Using Clio as Your Practice Management Software

Last fall I wrote a post wondering if Clio was the best practice management software for my former law firm. At the time, Clio had some kinks that were not deal breakers, but harbingers of potential problems down the road.

Fortunately, I was wrong. I have been using Clio for almost a year and it has been a great addition to my solo practice.

Track all your cases in one place

Clio makes it easy to track notes, time, and client information for all your cases. As noted in this post, keeping a running diary on your cases is a critical to any litigator. Clio makes it easy to track notes, upcoming dates, and upcoming deadlines in one place. As a solo attorney, using Clio is almost a replacement for having support staff, which is pretty awesome.

My favorite aspect of “tasks” is that it combines all the tasks for your individual cases into one giant task list. That means when you log into Clio, you see a long list of all upcoming deadlines. That makes tracking all of your cases extremely easy and efficient. It also means you can stay on top of all your cases without having to look through every single case file.

Clio also added Google integration a few months ago. Clio syncs with your Google Calendar, anything you enter into your Clio calendar will appear in Google Calendar and vice-versa. That makes it easy to only use one calendar, while ensuring you can view events in more than place.

Full speed ahead with no speedbumps

Last fall I had two gripes: Clio was extremely slow and appeared to lose time entries. After nearly a year of use, I can report that Clio always runs at a very fast speed—lag was only an issue on a couple occasions. For time tracking, the apparent missing time entries were a one-time incident. Since then, I have not had any issues with losing my entries. The time tracking software is easy to use and easy to generate invoices. Freshbooks is a cheaper alternative, but Freshbooks only handles time tracking (and does not offer the same ease of entries).

Overall, I have been very pleased with the speed, ease, and reliability of Clio. A year is fairly large sample period and I feel that the monthly subscription price is worth it. If you are considering practice management software, I would suggest trying out Clio (free trial) and see what you think.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ttcopley/4790892219/)

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  • http://constructionlawva.com Christopher G. Hill

    Great review Randall. As one who has been using Clio for the past year myself, I can say that the evolution has been spectacular and I am a big fan of the software.

  • http://gulfcoastlawyer.ms/ Herb Wilson

    Randall,

    Out of curiosity, have you had any chances to review some of the alternatives like Rocket Matter, MyCase Inc, or Total Attorneys?

    Rocket Matter & Clio are probably the most feature complete of the four (Rocket Matter’s dropbox integration is particularly nice) but MyCase Inc has a price advantage and Total Attorneys shows a lot of practice as well.

    For what it’s worth, I’m a Clio user myself.

    • http://gulfcoastlawyer.ms/ Herb Wilson

      I mean to say Total Attorneys shows a lot of “promise” not “practice.” Doh!

      • http://consumerlawyer.mn/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Randall Ryder

        I think Sam and I used Rocket Matter for a bit. I didn’t have any major complaints with it, I just happened to like Clio better for whatever reason.

        To be quite honest, I haven’t messed around with anything other than Clio in the last year because I have been so content with it.

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

      I’ve played with Rocket Matter quite a bit, and like it a lot. Here are my first impressions of Clio and Rocket Matter, which are still true today, even though both have gone through many updates. The one you choose comes down to which you enjoy using better, because the interface—not the functionality—is the main difference. There are a few features that Rocket Matter has that Clio doesn’t, and vice versa, but those will not make the difference for most lawyers.

    • Eric Anderson

      I’m opening a solo practice in the coming weeks and am currently in the middle of the free trial period of both Clio and MyCase, Inc. Overall, I’ve found Clio to be the more robust option in most aspects of both programs – although, a lot of it’s advanced functionality are things that aren’t all that necessary for my practice, i.e. generating reports. Clio’s customer service has been fantastic – quick responses to questions and phone calls checking in to see how the trial is going. It also now integrates with the credit card merchant I just set up. The heavy integration with Google Apps is a big plus, i.e. the contacts and calendar sync, attaching emails, and the single-sign on.

      HOWEVER, the main attraction (for me) of these types of practice management solutions is the online client portal aspect. I’ve created accounts for myself and also a test client account as well, so that I could see how it looks from a client’s perspective. In my trial runs, MyCase is FAR ahead of Clio in the client portal arena. I was actually surprised by Clio’s limitations in this area, given that they seem to be the pioneer in cloud practice management. Clio’s online portal seems to be set up so that the client can only react to what the attorney does. For example, clients can only sign up for the service after the attorney has shared a document or sent a secure message. Clients don’t seem to be able to initiate anything. They can’t send secure messages – they can only respond to an attorney’s message. So, they can’t start a new subject line. If the point is to create a more secure messaging environment compared to email, this is a major limitation. Clients don’t seem to be able to upload documents of their own – but can only edit or comment on documents uploaded by the attorney. The client-portal interface was also surprisingly un-intuitive, and I consider myself fairly computer savvy.

      On the other hand, MyCase provides everything I expect from an online client portal designed with attorneys in mind. It’s truly a two-way collaboration between the attorney and client. You can invite the client to the portal without first uploading a document or sending a message. Clients can initiate new messages and can easily upload their own documents. Everything is laid out so that a client can easily figure out how to message, upload, pay invoices online, see calendars, and see everything else the lawyer shares about the case. Even those clients not of the Facebook generation will have no problem navigating their online portals.

      I entered into the trials thinking that I would be ending up with Clio, but now I think I’m leaning the other way. MyCase has only been around for about a year, but has already made huge improvements and the improvements seem to be coming quickly now, i.e. 2-way Google sync. It’s also formed a partnership with Nolo, so it should have some staying power. Right now, it seems like it is just a short matter of time before MyCase catches up to Clio in other areas (and it’s not like it’s that far behind anyways). With my main concern being the client portal, MyCase seems like the choice to me. It’s an added bonus that it’s $10/mo. cheaper.

  • Josh Williams

    @RR: Great review. I just switched over to Clio from Bill4Time and have no regrets. The Gcal integration is what sold me, and I was thrilled to discover that my contacts from Gmail sync up as well.

    @HW: The word on the proverbial street is that DB integration is coming soon.

  • http://www.burton-law.com/ Chad Burton

    Great review, Randall. Your analysis is similar to what I have gone through. I started using Clio about a year ago when I was a solo. Its functionality has worked great as the firm has grown. Our virtual assistant learned it very quickly.

    I recently cheated on Clio’s task function by revisiting other task managers, such as Toodledo and Remember the Milk, that have dedicated iPad and iPhone apps. I quickly broke up with them upon realizing that the Clio task set up is just as good, especially since it is tied to my cases.

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

      The only think that still bugs me about Clio’s task management is that it still doesn’t allow repeating tasks. This is essential (for example, I want all my clients to have a monthly check in with client task), but it’s been too long in development.

      • http://www.burton-law.com/ Chad Burton

        Interesting point. The recurring task feature is not something I have used, even when available in a task management system. I also used to think that tags on tasks would be essential. I would tag tasks and then never use the tags to sort.

  • Allyson Hughes

    Great discussion! Has anyone looked at or used Advologic? I’m in the process of merging two solos and we’re shopping for a practice management solution. I’m currently using Amicus and PC Law but am interested in a cloud based program.

  • Jill

    Thanks for taking the time to contribute this article. I am a paralegal and our firm is looking into the possibility of using either Clio and Rocketmatter. One thing I didn’t see addressed in the article is import and export functions. For example, let’s say you are using Microsoft Outlook to store all your contacts, calendar, and tasks. Is there an easy way to import data into Clio or Rocketmatter to get started? What happens if you decide you don’t like Clio or Rocketmatter: is there a way to export your data somehow, even if into a spread sheet?

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

      Clio and Rocket Matter both say they will help you get your information in. I started from scratch with Clio, so I didn’t have the opportunity to put that service to the test. I asked Rocket Matter to help me migrate from Clio, but nobody got back to me about it. This could be because, as a tester, I wasn’t put through the regular process, but in any case, I didn’t get to test Rocket Matter’s import service, either.

      I don’t know whether either supports an export standard like LEDES, but I’ve been after both to create the ability to export a matter in PDF format. I want to consolidate client files when I close them, not leave the data stuck partly in the cloud, partly on my filesystem. So far, neither has implemented this, as far as I know.

  • http://smartbusinessrevolution.com/ John Corcoran

    Thanks for the thorough reviews here. I am starting my own practice next week, and so I’m thinking through a practice management solution. I have a trial of Freshbooks going – based on Sam’s enthusiastic support of their service. I’d like to try Clio, but my major disappointment is that they don’t provide local litigation deadlines for litigators. I have been looking at other calendaring systems which do provide automatic calendaring with litigation deadlines like Abacus, but I don’t like that Abacus is around $1,000 or more (I’m not sure exactly – but I think it’s around that amount). That’s a lot to swallow for a solo just starting out.

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

      What do you mean by local litigation deadlines?

      • http://smartbusinessrevolution.com/ John Corcoran

        Sorry, I guess that wasn’t too clear. I practice primarily civil law in California state court. I meant that I wish Clio provides civil calendaring rules for Superior court deadlines in active state court cases, such as the deadline to file an answer (usually 30 days in California), the deadline to file answers to written discovery (usually 30 days), or the deadline to file a case management statement (15 days before the case management conference).

        I have been using Abacus Law at my current firm. The advantage is you can calendar one initial date, like the date a defendant was personally served with a summons & complaint, and then the calendar will automatically schedule additional reminders, such as the deadline for that defendant to file an answer 30 days later. You just enter into the calendar the date the defendant was served, and then the Abacus system automatically calendars resulting reminders. Also, if you change around dates, then the system automatically changes other deadlines that are triggered by moving the original date. That’s what I’d like to see Clio add.

        Let me know if you know of any other cloud-based practice management systems which are similar to Clio but that allow for calendaring of civil Superior court rules/deadlines, without the hefty upfront costs of buying a $1,000 piece of software (like Abacus or others).

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

          That sounds like it would save a few seconds, at most. More importantly, I’d be hesitant to trust software to set my deadlines.

          “I’m sorry, your honor, but my software screwed up the date. … Yes, I have a copy of the rules. … And a calendar, yes. … No, I didn’t bother to check the deadlines. … Thank you, your honor, I’ll be happy to write a check to opposing counsel for his attorney fee for showing up to the hearing I missed because my software screwed up.”

          I know software automation doesn’t prevent me from double-checking, but it would definitely encourage me to be lazy.

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

      Also, unless it has changed radically, Abacus has an awful UI. But then, so does most practice management software other than Clio and Rocket Matter.

      Edit: Nope, still awful.

      • http://smartbusinessrevolution.com/ John Corcoran

        Yes, even though I like its functionality Abacus’ UI still looks like a piece of software that hasn’t changed since 1993.

        • http://www.hartsoelaw.com Tony Hartsoe

          We are 2-3 attorneys sized firm. We have been using amicus attorney for many years. I have stayed in step with upgrades, but honestly, don’t use a bunch of features that the software offers. I want cloud-based systems. My problem is that I’m not finding any that offer things like document assembly, calendar rules, different file-type profiles (collect different data sets for a worker’s comp file versus a domestic file), etc.

          Just started looking. Anyone have thoughts, resources you have read online comparing amicus to Clio or the other cloud-based systems? Our main problem with amicus is that it continues to be buggy, and it’s not in the cloud, which means we have to use Logmein to use it when out of the office, which is a bit cumbersome.

          Thanks.

  • theresa

    Read this and think again: http://lawcrunch.com/?p=6#

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

      What’s the story behind this blog? This is the only post I can see, and there is no byline and lots of broken links on the website, which makes me suspect spam, but I can’t find it anywhere else on the web.

      • theresa

        go to lawcrunch.com and do a search for an article called “It’s to die for (in the middle of trial)”

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

          Yes, but who wrote it? And why is it the only post on the blog?

  • Laura

    I have been using Clio for two months and would not recommend this for busier practices. I don’t mind the practice management side, but the billing side has my bookkeeper and I both ready to move on. There’s a lot that isn’t automated on the billing end of things, and while Clio says they are “working on it” I don’t think I can afford to wait for it to happen. I am looking at other software programs. If they would streamline the billing and payment processing, I’d love to stay put but

    • Jennifer

      Can you elaborate on what you mean by it not being automated on the billing end of things?