Test-Driving Case Management Software: First Impressions of Rocket Matter & Clio


clio rocket matter test drive11 Test Driving Case Management Software: First Impressions of Rocket Matter & Clio

http://www.flickr.com/photos/santiagogamboa/3452785207/

When I started my law firm, I bought Time Matters, but quickly found better options. However, now I am trying to decide whether my law firm would be better off with Rocket Matter or Clio than with Google Apps, which we currently use. After getting input from both companies (Rocket Matter here; Clio here), both gave me a chance to do an in-depth test-drive.

I will not do a direct comparison of the two, mostly because the differences between them are not in their feature lists, but in the way they implement those features. In the end, the choice which to use will come down to personal preference. But if you are looking for case management software, Clio and Rocket Matter are the best options on the market.

Here are my thoughts on pricing and first impressions.

Re-thinking pricing

Although Clio and Rocket Matter are letting me use their software for free, the only reason I am looking at them seriously now is because I first re-thought my initial reaction to the pricing of Clio and Rocket Matter. We were trying out Infusionsoft CRM at $200/month, Basecamp at $24/month, Freshbooks at $19/month, and Google Apps and Remember the Milk at just under $200/year.

On the other hand, for my firm (2 lawyers, one assistant), Clio would be $123/month. Rocket Matter would be $159.97/month. (Rocket Matter gets cheaper as the firm gets larger; Clio doesn’t.) Compared to what we are spending on other software, Clio and Rocket Matter are not too expensive, and they would also take the place of some of that software.

Different approaches

Clio essentially took the classic case management software interface and put it online. Anyone who has ever used productivity software like Outlook or case management software like Time Matters will find Clio immediately familiar. There are tabs for matters, contacts, etc., and you can probably get started without so much as a glance at a help file or tutorial.

Rocket Matter, on the other hand, took a Web 2.0-ish approach. The interface is still easy to use, but generally shuns database-y forms in favor of big, friendly text inputs. More Google than traditional database front end. It was not as immediately familiar to me, but I did not need any coaching or help getting started, and it is easy to see why Rocket Matter’s user interface works so well.

Both get the job done effectively and efficiently in their own way. I can see benefits to both, and I am going to get comfortable with both before I draw any conclusions.

Working within the system

Playing with Clio and Rocket Matter makes me see my current software in a new light. We currently use Google Apps, Freshbooks, and either a work plan (Randall) or Remember the Milk (me) to do everything Rocket Matter and Clio do. The disadvantage to this approach, as I have said before, is that each app lives in a sort of island. They do not do much working together.

On the other hand, they are easily compatible with everyone else. When we work with co-counsel, we do not have to purchase a user license for our software and then teach them to use it. They can use what they want to use, and we can use what we want to use. Everything works together well enough.

If we switched to Clio or Rocket Matter, we would be entering a more-closed system. Not completely closed, but more closed. For example, neither allows easy calendar publishing and sharing like we enjoy with Google Calendar. Neither handles email. Neither syncs up contacts with my phone. Neither lets us add co-counsel without purchasing another license for them. There are benefits and problems with this, and I am still deciding which outweighs what.

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  • http://www.paunlaw.com Jerome Paun

    Greetings Sam. Your post this morning is most welcome. I am in a similar dilemma. I switched to Clio from Brief Accounting as of last January after researching and feebly experimenting with both Clio and Rocket Matter as well as looking at and eliminating other web-based solutions. Clio and RM are certainly the clear leaders in this field. Having lived with Clio for half a year, I am now painfully reconsidering a switch to RM – here’s why.

    Clio is easy to use for inputting and keeping track of my data and time accounting but since I have transitioned my office away from hourly to mostly fixed rate billing, I am having great difficulty generating bills to send to clients. Mind you, no trouble keeping track of and documenting the work we’ve done but getting a bill on a fixed rate matter to accurately reflect payments and amounts due is another story entirely. Just yesterday myself and my two person office staff were completely stymied from getting a simple, straight forward, fixed rate bill out to a client.

    I am a criminal defense lawyer. Like most criminal defense lawyers, I charge a fixed rate for certain specified services and try to get paid by my clients up-front, in full, whenever possible. This client paid up-front, in full. I provided the agreed upon legal services and concluded the matter. Now I wanted to send the client a bill documenting my efforts on her behalf, showing that she had paid in full and had a zero balance. Seems simple enough to me and my staff but we couldn’t get Clio to do it despite very prompt and friendly phone help from a Clio support person.

    We could generate a bill that accurately documented our time and work and it would show the agreed upon fee but we could not get it to show that the fee had been paid and the client owed nothing! Instead, the bill did not show that the client had paid anything and showed a balance due for the full amount. After literally hours of time spent trying with phone help from Clio, the support person said that Clio didn’t really support fixed rate billing yet. Frustrated, the end of the day came, we gave up trying to generate an accurate bill for our client, my staff went home, and I began research into RM in a painful effort to determine whether to switch. I studied both the the Clio and RM websites, re-reading all their material. I searched for other consumer comparison reports on Clio and RM but found nothing I hadn’t already read months ago. (Your post wasn’t up yet.)

    This is what my last evening’s research revealed. RM now supports client trust accounting, which it did not when I decided on Clio the end of last year, in no small part because Clio did. Looking at the RM website, RM expressly states it supports not only hourly billing but also fixed rate and contingency fee billing. So, what to do?

    I guess I will further experiment with a trial period of RM. The problem is that as a solo practitioner, I have found that, depending on my office work demands, a one month trial period is insufficient to fully evaluate software as fully featured as Clio and RM. (Obviously, I’m six months into Clio and still haven’t managed to get it to do all that I need it to do.) I will look forward to your further report on Clio and RM and I hope it comes soon enough to help me decide what to do. Finally, if anybody reading my post has any suggestions for getting Clio to do fixed rate billing or whether RM fulfills their needs for fixed rate billing, I would be pleased to read them.

  • http://www.rocketmatter.com/ Larry Port

    Hey Sam:

    Thanks for your carefully nuanced words. Readers of the Lawyerist probably already know this, but Sam’s perspective is one of the deepest and intuitive in all of legal tech writing.

    Jerome, we’d love to have you back in the fold. I’ll have someone reach out to you to address your concerns.

    LP

  • Julie K

    Actually Clio does allow for easy calendar publishing. I’m on a Mac and can subscribe to the Clio calendar with iCal. This allows for offline access to Clio in iCal on my iPhone and Macs as well as the ability to have local backups from within iCal and Timemachine. I could get contacts and tasks onto the Mac as well. On a PC, the Outlook sync with Clio is even bi-directional. I believe you can subscribe or sync with Google as well. Just ask Clio support how to do this. Some features are in Clio, but I only found them by asking support. You can basically export most of the Clio data for a local backup.

    I agree the choice between RocketMatters and Clio is personal; both are excellent companies. I also agree that as a former Timematters user, Clio is a very familiar and easy to use interface.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Clio does calendar publishing, but not with the flexibility of Gcal. For example, in Gcal, you can elect to share only your free/busy time blocks or embed your calendar in a website.

  • Clay

    How do you handle document creation/management with these types of systems?

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Neither Clio nor Rocket Matter do document creation (I assume you mean doc assembly, like automatically adding an address to your letterhead).

  • http://www.paunlaw.com Jerome Paun

    Greetings again. I just completed the Rocket Matter demonstration webinar. It appears to be an incredibly flexible application that will not only accommodate hourly, fixed rate and contingency fee billing but also will allow users to switch back and forth between billing structures within a matter. So, one could start billing a matter as fixed rate with a contingency built-in that if the matter were to exceed a specified number of work hours, or whatever other criteria were used, the client would then be billed hourly.

    One correction from my first post. I wrote that RM now has trust accounting though it didn’t when I signed-up with Clio at the beginning of this year. I learned in the webinar today that RM does not yet have trust accounting but it expects to be rolling out trust accounting in the next few weeks.

    So, it looks like I will sign-up for the free RM trial period and if it works as anticipated, I’ll be switching case applications yet again.

  • Kasey

    My understanding is there is no free trial period for RM which is one of the reasons I’m leaning towards Clio. Why doesn’t RM offer a free trial like Clio? Instead with RM it’s a money back guarantee which means you pay first. I don’t like that.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your final analysis of the two solutions.

  • Deepa Patel

    Great discussion on Clio and Rocket Matter. I would highly recommend looking at a third option if you are open to it which is AdvologixPM. This is a practice management system built on top of Sales Force.com platform which is used by Fortune 1000 companies. I have a review of the product on http://force4lawyers.com/ and they do have a 30 day trial. The features that you mention document assembly is available and retainer management as well.

  • http://www.goclio.com Jack Newton

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for the post. Your perspective on the choice many solos/small firms face is highly valued.

    Jerome, I saw your comments, and I believe Clio can be set up to do exactly what you’re looking for on the invoicing side of things. I’d be happy to spend some time helping set up your invoices to your liking – just drop me a line at jack@goclio.com.

    A few comments on your post Sam:

    > For example, neither allows easy calendar publishing and sharing like we enjoy with > Google Calendar.

    As you’ve pointed out, Clio does allow you to publish your calendar to iCal, which can then integrate with Google Calendar. You could then re-publish this feed via Google Calendar for the kind of free/busy or embedded web page applications you’re thinking of.

    > Neither handles email.

    Clio did recently release an e-mail integration feature: http://www.goclio.com/blog/2010/05/1-month-and-10000-e-mails-later-a-tour-of-clios-e-mail-integration/

    This allows you to track inbound/outbound e-mails with Clio, while using your e-mail client of choice (e.g. Outlook, Gmail). If you mean Clio doesn’t act as an e-mail client then, yes, you’re correct.

    Best regards,
    Jack

  • Ryan

    I gave Clio an try and I loved the interface and the program; what I did not love was the lack of support. We tried to port our existing data over to Clio and they were not able to do it, which is a problem. What was much more concerning is that at least two times they did not call for scheduled meetings to try to work on the problem. That’s just not acceptable.

    The experience was so negative that it has turned me off to the idea of cloud computing, at least for now. As I see it, if I have my stuff on my own server and my IT guy flakes out, I can get a new IT guy. If its out in the cloud and the company has issues, I am SOL.

    My sense is that Clio has grown too fast and they just are not able to support their rate of growth. I told them to give me a call in a year or two when they can support their product.

  • http://www.goclio.com Jack Newton

    Hi Ryan,

    I’m sorry to hear we let you down on the support front. We aim to deliver surprisingly good customer service, and we clearly dropped the ball in your case.

    I hope you can trust your experience an outlier, and that generally speaking our customers are thrilled with the customer support we provide.

    If we can try to earn back your trust, drop me a line at jack@goclio.com.

    Best regards,
    Jack

  • Elizabeth

    Having gone to both websites, I have to say that Clio sure makes it easy to want to sign up, whereas RM makes me work to find out anything about the system, then wants me to sign up with all my contact information to see a demo. No thanks – still getting calls and letters from the annoying Amicus people.
    Isn’t there a system for practitioners like me who have large, document-intensive cases with no billing?? I appreciate how awesome the billing may be in RM, but it’s irrelevant to my practice. I just want to be able to store and access my 2,500-page set of medical records, documents / pleadings, contacts and track deadlines.
    Thanks for the continued help -

  • michael

    I am a solo currently using Office 2007 on a PC, with PC Law for time entry/billing and other financial data. I do not use the PC Law Doc Management feature as I find it cumbersome. I do maintain file docs within the PC Law folders automatically created within my Documents folder when I open a new matter in PC LAw, and I have a pretty good file protocol set up to accomodate going as paperless as possible.

    I am a GTD devotee and am using the Netcentrics GTD OUtlook Add-In, which has worked well in processing mail into tasks and due dates, assigning to Projects, noting Contextx, etc. I am also experimenting with Nirvana as a GTD friendly Aeb-based tool to keep track if tasks, etc., but it currently lacks any Outlook integration or sync.

    I am considering switching to RM or Clio, and woud appreciate any feed back on the following:
    - Overall preferences as between RM and Clio?
    - Syncing/integration of Outlook email, tasks, cal, contacts?
    - Possible to abandon Outlook for task ad cal, and just keep it as my mail client?
    - GTD-friendly?
    - IPhone access?

    Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Rocket Matter is built on the GTD philosophy from the ground up, so you will be right at home there. Clio is pretty easy to adapt to GTD, as well. Both are Outlook-friendly and easily accessed via smartphone.

    It’s really down to preference. Try them both and see which you like better.

  • amit

    Hi ,
    Short intro –
    I am a solo practitioner based out of Delhi (India).
    This Blog -
    First of all for the record this is good blog specially for a lawyer who wants to function with as much automation as possible .(thanks Sam)
    To the guys at Clio/RM Mr. Larry Port and Mr. Jack Newton.
    This is addressed to both companies if they are listening
    its about your pricing —-
    The pricing of either (USD 50 = 2500 INR currently ) is surely unrealistic when it comes to common law countries in Asia and suggests that as a market apart from the Dollar-Pound nations the rest of the world just doesn’t exist in the scheme of things —its smacks of ethnocentric myopia .

    here are a few reasons for saying that
    The earnings of individual lawyers in nations like mine are very different from the US
    a) we are too many and too cheap (avg per matter engagement is typically 250-500 $ and 100-200 $ per appearance)
    b) we take a flat fee ….individual lawyers dont bill on a per hour basis (The billing is a advanced fixed variety , barring the top 30 law firms no one dare’s to bill hourly).
    for these reasons your average lawyer ,at least in India doesn’t have a total monthly billing for over 2000 $ ( the mean range is 1000 $- 2000$)
    I would like to suggest that
    — with current IP4 companies like Clio/Rm can think about differential pricing across nations .therefore abandon the one-size-fits all approach
    —costs of hosting and support is significantly lower in the countries
    —while we are poor but we are many …..therefore the economies of scale would be wonderful and specially since SAAS is wonderfully scalable without a corresponding cost increase .

    Therefore please dont ignore the poor — its not only a prudent business call but also make you a better christian (christian~ ethnical) :).
    I can help you with all the data that you may want to crunch .

    Regards ,
    Amit Kr Singh

  • Michael

    Sam,

    Have you seen the Credenza Software practice management solution for Outlook? Do you have an opinion? I am starting a solo practice soon and find the feature set robust enough for my needs. What I have not been able to find is a document creation program – something that will easily allow me to create form letters, motions and the like with information “pushed” from my document management system. Any recommendations?

    Michael

  • RIley

    I used Credenza for some time and was generally happy with it. Eventually I stopped using it because I wanted to shift to a cloud-based system (I work off of an aging laptop) and I did not like how it bogged down by Outlook when I upgraded to Outlook 2010. They may have fixed this problem. However, I did like pretty much everything it could do and I liked how it integrated with Quickbooks for invoicing. That being said, I have really enjoyed Clio, having used them know for about 6 months.

    Invoicing is simpler, records import into quickbooks for accounting purposes – in short, there is a lot I like about Clio and I found it more intuitive for me than RocketMatter. My prior experience in big firm life was with Tabs and some other “old school” billing software. I also like that it cost less than RocketMatter.

    I even tried LexisNexis Firm Manager, but was really disappointed. It seriously bogged my computer down and took forever to refresh – which is a big deal when it’s all web based. For me, that aspect alone made it completely unusable.

    Finally, I tried Houdini Esq. While I admired their effort and appreciated the free download for solos, it was not intuitive for me so I never took the time to actually get it up and running. I have a hard enough time stealing moments to make sure my time gets entered each day and the invoices get out (eventually). I didn’t want something I was going to have to train with.

    As for doc prep software, let me know if you find anything manageable and/or cost effective. I have tried to maximize Word’s capabilities to generate common forms, repetitive language using quick parts, macros, templates, and styles. I have yet to find anything for solos that is worth the enormous cost. However, I have used such programs when I was with a large firm, but I didn’t find them particularly helpful or time saving given the cost and maintenance factors, if you were to use them in a small or solo firm.

    Hope that helps,
    -Riley

  • http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources.html Sandi

    Check out the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

    American Bar Association > ABA Groups > Departments & Offices > Legal Technology Resource Center

    They have Comparison Charts (and a whole lot more.)

    Practice Management Software
    Time & Billing Software
    Litigation Support Software
    Blog Service Providers
    Metadata Ethics Opinions Around the U.S.

    I thought it a good place for information.

  • Paul Steinberg

    CLIO is a Canadian company which told me they have a “buffer zone” protecting them from the jurisdiction of US courts. In addition, CLIO does NOT recognize that the client has any legal right to their client file (which is contrary to the law of my state) and CLIO will recognize a non-attorney as the “owner” of the client data–consider the implications if you have a staff member establish the account and then try to get control of your firm’s client data.

    I am amazed that bar associations recommend CLIO and that none of the reviewers consider the ethical risks.