Adventurous Canadian legal management software company Clio is extending its reach into the global legal aid market – with typical brio. The firm already has a deal with the Law Society of England and Wales for a specifically tailored product. It has garnered approval – proclaims its website – from 66 Bar Associations and equivalents for its basic package. These include approval from the Law Society of Scotland. Now it has become time to crack the US legal services market. Clio has just announced its North American venture in partnership with the Legal Services Corporation and two of its grantees, Neighbourhood Legal Services and A2J Tech. The launch comes with the usual Clio razzamatazz. A promotional session follows at Clio’s annual conference later in the month.
Clio was able to develop the programme with funding with an LSC technical initiative grant to NLS in DC last October. It was awarded $288,322 (around £210,000). ‘Neighborhood Legal Services Program,‘ announced the LSC, ‘will use the grant to update its case management system. It will work with Clio to adapt a system used by private law firms to meet the needs of legal aid organizations. Additions will include new features such as eligibility screening, grants management and the custom reports required by LSC and other funders.’
Clio appears to have delivered pretty well what the LSC wanted. Clio for Legal Aid promotes itself as having five modules; Intake and Eligibility Screening; a comprehensive Dashboard of data on managing the organisations work; a tool facilitating file transfer to other organisations; a bespoke system for managing and tracking grants; and customisable reporting.
Such an extension of commercial activity into the not for profit sector was predictable. It represents the potentially beneficial aspect of ‘trickle down’ functionality. Systems developed for the commercial market can be tweaked relatively cheaply for poorer not for profit providers. It presumably spells a challenge for the homegrown products like the US LegalServer or the UK’s AdvicePro. So, the race is on. Victory should go to the products which can best serve the rather specific needs of each jurisdiction’s legal services/legal aid market. In the longterm. you would put your money on sheer financial power. On the other, the question will be their sensitivity to the needs of a highly specialised, rather stroppy and considerably underfunded segment of the market. Game on. As Voltaire remarked, ‘God is not on the side of the big battalions but on the side of those who shoot best’.