the city at my own expense. So I’m actually out about $650 bucks for this, minus the cost of maple goodies – well worth it though!


While waiting for the show to begin at ClioCloud, I began leafing through my “I’m super important and kind of a big deal” press kit.  Blah blah blah changes enhancements blah OH MY GOD FASTCASE IS PARTNERING WITH CLIO!!!!

Picture it, Gentle Reader: there was about a half hour to go before things began.  If not embargoed, it would have been rude as hell for me to spoil the surprise.  I am incapable of keeping a secret. I live tweet my life and I was coffeed up to the gills.  So, basically I sat there like this:


At least now I knew why Ed Walters was there.

This is really exciting for several reasons:

  1.  It means an easier way to track your legal research time for billing purposes, a skill that I had to hammer into law students back in my teaching days.
  2.  You can integrate documents from Fastcase into client portfolios, so you can keep all of your material nice and organized as well as keep your clients better informed and happy.
  3. Jumping back and forth between Fastcase and Clio is supposed to be pretty seamless, so you’ll save a bit of time there.

There is also the not in consequential issue of the fact that 26 (I think that’s the current number) state bars and several local bar associations offer free Fastcase to their members.  Additionally, quite a few state bars offer discounted access to Clio as a member benefit.  So it seems to make economic sense to me that, when possible, it would behoove a small firm or solo practitioner to subscribe to both and take advantage of these new features.  And don’t forget, thanks to Fastcase’s partnership with Hein, you can get a wide variety of historical and secondary materials for a ridiculously cheap price.

Here’s what I would do if I were teaching legal research again: I’d use Clio and Fastcase as the basic electronic platform for my course and let the reps for the vendors teach the specifics of using their services. I’d concentrate my class time on teaching broad general electronic research skills and not worry – or test – on whether not someone recognizes a symbol in a citator or how to find where the federal registers are located on a particular system.  I’d rather introduce my students and give them practice on a system that they should be using more in their future practice life and use it as the environment that will give them the skills to determine when they are getting bullshitted by one of the large vendors.  The Clio integration would allow students to get a feel for practice management software as well as get them in the habit of tracking their time.  Winner winner chicken dinner.

FCC disclosure: Ed Walters bought my lunch last month and everyone time I see him he offers to buy me booze.  I also ate half a cow in the Fastcase suite at AALL and I proudly rock my Fastcase t-shirts.  I am also Fastcase fangirl number 1.


You think I’m going to talk about the Casebook fiasco, right? WRONG.  I mean, I have to mention it, but it was so bad it was almost like a practical joke gone wrong by someone in marketing so I can’t even take it seriously.  “I know…let’s tell people that they have to send back their print books and disregard the well settled principle of first sale!” “That’s hilarious, Bob!”  <a week later>  “BOB.  YOU ACTUALLY SENT THAT PRESS RELEASE OUT???  …oh we are fucked.”  It was a bad idea, I think they realize it, we all make mistakes, let’s move on.

No, I really want to cover their new Cheetah research platform.  As we all know, I don’t work in the practice world and I especially don’t work in the world in which Wolters seems to stand out, which is high stakes regulatory and finance stuff.  I don’t even know what to call it in a way that makes me sound like an adult – that’s how far out of that world I am in.  But, I do know research, and I do know what should happen in the creation of a research tool – for the user and the back end – and I have to say I am really impressed with what I saw with Cheetah.

First of all, because I always seem to gravitate towards the least important issues first, I love that they are calling it Cheetah.  In a world where everything marketing seems to be who has the biggest dick to swing and it’s NEXT ADVANCE NEW NOW WOW rush the battlefield and kill kill kill, I like the simplicity and near quirkiness of naming it after a fast animal because you want to emphasize that it works fast.  Seriously. Thank you for that, WK.

Cheetah is not Itelliconnect 2.0 (thank Christ) and it’s not “hey lets dump our of our content into a big pile and let the user sort through it.”.  They very thoughtfully went through WK’s library of materials and made it more useful in a digital world.  It’s been a few months since I looked at it, but I remember some of the things I liked:

  • Persistent URLs (It matters, people.  It does!)
  • Responsive display
  • Saved annotations.

Jean O’Grady has a much better overview, although I’m sure some things have changed since then. I seem to remember having an issue during my private demo about where the advance search features were going to be available – if at all – so I will be interested to see where that gets sorted to.  I think I wanted separate boxes for each field and they had push button operators?  Something like that.  Sorry the memory is not clearer.

FCC disclosure – I don’t think I got anything special from WK, except the bag everyone got with the cheetah sunglasses, which I gave to Miss 8 because I am not sassy enough to pull off Cheetah print sunglasses, and a cheetah lanyard, which I regifted to my mother who is one of those people that changes up their work lanyards to match their outfit.  I did get a private demo after AALL.


Finally, in a bit of 6 month old news, it was announced during AALL that David Perla is the new president of Bloomberg BNA.  I found this a bit interesting and exciting because Perla is a “New/Alt Law” type and for him to helm a corporate behemoth (instead of just being bought by one) could be interesting to watch. I guess we’ll see.  It is interesting to note, that although it’s been six months, I had a hard time confirming initially that he still worked there, especially as I use twitter as my first line of checking someone out since LinkedIn rats you out for spying and he’s preeeeeety far down on the Executive Team page.  And now looking at it I see that’s it’s alphabetical order after CEO, Chairman and COO.  But see?  These are the things I worry about.

FCC Disclosure:  I got invited to the special swanky BNA Bloomberg Bloggers gathering, where I at some premium appetizers and drank top shelf liquor.  They also gave me a Chromecast, but I already have one which I don’t use, so I’m giving it to one of my siblings, if I can remember to.) 

Photo Credit: ahisgett via Compfight cc


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