The practice management company Clio is announcing today that it is committing $1 million to a disaster relief fund to help the legal community successfully navigate the challenges and hurdles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to ensure lawyers are set up to succeed as well as ensuring their their clients can continue to get the legal help they need,” Jack Newton, the company’s cofounder and CEO, told me during an interview on Friday.

This funding is being committed to Clio’s existing disaster relief program and will include a range of initiatives from free software and assistance with onboarding to financial and educational assistance for bars and legal professionals more broadly.

Jack Newton

“This is our way of taking a bold move towards helping the legal industry navigate the next few months and even the next few years,” Newton said. “I think there will be profound and longstanding impacts on the legal industry. The way lawyers work will profoundly change, starting now and forever.”

We are in a moment when change that the legal profession might have expected to see over the next 10-20 years will now happen in the next 10-20 days, Newton said. Most significant will be the near-immediate transition from on-premises technology to cloud technology and from office-based work environments to distributed work environments.

“What we’re seeing is that the future has arrived early,” he said, a future that many lawyers are ill-prepared to navigate.

The fund will be deployed in four key ways:

  • Financial aid for Clio licenses. If a firm needs the flexibility to work remotely to ensure business continuity, the will offer financial assistance to offset the cost of subscribing to Clio.
  • Support with onboarding and implementation of Clio. This will focus on making it easier and more straightforward for firms to move to the cloud. It will include creation of a Quick Start Program, which will be a five-day series of programs to help firms transition to the cloud. Clio also says it is working with its Clio Certified Consultants to provide firms with additional support in implementing Clio’s technology.
  • Financial aid for law firms and legal organizations. Clio will provide direct financial support to qualified law firms and legal organizations that are struggling to maintain business continuity or need additional support moving to the cloud, as well as to qualified non-profits or charities providing mental health support to legal professionals during this time.
  • Educational support. Clio says it will collaborate with industry leaders, including bar associations and law societies around the world, to develop and deliver exceptional educational resources, training materials and consulting expertise designed to help law firms navigate these challenging times. This will include webinars, e-books, thought leadership, and more.

Clio has created a page on its website with more information on the fund and how legal practitioners can take advantage of its benefits. Clio staff will be evaluating requests on a case-by-case basis, Newton said.

Development of educational and training materials will be a key focus of the fund, Newton said, since that is where the money can have the greatest one-to-many impact. That means webinars, e-books, thought leadership and other forms of content that could potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of legal professionals.

“The one-to-many approach is the most powerful one,” Newton said. “That is where $1 million can have a huge impact.”

This is a new reality for which resources do not exist, he said. In the past, as law firms moved to the cloud, they still maintained their bricks-and-mortar office. Now, they are having to deal simultaneously with both moving to the cloud and moving to a distributed workforce.

Financial relief to lawyers will come primarily in the form of providing free or discounted access to Clio and perhaps to other products that are essential to working remotely.

Newton sees five products as “the essential distributed law toolkit”: Clio, Zoom for conferencing, Docusign for signatures, and Microsoft Office 365, together with Microsoft Teams, for office tasks and collaboration.

Another technology that will be essential for firms working remotely is electronic payments, he said.

Newton said that he believes Clio’s Legal Trends Report can be another important piece in moving the industry through this crisis. He hopes that Clio will be able to accelerate the collection of data from legal professionals and provide continual updates on the state of the profession to national and state bar leaders, so that they can better understand what is happening in their communities.

Internally, Clio’s entire workforce has been working remotely since March 13 and the company has stepped up its application and customer support to meet increased demand.

Clio will soon be introducing a quick-start onboarding program that will provide five sessions over five days designed to help a firm go from zero to full cloud-based and distributed.

All of this, Newton said, is in keeping with the company’s oft-stated goal of transforming the practice of law, for good.