ABA Blueprint is billed as “All of the services and products you need to run your firm, all in one place.” The new website from the ABA purports to be a “free tool that helps solo and small firm lawyers find what they need to run their firm.”

And it is, sort of.

ABA Blueprint Overview

Bob Ambrogi combed through ABA Blueprint and found that it includes just 13 products:

Clio, Office 365, LawPay, Quickbooks Online, Lexicata, MailChimp, LexBlog, Ruby Receptionists, Fancy Hands, eDiscovery Assistant, PageVault, ABA Insurance, and ABA Retirement Funds Program.

When Curo Legal, which built the ABA Blueprint website, gave us a tour yesterday, they said that the lawyers they spoke with during user testing repeatedly said they just wanted to know what software to use. As a result, the ABA and Curo picked one product in each category. Want practice management software? Clio is the only recommendation you are going to get from ABA Blueprint.

That seems … problematic.

Crowdsourcing Design

First, it is a core design principle that you can’t expect users to know what they want. You can’t ask users “How should we design this thing?” and expect good results. That’s sort of crowdsourcing, and it doesn’t really work for figuring out what kind of tool to build.

Remember this great not-Henry-Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Instead, you have to dig for the problem and then solve it. Lawyers’ problem is that it’s hard to shop for products when they don’t actually understand what they need, it’s not easy to compare the options, and they don’t have much time to research all the possibilities.

They probably don’t want just one option; they want to know the best option for them.

The Best Product v. The Best Product for You

The thing is, all of the products included in ABA Blueprint are great products. But they aren’t necessarily right for every lawyer and firm. If you need practice management software, you should absolutely consider Clio. But if you are a personal injury lawyer, you owe it to yourself to check out FileVine, as well.

ABA Blueprint doesn’t attempt to identify the best product for you and your firm; it only attempts to identify which of its 13 products you don’t already have. Sure, it’s smart enough to ask if you already have practice management software and it won’t recommend Clio if you do, but that’s about it.

Consultants on Call

Members of the ABA can also contact a practice management consultant for free through ABA Blueprint. I suppose those consultants may go beyond the products ABA Blueprint recommends, which would be more helpful for ABA Members who take advantage of that option. (Right now, the consultants include Curo Legal, Affinity, and Pegeen Turner of Legal Cloud Technology.)

Maybe It Should Be Considered in Beta

Further, when I think of a law-firm “blueprint,” lots of other stuff comes to mind. Like creating a business plan, law-firm finances, and so on.

The ABA wanted to launch Blueprint with what it had and add products according to user feedback. Which, if it follows through and iterates on the ABA Blueprint platform, could turn it into an effective tool. You can’t get everything perfect the first time, so planning for iterative improvement is critical. Plus, it’s great to see the ABA trying to innovate.

If ABA Blueprint can help lawyers compare similar products to find the best fit for their needs, it could become truly valuable. As-is, ABA Blueprint is just a really well designed but very limited ABA member benefits directory.1

  1. As with most bar association member benefit directories, the ABA presumably gets a commission if you use the products the ABA Blueprint recommends. 


  1. Nicole Bradick says:

    Thanks for the feedback on the application, Sam. You’re correct, this is a first release of a product that will grow and evolve rapidly, so stay tuned. Curo and the ABA focused on rapid development and release, and we will continue to test and iterate. The one thing I’ll note is that there was no “crowdsourcing design” in our process. We use design best practices, which involved quick and early prototyping and testing, so the comments from users were made in the context of actually using a clickable prototype. We will continue testing for this specific issue, though, along with every other assumption we’ve made here. It also worth stating that our user persona is quite a bit different than someone with your level of knowledge on legal tech. Feedback is our best friend here, so keep it coming. Software, as you know, is never done.

    • Sam Glover says:

      I am happy to admit I’m not a typical user. I’m far too cranky and demanding, for starters. But I do have a hard time believing the typical lawyer-user would be happy with just one recommendation.

      • Chris Holly says:

        I am with Sam on this. I just finally got around to checking ABA Blueprint after having it on my to do list for awhile. When I ran through the Technology module I was very disappointed that it seemed to me to be simpling shilling for specific vendors. That may not be fair because I did not try to put in different info to see what it would come up with. I did not expect a lot from this format, but I got less than I expected out of it. –Chris Holly

  2. Debbie Niesen Foster says:

    From the consultant’s perspective, I think your points are very valid Sam. And it is one of the reasons why we are excited to be a part of the consultant piece of ABA Blueprint. The ability to connect a lawyer with someone who has experience with the 13 products currently in the Blueprint family, as well as many other products and services is really powerful. As the Blueprint product evolves, I am sure we will see more products and services added. Ending my comment with the best part of your post: “it’s great to see the ABA trying to innovate.” :-)

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