Clearspire is dead, but its technology lives on
All along, Clearspire was made up of two distinct entities. Clearspire Law, which opened its doors in 2010, promised high-end legal work delivered efficiently, collaboratively and transparently by attorneys who often worked virtually from remote locations. Clearspire Service Co., founded in 2009, supported the firm’s business operations and infrastructure. Key to this operation was a custom-built platform, Coral, which served as a virtual workplace and collaboration tool for staff and clients.
“Coral was all about enforcing the model, manifesting the model in technology and tools, and helping to enable that model in practice,” says Eyal Iffergan, who was Clearspire’s CIO and the platform’s chief architect.
When the firm closed, Iffergan led a group of Texas-based investors to acquire the service company and the technology platform. Still operating under the Clearspire name, the company is preparing to redeploy Coral as a cloud-based system for law firms and corporate legal departments. The plan is to roll out a version for early adopters by midyear, although the schedule is not yet “hard and fast,” Iffergan says.
OFFICE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
The platform was generally acknowledged to be unlike any available at the time. “It became effectively the office for the lawyers,” says Mark Cohen, one of Clearspire’s founders and the law firm’s managing partner, who retains a residual interest in Coral. “You turned on your computer, you got on to Coral, and you had at your fingertips all the resources of our law firm—whether you were a lawyer working cases or me as the managing partner having to see everything going on.”
What made Coral unique was a three-tiered architecture that sought to integrate all the different front- and back-end functions of a law firm.
One tier, the practice-management system, provided the core applications a lawyer would need: document and records management, case management, legal research, conflicts checking, relationship management and other productivity tools. Many of these applications were integrated from third-party vendors.
The presentation layer involved Web interfaces through which users would access Coral. Interfaces were tailored to the type of user: lawyer, administrator or client. Lawyers could see who was online and initiate voice or video chats. Sandwiched between these tiers was an integration and aggregation layer, which gathered together activity within the firm and used analytics to create data models that could help make workflows more efficient and pricing more precise.
“All the work we do on a matter, the system captures it,” Iffergan explains. “Then that data on that matter starts to inform the template on the next matter. Then we start to develop real intelligence—an experiential database—about what we do, how we do it and who does what.”
The new version of Coral will largely replicate the original architecture, albeit adapted to work with multiple customers. Some of the original third-party applications are being replaced and some of the underlying engineering is being updated to reflect current standards. Pricing has not been set.
When and if it rolls out, the question will be whether it will find a market. Patrick J. Lamb, a partner with Valorem Law Group, believes there is a need for a platform such as Coral, but he doubts that law firms or legal departments will invest in it.
“It is hard to imagine a law firm making a large investment in something that new and that untested,” Lamb says. “The differentiators that make or break a firm’s success aren’t the make-or-break features of its technology.”
But Cohen, who is now CEO of the legal consulting firm Legalmosaic, says he frequently receives inquiries concerning Coral’s availability. “There was always a notion that here was a platform that could be used by others once we established a proof of concept, which we clearly did, operating it across practice areas and across geographies. The platform worked.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Clearspire Redux: The law firm is dead—long live its technology.”
Robert J. Ambrogi is a Rockport, Massachusetts, lawyer and writer. He covers technology at his blog LawSites and co-hosts the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer.