An Interview With Ron Collins, CEO of Gavel & Gown Software (Part I: Amicus Cloud) - Technologist
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An Interview With Ron Collins, CEO of Gavel & Gown Software (Part I: Amicus Cloud)

After getting a chance to sit and play around with Amicus’ new cloud-based offering, and after expressing our mostly positive thoughts on the product, we sat down with Ron Collins, CEO of Gavel & Gown Software, the company behind Amicus Attorney and Amicus Cloud.

When designing the cloud-based version, did you try to mimic the desktop version in the browser or redesign it from the ground up?

No, we didn’t mimic and that can be seen very clearly from looking at the products. Client matters, management, calendaring, legal calendaring with related activities and rules, task management, contact management, CRM, time and billing are all the standard elements of practice management so of course you’re going to find them in both.

One of the main things that sets Amicus apart in practice management is our very friendly proactive approach where Amicus reaches out to help you and doesn't just provide a passive database where you have to go look for things in. That's been one of the trademarks of Amicus from the beginning and you'll find that in our cloud version, as you will in our desktop editions.

While we still applied those same principles to software solving those same problems for lawyers, we were solving them in a very different way on different platforms for lawyers who are working in a cloud-like environment.

Amicus Cloud is new technology built from the ground up and designed for people who want to work in a cloud manner using a cloud-based devices and I think that shows when you compare two screens or any two aspects of the two products.

While it has similarities in terms of the Amicus approach, I think one of the things that sets Amicus apart is the fact that we can offer to our customers the choice, the decision as to whether they want a great desktop product, a great cloud product, or something in between and I think that's really important for customers who are looking for practice management today because there are a lot of companies, a lot of new companies especially, that only offer cloud.

We offer great solutions on both so really it's about the law firm - what do they want, what is right for them, the way they practice, the way clients interact with them, the types of law they do, the types of devices they want to use, and so on.

Another aspect of that that is coming is Hybrid Cloud  -- or a combination of the best aspects of both cloud and desktop software available to our customers in 2013. You'll be able to, as a law firm, use your iPad and the very best features of desktop software. We're really the only company that has all three.

How easy will it be to move from the desktop version to the browser version?

From the philosophy that we just discussed, it should be no surprise that it's extremely easy. We have a full automated converter that will take an attorney from Amicus Attorney Desktop to Amicus Attorney Cloud and transfer all of their data.

Customers that have Amicus Attorney Desktop, if they decide to go cloud, we will take your data and move it over for them. It's seamless, it takes anywhere from six to eight hours, we'll do it for you overnight and the next morning you come in and your data is there in the cloud. It's as easy as it can be and as comprehensive as it can be.

Are the interfaces similar enough where someone can jump back and forth - or is there an adjustment period?

There's always an adjustment period. Going back to your first question, we didn't mimic the desktop. Not everything is in the exact same place. Anybody who has been using Amicus Attorney for a while knows what to expect and while it won't be in exactly the same place, they'll still find it very easy to work with.

Any compromises or things that you can't do with the browser version that were possible with the Windows app?

The answer to that is: of course. And that is not because of any limitation in Amicus Cloud - we think it is the deepest and richest cloud practice management solution in the market today and we're quite confident that if you put a screen for any typical task, such as an appointment, against any competitor, you'll see what I mean. Every detail and aspect, it's a deep and rich practice management solution.

But it's not a desktop app. The desktop Amicus Attorney has been built for twenty years and it has twenty years' worth of market feedback and refinement from law firms using it every day and telling us how to make it better and it has all of the power that a desktop computer can supply.

When you put practice management into a browser, or any application, you are making compromises in terms of your ability to work with the environment, and because of the power of the platform, the ability to perform certain functions, and things like that.

Any cloud app is lighter weight and has less depth and fullness of functionality than the leading desktop ones.

Kind of like Outlook's Web Access versus the full desktop client?

Sure, you're absolutely right. So when you ask if there are compromises -- of course there are. And yet, at the same time, there are some really cool things you can do in the cloud and advantages you have in the cloud that you don't get on the desktop. That's why the desktop solutions are appropriate for some firms and cloud solutions are appropriate for others. We offer great versions of both and we'll help law firms choose what is right for them.

I loved the email integration. Were there any thoughts about supporting Google Apps in addition to Microsoft Exchange?

A really interesting question, Willie. First of all, if you now have a Gmail account, you can have it working with Amicus Cloud. But, down the road -- are we going to do a full integration with Google Apps the way we have with Exchange? Quite possibly. We've been looking at that and looking at the technology. If the market demand is there for it, we will.

Here's the big and important thing: go to Gmail and open their license agreement, have a read through it, and you tell me, as a lawyer, whether duties of confidentiality and all of the ethical things that go with that, if you are prepared to have client communications in Gmail. I'm a lawyer too, and when I read the Gmail license agreement, I'm certainly not. There's an awful lot of literature out there that says, "Whoah, lawyers would be crazy to do this." Because you don't own the information and don't have exclusive rights to the information. Google quite clearly reserves rights to use it in marketing, advertising, and search engine results.

Ethical opinions are something that great lawyers can disagree on, and there's no clear black and white on this, but there are some big question marks over Gmail.

We'll have more from Ron Collins tomorrow, including the future plans for Amicus Cloud. We'll also address that interesting issue regarding Google's Terms of Service and lawyer confidentiality early next week. So come on back!

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