The Brief No. 53: Ms. Clio

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September 11, 2019

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The Brief on the Brief: After one year of publication, we reflected on our goal to be a lighthouse for our readers— rather than a sail switched back and forth amidst rapidly changing (trade) winds and a chaotic 24-second news cycle. We decided that a biweekly format best accomplished this. Read more about why we write The Brief and our new schedule here.

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Ms. Clio: The popular practice management software Clio shares a phonetic name with the iconic 90s television psychic and also a penchant for seeing into the future. In 2008 when law firms feared the cloud and Venture Capitalists feared legal tech, Clio pioneered the SaaS playbook in law with a consumer-like software experience that targeted the small enterprise client. Will Clio’s unprecedented-for-legal-tech $250M investment be equally predictive of ”winner takes all plays” in the traditionally fragmented legal market? In support of this theory, the world's largest law firm by lawyer headcount, Dentons, announced yet another merger with 2 South American law firms. On the other hand, Axiom’s recently ditched IPO raised questions of law’s readiness for going big with the support of public markets. Still, with multiple states implementing and considering reforms that further open the legal market to non-lawyer investment legal industry IPOs could be in the not-so-distant future.

Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane: Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas and battered the Carolinas and parts of coastal Canada as a fitting symbol of a summer of chaos that promised still stranger twists in the fall. The uncertainty of the UK’s trade and political future gained strength with Prime Minister Boris Johnson shutting down parliament, and sacking many members of his own party in hopes of forcing a deal or no-deal Brexit. The UK law firm market has cooled as the country braces for economic chaos. The UK is not alone, data shows the U.S. economy is also already feeling the impact of a manufactured trade war with trade uncertainty projected to further cut growth in the U.S. While there are curiously different interpretations of what recent reports of slowing job growth indicate, the legal industry was ahead of the curve when it began to “batten down the hatches” in early 2019.

What the Health: Federal District Judge Richard Leon found the Justice Departments' decision to allow CVS and Aetna to merge did not violate antitrust law and approved the merger while communicating displeasure that CVS and Aetna began combining before official approval, a common practice. As various suits and forms of Opioid litigation ramp up across the country, Mallinckrodt PLC, one of the largest makers of generic opioids announced a $30M settlement with 2 counties in Ohio. The announcement came ahead of the major consolidated federal litigation of 2,000 counties, cities, municipalities, and tribes against Opioid manufacturers and distributors set to begin in Cleveland next month. Meanwhile, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, whose pill-pushing was  seen as a catalyst for the crisis announced it will be forced to file a “freefall” bankruptcy if a settlement is not reached. In other news of health crises and future class action lawsuits, vaping deaths and severe illnesses are under investigation (with vitamin E additives as a key suspect) escalating local regulations on various vaping products.

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A new season of “Still Processing”—with New York Times writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris —begins this week. Pre-game for the new season and reflect on recent fraud claims that legal tech “AI” was actually human under the hood with this 2017 episode “Bodega”. This episode breaks down the hype and outrage surrounding the startup of ex-googlers who announced their “big vision” to kill the corner bodega with the backing of Tier One VCs and glorified vending machines. The company is now more punchline than bodega threat, but Jenna and Wesley’s insight on the larger forces that may otherwise realize the claims of startup chest-thumping has proved more prescient.

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