PLANNING AHEAD: The CLIO Conference and a client-centered law firm [Column]

Lawyers and technology do not always work well together — or at least they did not often in the past. Some Americans actually still believe that, after a family member’s death, the lawyer “reads the will” to assembled beneficiaries in a comfortable office preferably before a raging fire and, if a male, while smoking a pipe.

I have been so assured by some friends and clients of mine and it makes an interesting visual for movie and television settings but it is not true. The challenge is to maintain insofar as it is possible those personal involvements and connections essential to a good lawyer-client connection while at the same time building a practice that grows and adapts to a changing — largely technical world.

Law firms of varying sizes from the sole practitioner to mammoth firms have to varying degrees adopted and adapted to the technology scene or, in some cases, retired from it. For myself, I know that without a deep emersion into changing technologies, I realistically could not practice law or certainly not do it so effectively. So several years back I took a deep dive into a program called CLIO and have not retreated since.

CLIO, the brain child of the vision of Jack Newton, its Canadian founding father, began by dealing with problems lawyers had with software and has grown and morphed into much more. It connects with almost everything, it seems, and is recognized not just in continental North America but around the world. It also has a philosophy regarding the practice of law expressed in the book, “The Client Centered Law Firm – How To Succeed in an Experience-Driven World.” The idea briefly stated is that personal connection with clients and effective delivery of legal services through technology and, yes, also through the cloud, are not inconsistent.

How much technology is going to be accepted by clients will also depend on other factors, since a lawyer still needs to relate to clients at their own rate of speed. Not all clients are ready to adapt to technology at the same level, so there needs to be a mutual accommodation between lawyers ready to offer services through technology and the cloud and clients willing or even eager to accept them.

On the other hand, we cannot return to rotary dial telephones or electric typewriters. Their days are past. Even while accommodating to varying needs there are some basics that will never return. A certain level of adaptation is needed even for those who might not yet be ready.

To give an idea of relationships, note that, if you are a lawyer and have an accounting program such as Quick Books or a billing system and CRM (Contact Relationship Management) system you might be using CLIO Manage and CLIO Grow or you might have a document management system (CLIO Manage alone or with LAWYAW). LAWYAW now connects with court forms in all 50 U.S. states. The reach of program inter-relationships is massive.

All of this leads to what I have been doing through the past week and why some might have had difficulty reaching me, although I assure I was available the whole time through blue tooth and other technologies. CLIO held its 10th Annual Conference, referred to as the CLIO Cloud Conference (CLIOCon for short) both in person and virtually from Nashville, Tenn., the first hybrid conference. (As an aside, we are sometimes referred to as the “Clions” a shout out, I suppose to Star Wars fans).

Anyway, for the first time I was able to attend the conference in person and even had a very brief opportunity to chat with Jack Newton himself. The experience was energizing and raised questions for me — how many of the new ideas could I incorporate into my practice and how better could I use the systems I already have  — or more — to reach clients effectively produce quality work and quality answers.

The conference included keynote speakers including Jack Newton himself but also Neal Katyal, former U.S. principal deputy solicitor general and practitioner before the U.S. Supreme Court, who discussed cases he argued.  Multiple individual sessions over two-days dealt with empowering clients, dealing with individual products and programs and “how-tos.” Awards were given for advancements in legal justice and in technology. Now I take the time to absorb and implement. It will be interesting.

Janet Colliton, Esq. is a Certified Elder Law Attorney. Her practice, Colliton Elder Law Associates PC is limited to elder law, retirement planning, life care, special needs, guardianship, and estate planning and administration, with offices at 790 East Market St., Ste. 250, West Chester, 610-436-6674, [email protected] She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and, with Jeffrey Jones CSA, co-founder of Life Transition Services LLC, a service for families with long term care needs.

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