Clio founder and CEO on APAC expansion plans and the tech-forwardness of Australian lawyers

Jack Newton discusses what drove him to establish a presence in the Australian market

Clio founder and CEO on APAC expansion plans and the tech-forwardness of Australian lawyers
Jack Newton

Recently, Clio founder and CEO Jack Newton was in Sydney to celebrate the legaltech firm’s launch in Sydney. Last week, he shared Clio’s origin story; in the second part of this interview with Australasian Lawyer, Newton talks what he considers to be Clio’s biggest contribution to the legal profession, the way the Australian market has responded to tech, and whether Vancouver has nicer weather than Sydney.

What would you say is your biggest achievement since launching Clio?

I would say the biggest achievement is really helping create the cloud industry for legal. Clio has been followed by dozens, even hundreds of companies that have been able to build successful cloud computing solutions for law firms, thanks to the trail that that Clio helped blaze in 2008, 2009. We have an integration ecosystem of over 250 integration partners that are building on top of Clio’s technologies and on top of Clio’s platform to deliver innovative new solutions to lawyers outside of what Clio offers as a core solution. So certainly I'm proud of the fact that Clio became a successful scale company on its own, but what I'm even more proud of is the fact that we helped spawn this explosion of cloud startups in legal that in many cases are partners of Clio.

I think it's one of those situations where any one company can't solve this access to justice problem on its own, and no one company is going to be able to single handedly transform an industry as big and as complex and as varied as the legal industry is. But we've helped create this innovation ecosystem and helped turn legaltech into something that is sexy, frankly. It was a very overlooked industry 10, 15 years ago – there were no investors putting money into legaltech. And Clio really helped draw a spotlight onto legaltech as a space that was just as exciting as fintech or some of the other areas.

We've seen a lot of investment and has helped propel what is now billions of investment dollars every year flowing into legaltech. So helping put legaltech on the map more broadly and helping create this thriving ecosystem of hundreds of companies is what I'm most proud of.

Clio has a global footprint now –what spurred your decision to expand specifically to the Australian market?

I think in a lot of ways we felt pulled into the Australian market where we've seen really strong organic adoption of Clio outside of our main go-to market geographies, which are currently US, Canada, UK and Ireland. Those are the countries we've historically been investing in deliberate expansion efforts. But what's really interesting is we've seen organic adoption – with no effort, deliberate or explicit go-to market effort on our part – now in over 100 countries around the world. So we see this worldwide demand for Clio.

I think the reason for that is the problems that lawyers need to solve and the workflows lawyers need to accommodate and have technologies that support and help accelerate are very consistent around the world. Lawyers practicing in Canada, the US, the UK, Germany or Australia all have very similar overall workflows. The specifics of their legal system may vary significantly, but they all have clients, they'll have matters, they all have trust accounts, and there's very consistent workflows across those geographies. Of all the markets, we were seeing the most significant adoption in Australia, and the customers in Australia and even prospective customers were reaching out to us saying, “you know, we think Australia is a perfect market for Clio. We're hungry for alternatives to some of the incumbents in the market today. Why doesn't Clio come to Australia properly? Why doesn't Clio open up a data centre in Australia? Why doesn't Clio get its NSW trust accounting certification? Why doesn't Clio put some boots on the ground here that can help support us locally?”

And we really didn't have a good answer as to why we wouldn't make that investment. And we were really excited by how all the lawyers we were talking to in Australia just seemed very tech forward, very excited about technology, very ahead of the curve in terms of how they thought about cloud computing, client service and innovation. So it just felt like a great cultural match for us as well – it just felt like Australian lawyers and legal professionals get it. In a lot of ways they feel to me several years ahead of the curve relative to other geographies in terms of just how innovative, client centred and technology forward their thinking is. And so about two years ago, we embarked on the process of setting up a go-to market team and a data centre. And with NSW approval, we officially opened up our Australian office in January.

Over the last nine months, we've seen a large number of milestones, including obtaining our NSW trusts certificate compliance certificate. We have seen a huge amount of success with onboarding new customers in Australia. And me and my COO Ronnie Gurion were here [in Sydney] meeting customers and hosting an official launch event for Clio in Australia. So it's been really exciting for me to be on the ground here in Australia for actually my first time ever.

Has Australia left a good impression on you?

Oh, I love it. My hometown is Vancouver, and I kept hearing people talk about how many similarities are there between Sydney and Vancouver, which are both coastal cities. I'll tell you though – the weather's nicer in Sydney than what I left behind in Vancouver – it's a rainy fall season in Vancouver right now. So I've absolutely loved my time in Sydney so far and can't wait to see more of the country over my visits here.

Are you looking to expand further into Australia?

Our first certification was with NSW, where we spent our initial effort on trust compliance and which is one of the stricter trust compliance certifications out there, not just in Australia, but around the world. But we're already working with the folks in Queensland to make sure Clio meets their expectations, and we're open for business in all of Australia.

What we've heard from our Australian customers is the number one feature that they were waiting on and excited to see us achieve was the NSW trust compliance certification. We've had customers in Australia for over a decade, and even though we didn't have our official certification from NSW, it didn’t mean Clio was not compliant or that we couldn't have lawyers managing their trust accounts on Clio in a compliant way with NSW trust accounting rules. But this certification helps create a lot of clarity around the fact that if you adopt the best practices in Clio, you will be compliant with NSW trust accounting. And as of 1 October, we were able to say that we've got the certification and we’re good to go.

While meeting with people in Sydney, did you identify any market-specific legaltech concerns that you could look into?

A couple of trends I've seen in the conversations I'm having with our Australian clients and even prospects is that in Australia, there's a real shift away from the billable hour and towards flat rate fees. That is, I would say, several years ahead of other jurisdictions that that Clio operates in. And people are now thinking really deeply about how they can leverage the cloud to create new kinds of client experiences to work with, and innovative new ways to become more client-centred law firms as well.

Do you have plans on expanding further into the APAC region?

Yeah, absolutely. We actually opened this office as our APAC headquarters, where the team is leading our initial foray into winning the Australian market. We're really excited about the initial response we've had over the last 10 months or so that we've been activating this market – it feels like there's a real hunger for change and for new solutions and innovation. And we feel very embraced and welcomed by the market here. As we look at 2024 and beyond, we're looking to other countries that we think are ripe for disruption and are adopting Clio as well.

I think New Zealand is an obvious place to continue our APAC expansion. Another country we've seen a lot of success with is Singapore. Markets like Indonesia could be very interesting for us as well, and Japan and beyond are certainly on our roadmap. We're seeing in many of these countries a certain level of organic pull that are giving a signal that Clio is going to be a good fit for these markets. We'll be piece by piece expanding into APAC more broadly over the course of the next few years.

As the year is closing out, what are you looking forward to over the holidays?

My family takes a vacation with my extended family every two years to San Diego, which is a beautiful sunny place with pretty much the best weather you can hope for in the US and Canada in and around the Christmas, New Year's timeframe. So I'm really looking forward to spending two weeks there with my wife and my three kids, my two brothers and their families, and my parents and of course my kids’ grandparents starting on Boxing Day.

Following that, we have what we call our team day at Clio, where we bring our entire team together in person to celebrate the kickoff of the new year. We talk about our strategic plan for the year and lay out our objectives and key results, the concrete pillars of our strategy and how we're going to measure success in 2024, and the tactics we're going to use to achieve our strategic objectives. So it's a great team building time. We also have, our annual company party across a variety of our geographic locations over the course of the two team days. So the second thing I'm really looking forward to in the beginning of the new year is Clio’s team day.


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