Jack New­ton


BC Business Magazine - - Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 - —J.P.

Jack New­ton, founder of one Canada’s largest le­gal soft­ware com­pa­nies, isn’t a lawyer, but he’s learned to think like one. A soft­ware en­gi­neer by train­ing, New­ton be­gan his un­likely le­gal ca­reer over cof­fee in 2007 with the direc­tor of prac­tice stan­dards at the Law So­ci­ety of Bri­tish Columbia, who kvetched about a prob­lem that be­lea­guered smaller firms. The day-to-day tasks of run­ning a law prac­tice—time track­ing, billing, ad­min­is­tra­tion and, most of all, run­ning an on-premises server— were ex­or­bi­tant for small firms and solo prac­tices, push­ing up the cost of le­gal ser­vices. New­ton thought he had a so­lu­tion: what if all those tasks and doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing sen­si­tive client doc­u­ments, moved off a firm’s ex­pen­sive pro­pri­etary servers and onto a se­cure, le­gal-fo­cused ver­sion of the cloud?

Born and raised in Ed­mon­ton, New­ton stud­ied com­puter science at the Univer­sity of Al­berta be­cause he was in­ter­ested in tech­nol­ogy. After grad­u­a­tion, he took a job as a soft­ware de­vel­oper work­ing on ma­chine learn­ing prob­lems in med­i­cal di­ag­nos­tics at Chenomx Inc., a com­mer­cial spinoff of a project at the univer­sity. At Chenomx, he be­came fas­ci­nated by how a com­pany is de­vel­oped: “I got to see the process of build­ing some­thing from scratch, the fundrais­ing process from the in­side,” New­ton re­mem­bers. “I de­cided that this is some­thing that I’d re­ally like to do my­self.”

His op­por­tu­nity to act on that im­pulse came via Rian Gau­vreau, a friend since they at­tended the same ele­men­tary school in Ed­mon­ton. New­ton and Gau­vreau, then an IT man­ager at the law firm Gowl­ing Lafleur Hen­der­son LLP in Van­cou­ver, had talked for years about start­ing their own com­pany be­fore they launched Clio in 2007. “We were two ham­mers look­ing for a nail,” New­ton says. “The le­gal space was ripe for dis­rup­tion, and we thought that there was a huge op­por­tu­nity to de­liver the ben­e­fits of the cloud to small firms.”

Clio is now the most widely used prac­tice man­age­ment tool for lawyers world­wide, serv­ing 150,000 le­gal pro­fes­sion­als in more than 50 coun­tries. The com­pany has raised US$27 mil­lion in ven­ture cap­i­tal and em­ploys 225 at its of­fices in Van­cou­ver, Toronto and Dublin. “We started off 10 years ago with pretty hum­ble am­bi­tions—to build a tool that would help make lawyers more pro­duc­tive,” New­ton says. “I think we’ve suc­ceeded in that.”


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