Last week, I attended the 11th annual ClioCon. At 4,600 in-person and virtual attendees strong, it is one of the largest legal tech conferences in the industry.
This was the second successive year the conference was held at the Grand Old Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN. Apparently, Clio, the practice management software company behind the event, hosts its conference two years in a row in the same location in order to work out any bugs encountered during the first year. Navigating the hotel, which has close to 3,000 rooms, multiple shops and restaurants, as well as a gigantic atrium where guests can take a boat ride, was a major challenge the first year. With additional signage and black-shirted Clio staff (called Clions) posted along the path to the Delta Conference area, the navigation issue was solved.
Caption: Atrium at the Grand Old Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The atrium is filled with plants and features a large waterway with a boat tour. A Clio Cloud Conference hangs from a metal roof beam in the upper left corner of the photo. October 10, 2023.
Caption: Escalator up to the Delta Convention Center in the Grand Old Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN. In the center of the photo, a green and yellow banner covers a rectangular column. On the front it says, "Elevate Your Game." October 8, 2023.
Jack Newton, founder and CEO of Clio, provided a rousing and information-packed opening keynote for the conference, discussing some of the findings of Clio’s annual Legal Trends Report, as well as new products in the works. Clio is embracing the generative AI trend and is currently developing a generative AI product in concert with customers’ needs called Clio Duo.
Prior to attending legal tech conferences on behalf of MSBA, I decide on a goal that I want to accomplish at the conference. This year, my goal was to find vendors who are offering generative AI products to be considered for our MSBA Advantage Partners program. Because generative AI has exploded into the public and legal spheres in only the past year, we don’t have any partners offering this service, or so I thought. Clio is one of our Advantage Partners and here they are, offering generative AI with their other services.
I also discovered that another Advantage Partner, Gavel (formerly Documate), is offering generative AI as part of their document automation service. This news was announced during ClioCon.
In addition, I found a few other vendors in the Exhibitor Hall offering generative AI services. The most intriguing one was iDox.ai, which is document redaction software. I was given a demo that showed how a legal document was redacted in minutes according to parameters the user sets. The final document indicates what was redacted by displaying “name,” “address,” or other descriptive terms over the black redacted areas.
Caption: Exhibitors Hall at ClioCon 2023. There is a large green and yellow sign that says, "Elevate Your Game" greeting attendees. October 9, 2023.
Naturally, generative AI was the topic of a number of conference sessions. I attended three such sessions. Two sessions, “ChatGPT, AI, and the Future of Law” and “Why AI Will Save the (Legal) World,” covered the higher-level philosophical discussions about whether and when to use AI.
Ed Walters of Fastcase/vLex was part of a panel presenting the former session. He foresaw two possible futures for AI. One was a bleak future in which AI becomes a catalyst for radical inequality, where big companies with big databases will make the most money from the technology and only the wealthy will be able to afford to use it. This is a scenario in which AI could be weaponized against everyone else. His optimistic view for the future depends on all of us in the legal field urging the creation of open AI models available to all. We need to make inexpensive AI tools that can be used as a force multiplier for justice and drive down the cost of legal issues so that people can do more justice. He urged solo and small firm lawyers to adopt these tools now, so they aren’t squashed by large firms.
Aside from the two philosophical AI sessions, I attended “The Impact of AI, Co-Pilot, and Large Language Models on the Future of Legal Work” presented by Stephen Kaufman. This was the most nitty-gritty, how-to-use-it session on generative AI in the legal field that I’ve seen so far since ChatGPT was released last November.
Caption: Legal Use Cases slide from Stephen Kaufman's presentation, "The Impact of AI, Co-Pilot, and Large Language Models on the Future of Legal Work" at ClioCon 2023. October 9, 2023.
The conference wasn’t entirely focused on AI. I attended sessions on marketing, cybersecurity, and access to justice. One of the panelists for the “How to Increase Access to Justice” session was Jazz Hampton, CEO of TurnSignl, a mobile phone app that allows users to immediately contact an attorney during a traffic stop so they can be walked through their interactions with law enforcement. The company, which is based in Minnesota, recently became available throughout the United States, and continues to seek attorneys willing to be part of the service.
Caption: Seated on stage in upholstered white chairs from left to right are Nora Cregan, founder and executive director of The Access Project, Jazz Hampton, founder and CEO of Turnsignl, and Natalie Anne Knowlton, founder of Access to Justice Ventures. The panel is presenting a session called "How to Increase Access to Justice" at ClioCon 2023. October 10, 2023.
Along with topical sessions, ClioCon is known for outstanding keynote speakers. For the conference evaluation, it was practically impossible to choose a favorite keynote this year. Aside from Jack Newton’s opening and closing presentations, keynote speakers included Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator who shared stories and tips of past negotiations, Brian Banks, who was exonerated with assistance from the Innocence Project after serving prison time for a crime he did not commit, and Mel Robbins, a motivational speaker and coach who created the 5-second rule for getting moving on your goals when you’d really rather not.
Overall, ClioCon 2023 was an energizing and informative event. According to long-time legal tech reporter Bob Ambrogi, it’s “the best conference in legal tech.”
Next year’s ClioCon will be held in Austin, Texas, and tickets are on sale now. If you register before January 18, 2024, the price is $599 rather than $1,699, which is quite a deal for the inspiration this event provides.