Cloud Based Practice Management

In the next few weeks, my reviews of CLIO and RocketMatter will appear in Technolawyer, with copies on this site.  I don’t want to give away the results, but I want to comment more generally on the development goals of cloud-based offerings versus client-server offerings.  To some degree, I have dealt with that tension in my development and advisory role in the creation of Wealth Transfer Planning and its unique front-end for HotDocs.  It is this balancing act between simplicity and sophistication, between stability and customizability, that marks really good software. CLIO and RocketMatter are following in the footsteps of the two giants of software development.

CLIO and RocketMatter are following the outsized success of and that of Bob Butler’s efforts in building Time Matters. is a ubiquitous platform that promises data anywhere, on any platform, from any location. Resources are “rented” at a hefty monthly fee.  The user has no upfront costs, no hardware costs, and pays only based on usage. The user gets service guarantees. But what has made so successful is the API (application programming interface) which lets it read data from and write data to just about any resource, its customizable front-end, and the ability to create and purchase add-ons that interact with the data. All this together is responsible for’s outsized lead in the Cloud market.  It can be whatever you need it to be; and it is likely, if you want it, that someone else has already customized SaleForce to meet the needs of their industry, and can give or license you that customization module.

Time Matters, in the Client-Server environment is much like  It is a powerful, structured database that allows near infinite customization.  Out-of-the-box Time Matters works as a full-blown practice management system.  It can be easily customized.  There is a network of consultants and third party vendors who have harnessed the power of the data in Time Matter’s SQL databases, and those who, like yours truly, have built and marketed add-ons for Time Matters.

So how can CLIO and RocketMatter follow in the footsteps of the two giants?  At the moment, they are ensuring the stability of their core offering.  Both have delivered solid, functional practice management systems.  Both have unique visions on what usability is, and how it should work.  Their interfaces are innovative; client/server vendors should take notice of what they have done in terms of usability.  And yet, both CLIO and RocketMatter have a singular vision; a single view of what the interface should be, what features should be available.  They try to fit all lawyers and all law practices into one mode of operation, one mode of billing, one mode of practice.

In their efforts to get out a 1.0 release, the software at present does not represent the full diversity of practices of lawyers in the market place.  This is not to say that these programs will not or cannot represent that diversity.  Unless your core product works, is stable and supportable and dependable, it doesn’t matter how customizable and flexible the product will be.  The learning curve on both products is measured in hours, and not days or weeks, like it is for other practice management solutions.  CLIO’s tagline is “Practice Management Simplified”. RocketMatter, in some ways, seems to think for you, seamlessly building interrelations between contacts and matters. Both make it easy for lawyers to bill and capture their time.

And yet, in this drive to simplify, make practice management easier, more available, these vendors have missed the richness and diversity of the practice of law; they have missed the benefits of interconnectedness between data and documents, between applications.  Much of what I am asking for in these offerings can be added on and built into these offerings, and most likely will.  And since the cost of distributing updates of Web 2.0 technology are zero, may come to pass.  We need more recognition of that diversity, the ability to customize by practice area, to recognize user-specific preferences in the interface, to recognize new and unique record types, and the ability to package and deliver such features.

I will save for another time why The Cloud is so important, particularly for lawyers.

Social Networking – BestThinking – Twitter – LinkedIn

Over the past week, I have dabbled my toes in the world of social networking.  I have not yet activated my facebook profile (bashasys) or sought my “friends”, but I have looked as some of the more narrow market social networking tools.  The problems is that many of the tools are TOO open.  That means lotsa people to follow, lotsa posts to sift through, and oodles of time to waste. For that reason, my recent discovery of “groups” in a number of these sites heralds a change in my opinion of them.

Groups, for those who don’t know, are more like amorphous electronic social clubs.  They each have a dynamic.  Have too few people in a group, and nothing happens; it sits dormant, waiting for someone to provide a spark, and eventually dies a slow death of obscurity.  Have too many people and the group become a raucous nightclub with EVERYONE SHOUTING, and no-one able to be heard.  In some ways, like a busy pick-up bar (from long ago memory), there are those select and talented individuals who can actually meet someone in such an environment, with the unique capacity to say the right thing and hear the right thing in a way to make a connection.  For the majority of us, myself included, the noise and business is a turnoff; there is no way to get to know someone, to connect.

And so, finding myself in the role of group moderator and host, I have faced a choice.  Do I open up the group to anyone interested who clicks a join button, thereby boosting my number of “groupies” and friends.  Or do I handpick my friends and invite them into the club, ensuring that the members have something in common, that the group doesn’t get too big.  I have chosen a middle ground.  I have tried to define the space, the credentials required for membership in the group.  I have albeit invited my friends; but I have also asked them to invite their friends, and them to invite their friends. For my HotDocs Wizards Link, my criteria is that any participant actually program in HotDocs, not just be interested in following or marketing to group members. For The Virtual Lawyer, I have asked that members be either lawyers or technologists working with lawyers who use and promote the Virtual Practice of Law.

Only time will tell whether this is a waste of time, my time and my members time. For the moment, it is fun; there are some useful ideas; and I have learned what others with similar interests are doing. It has allowed me an excuse and a forum to hook up with those whom I see only occasionally and others who may know of me but whom I do not know. It has been commented that this blog is closed to comments (Mark Deal, we know who you are and where you live).  The main reason has been the commenting capabilities of blogs are really inadequate to the development of useful discussions.  This blog, however, is NOW being fed as a newsfeed on the HotDocs Wizards Link.  If you do want to post comments, be sure to join the HotDocs Wizards group and post your comment there.

The Virtual Lawyer – LinkedIn Group

A few days ago I decided to check out the new enhanced Group Management tools at LinkedIn.  A year ago, I put up my CV on LinkedIn.  Over time, I have dutifully built my network, making occasional invites, and accepting other invites. I set up a group for HotDocs Wizards —LinkedIn Group: HotDocs Wizards about a month or two ago.  Out of the blue, we actually got two job postings.  Just a few days ago, I started up The Virtual Lawyer—LinkedIn Group: The Virtual Lawyer and this time I was able to see the potential of LinkedIn.

In starting the group, I extended invitations to all MyConnections.  I then asked the members of the group to invite their connections.  In a short time we had over 40 members.  Then, to keep it interested, I tried posting some discussion topics.  Since my network tends to be of fairly vocal individuals with a range of legal and technical experience, we quickly got a lively discussion.  In time, I hope that discussion will lead to some useful information for the participants, as well as further the reach of each of the group members.  Since The Virtual Lawyer group is committed to breaking down walls between individuals, my hope is such group will foster new connections and new resources for all the participants.

I may, on occasion cross-post some of the discussion here on this blog.  More likely, I invite you to join linkedIn and to join ONE or BOTH of the Groups.

LinkedIn NewsFeed to Document Assembly (and Case Management)

As part of the HotDocs Wizards group on Linked in, I have now made my blog, Document Assembly (and Case Management) available on Linked In.  For those who don’t know about LinkedIn groups, the HotDocs Wizards group is a place where REAL HotDocs developers can meet to share ideas and even business prospected.  In the past two weeks, I have been asked to post two job offerings to the group.  It may be that is only a trickle, but enough trickles turn into streams, and streams feed into rivers.

LinkedIn currently has over 30 million connections.  What people do with their LinkedIn profile is up to them.  It may be worthwhile to but you bio/cv up on LinkedIn.  It may not make sense to get a paid subscription.  The choice is yours.


The DECREMENT and INCREMENT instructions are relatively new to HotDocs and they serve identical, but reversed purposes.  DECREMENT will reduce a given number variable by one, whereas INCREMENT will increase by one.

These two instructions are most useful in conjunction with WHILE and REPEAT instructions.  Lets say we are doing some real estate templates and one of the templates is ONLY required where there are one or more corporate borrowers. To do this, we could just use a TF variable that is set to TRUE if there is at least one corporate borrower, but that isn’t as useful as knowing exactly how many corporate borrowers we have.  Making MORE specific information available to your system is nearly always better than “the shortest approach”.

SET BORR Corporate CNT TO 0 //our var to store how many corporate borrowers
IF BORRS Corporate TF = TRUE //a checkbox on the dialog if the borrower is a company

And that’s it.  At the end of this, BORR Corporate CNT will contain the number of corporate borrowers we have.  The same usage would apply in a WHILE statement, except that in a WHILE loop, it is nearly always imperative that you have an INCREMENT (or DECREMENT) statement.  The reason for this is that REPEAT will auto terminate when you have finished the repeated answers whereas WHILE does not – YOU must manually code that ‘cut out’.  And that’s where INCREMENT comes in.

At the end of the day, INCREMENT and DECREMENT could already be achieved in HotDocs scripting as follows:

INCREMENT: SET Variable NU TO Variable NU + 1
DECREMENT: SET Variable NU TO Variable NU - 1

Both of these would work. But these two new instructions are cleaner and easier to type.  And lets face it – convenience and clean code are pretty cool things to have.