Starting Monday in Nashville is the 11th annual Clio Cloud Conference, a conference presented by the legal practice management company Clio that focuses on legal tech, legal innovation and the future of legal practice. It will be the largest ClioCon yet, with 2,500 people attending in person and another 1,000 attending virtually, for a total attendance of 3,500.
Assuming I am not struck by lightning before Monday, I will be there, as I have been at every ClioCon since the very first.
Having consistently praised the conference year after year as the best in legal tech, I was more critical of last year’s ClioCon, writing after it ended that it had been a bit off its A-game. Even given that, I still said then — and I still think now — that it is the best conference on legal tech and legal practice.
That said, I was pleased to learn in a conversation yesterday with CEO and founder Jack Newton that Clio has made some changes this year and introduced some new features that are designed to address some of the concerns raised by myself and others.
For one: There will be maps!
Let me explain. Every two years, ClioCon moves to a new venue in a new city. Last year, for the first time, it was in Nashville, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Here is what I said about the venue last year:
“The venue, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, is a sprawling, byzantine facility that appears to have been designed by a team inspired by the drawings of graphic artist MC Escher, with a confounding array of multi-level crisscrossing walkways, soaring plant-filled atriums, escalators that lead to stairways, and an overall layout that had people often feeling lost.”
Apparently, Clio’s conference planners felt sorry for us lost wanderers. This year, Newton said, attendees will be given maps — actual physical maps. (Consider them collector’s items, Newton said.) There will also be an enhanced conference app that will make it easier for attendees to find their way around, as well as find each other, and signs throughout the venue to help point the way for those who are navigationally challenged.
Another issue last year was an opening night reception on the terrace outside the Grand Ole Opry that flew in the face of Clio’s reputation for throwing great parties. This one had major logistical problems that left people standing in endless lines for food and drinks, uncertain about what even was happening. (Those who were patient enough were eventually rewarded with a show at the Opry that was, by all accounts, great.)
While the reception is returning to that same terrace this year, Newton said last year’s issue was due to breakdowns in communication between Clio’s staff and the venue’s, and he assured me that “those communication lines are firmly reestablished.” Not only that, but he said the Opry show will be even better, with stars he will not yet name, but who will bring a Canadian lilt to Nashville.
In my opinion, last year’s conference also lacked a certain community vibe that is difficult to put one’s finger on but that you know when you feel it — a vibe that had consistently characterized prior ClioCons. My guess is that was partly attributable to the aforementioned sprawl of the venue, and also partly to the fact that we were all still re-emerging from our Covid caves, a bit rusty and uncertain in our social skills.
Even though we are now another year farther removed from the pandemic, Newton said that this year’s ClioCon is seeking to fuel that vibe by introducing new ways to promote networking among attendees. For one, there is a dedicated networking track on the agenda, highlighting all of the conference’s networking opportunities.
Those opportunities will include open networking breaks for all attendees and “birds of a feather” networking events for discrete groups such as solo lawyers, family lawyers, support staff, and bar leaders and affinity partners.
The conference will also have more zones set aside for just sitting and having informal conversations, Newton said.
With its two-year-per-city cycle of conference scheduling, ClioCon is on a tick-tock schedule, Newton said. The first “tick” year always requires some adjusting to the new venue. But the “tock” cycle, he said, is always the more exciting.
Newton is committed to making ClioCon a conference that is bigger than just Clio, he said. “We really want ClioCon to be an industry conference and a conference about the future of legal. We believe Clio itself, as a technology platform, is a crucial foundation for what the future of legal looks like.”
To that end, the conference is designed to bring together not only legal professionals who are Clio users, but also those who are not, side-by-side with an array of thought leaders, innovators and legal tech vendors — all focused on improving the practice of law.
“That’s really the magic we’re trying to create at ClioCon, which is a combination of the technical people, the people that build product, the people that have a vision of what the future of legal could look like, and day-to-day practicing lawyers that want to get excited and re-energized about what legal can be about. That’s the aspiration of the chemistry we’re trying to create with this conference.”
I hope to see you there!