#LegalTechLives with Joshua Lenon, Lawyer in Residence at Clio

Ava Chisling
November 2, 2017

“The more technology becomes a part of our daily lives, the more a lawyer will need to know technology,” says Joshua Lenon. Learn why this is so important and how speaking to the great minds at the MIT Media Lab gave him the jitters!

Joshua Lenon is Clio’s Lawyer in Residence. This is a unique role that combines legal scholarship, community outreach, and internal training on the practice of law. In this role, Joshua travels the world, speaking and learning from lawyers at all levels of practice.

In May, I asked Jack Newton (CEO/co-founder of Clio) to describe a day in the life of a lawyer with Clio, and one without it. For you, I’ll alter the question a bit: How does Clio help a solo lawyer or a boutique-type firm?

Clio helps solo and boutique law firms collaborate. Previous to using Clio, these firms were relying on paper and silo’d apps. If a file was sitting on the corner of someone’s desk, no one else could access it. Clio not only centralizes a law firm’s case files, its modern approach to syncing with other web apps make it a hub around which all law firm activity revolves. Whether it is an email, document, calendar entry, or a phone call, all those items can be linked to a case in Clio.

Tell me what a lawyer in residence is responsible for at Clio?

One of Clio’s values is “Customers success come first.” That value guides a lot of my duties. I work with many teams across Clio to make sure we’re focusing on the specific needs of lawyers. Whether it is helping instruct our sales and support teams on what features works best for a particular type of lawyer, building education campaigns with Clio’s marketing team, or helping explain the workflows of law firms to our product team, my role is to find ways to bring the specific needs of lawyers to the front of Clio’s efforts.

Have you seen a big difference in the way lawyers adapt to new technology in your travels? For example, is Canada faster to adopt than the US? Perhaps there are differences state to state?

There is a difference, based on geography, in adopting legal technology. Most early legal technology was built in the United States. It had a U.S. focus in terms of features, storage, and compliance. We’ve seen the rest of the world question the legal structures surrounding legaltech companies. I think legaltech companies that limit themselves to one market, even one as big as the U.S., are doing their customers a disservice. Legal is an industry that is global in nature and practice. Clio has focused on international & cross-border compliance issues since before we launched our European data center in 2013. This different approach to building globally compliant software makes it easier for law firms to adopt Clio.

If you had the power, who would you like to see make and implement the technology decisions at big law firms?

“What we’ve seen in the past is that the heavy demands of running a practice would often lead partners to postponing learning about technology. I don’t think that approach is acceptable to clients or a lawyer’s professional duties anymore.”

Law firm partners need to make the decisions on implementing technology. Ethically, it is their responsibility. What we’ve seen in the past is that the heavy demands of running a practice would often lead partners to postponing learning about technology. I don’t think that approach is acceptable to clients or a lawyer’s professional duties anymore.

Collecting fees is a never-ending discussion among my lawyer friends — and my freelance friends, too. What are the top three must-dos when it comes to invoicing and collecting fees?

First, have a process for collecting fees. Many lawyers think they have a process, but printing and mailing bills once a month is not a real process. For most lawyers, a good process includes the following:

  • Online payment options (LTR data shows this leads to 40% faster payments)
  • Timing billing to clients’ payment cycles (If they cut checks on the 15th of each month, get the bill in by the 13th.)
  • Scheduled time to follow up with clients about payments (Most lawyers avoid this to their own detriment.)

Second, once you have a process in place, document it in your engagement contract with each client. Use it to train clients as to what is acceptable when it comes to bills and payments. Third, follow the process. You took the time to create it and get your client to agree to it. Get to work and get paid.

Joshua Lenon with ROSS CEO/Cofounder Andrew Arruda

Do you think part of the problem with getting paid is that a lawyer’s services can sometimes be “invisible,” that is, we offer advice and not something tangible like, say, dinner at a restaurant?

Lawyers’ services are never invisible. Clients always have a highly visible problem with which they need help. At the end of a case, a client will have a visible outcome. What might be lost is the herculean efforts undertaken by the lawyer. This is different, in the eyes of clients, from a lawyer’s service. To clients, the service is the outcome, not the effort.

Lawyers need to get better at collaborating with their clients, so that clients see the efforts involved and not just the outcome.

Will Clio branch out into non-law companies? Tell me about Clio’s future plans.

Clio is sticking with the legal industry. There are so many growth opportunities still untapped in legal technology. Look for Clio to continue to innovate tools used by the legal industry.

I was really impressed with Clio reaching out to people affected by the recent hurricanes. Please tell me how that came about, how quickly you were able to put it into action and perhaps a short story about someone who has really benefited from the free Clio access (if you can)?

Clio has maintained a disaster assistance program for years. A large part of the credit goes to Shawn Holahan, Practice Management Counsel for the Louisiana State Bar Association. That state is very mindful of the impact disasters can have on the justice system. They work diligent to train law firms to be resilient.

At Shawn’s invitation, Jack Newton, George Psiharis, and myself all traveled throughout Louisiana. We learned how impactful having tools like Clio were to both law firms and clients experiencing disasters. Since those trips, Clio has offered disaster assistance to area undergoing flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, and wild fires. We’re proud to help lawyers, families, and businesses recover when the unfortunate happens.

It looks like you’ve lived, worked and studied in the US and Canada. What strikes you most about living in Vancouver?

I spent a lot of my childhood growing up in the Great Plains. My memories are of flat horizons stretching out. Now, I live where the mountains and the sea come together. Every day, I look up at snow-capped mountains and breathe fresh, sea air. Quite the change.

Tell me about speaking at the MIT Media Lab. What did you talk about and how was the crowd?

I’m nervous before every talk I give, but this one was particularly nerve-wracking. It’s not often that a lawyer instructs some of the world’s leading technology students. I faced a lecture hall filled with students. Rather than focusing on a particular, technological use case, I instead spoke of the opportunities available in the legal space for tech-savvy development. If they were seeking an underserved market, here is one happy to work with them.

What are a few technologies/gadgets that you see impacting the legal profession in the coming years? We here at ROSS obviously believe strongly in AI and law.

It is not that a particular technology will change the legal space, but that the incredible explosion of computing devices into every aspect of our lives will change the legal profession. The Internet of Things will be an amazing mix of compliance and evidentiary issues that will keep lawyers in business for decades to come. In 2013, a savvy lawyer subpoenaed surveillance information from the NSA to help his client in an unrelated criminal case. In April of 2017, another lawyer used the same tactic to get surveillance information from Amazon’s Echo device.

The more technology becomes a part of our daily lives, the more a lawyer will need to know technology.

Please add your opinion to the one question we ask everyone: what non-work related tech would you like to see invented right now?

JL: I’d like a particular form of time travel. I want an alarm clock snooze button that lets you go back in time and sleep a few more hours.

I’ll take a dozen! Thank you very much for your time, Joshua Lenon.

Ava Chisling

Ava is an award-winning lawyer and editor who counsels creative types, writes about pop culture/tech+law and sometimes creates ad campaigns. She is Quebec counsel for Momentum Law.