Clio was one of the first cloud-based practice management software options, and it has been improving steadily. The focus on user experience and integrations means you can use Clio with an increasing array of other software (like Dropbox, QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Google Apps, to name just a few). Now it has excellent apps for iPhone and Android.
Clio users say using Clio saves them, on average, eight hours a week. Clio calls it a “Clioday,” and has even built a promotion around the idea. Eight hours a week might be a tad optimistic, but good productivity software definitely ought to save time. And Clio is definitely good productivity software for lawyers.
Here is what you need to know about Clio, from signing up to backing up your data.
Getting Started with Clio
As with most cloud software, getting up and running on Clio is pretty simple. Just visit the signup page and walk through the signup process. You will have a fresh new account in no time.
Migrating to Clio
If you already use practice management software, Clio will help you migrate your data from your old software. Of course, the quality of the migration depends as much on the source (your old software) as the destination (Clio). When you contact Clio’s account migration team (open a new support ticket after you sign up), they will give you a good idea of what sort of results you can expect.
No matter what you use, Clio will not migrate certain things. These include historical accounting and billing information or documents stored in your old software. However, you can migrate your accounts receivable, and Clio’s bulk document uploader should be able to help with getting old documents into the new system. If you have a lot of accounting data in an old system, it probably makes sense to migrate to Clio at the beginning of a new year to minimize the time you spend on setting up your books. (Clio can handle opening balances, of course.)
Clio has a migration FAQ if you have more questions.
Finding your way around Clio’s great-looking interface is pretty straightforward. To add your first matter, for example, just click on Matters, then New Matter. Clio has made the new-matter page self-contained, meaning you do not have to leave to create new contacts or add practice areas. If the client is a new contact, you can create a basic contact record right there, and fill in details later.
Everything else works similarly. The calendar will be familiar to anyone who has used Google Calendar. Contacts can be associated with matters and companies, and timekeeping is aggregated under Activities.
In July 2014, Clio released a tasks-focused upgrade. Now, you can create task templates, which makes it easy to assign a briefing schedule, for example, with a click of a button. You can also create tasks with due dates that depend on other tasks. For example, you could create a brief-filing deadline due 28 business days before your motion hearing (if you create a task for the hearing date). Clio still does not support recurring tasks, though.
Clio also has basic billing and accounting (including trust accounting). These are definitely basic. They may be adequate for some first, but most will probably want to use Clio alongside more sophisticated billing and accounting software like Xero or QuickBooks. In September 2014, Clio introduced its one-page quick bill, which lets you put together a complete bill including time and expenses from a single page.
Likewise, Clio has basic document assembly. You can create your own templates using merge fields from Clio matters and contacts. This makes it pretty easy to automate the documents you create every day. There are much more advanced document assembly packages out there, but Clio will meet most lawyers’ basic needs.
There is only one big thing Clio leaves out, and that is email. Although with the release of its Gmail extension for Chrome (see below), this is less of an omission — at least for lawyers who use Gmail and Chrome. Instead, Clio offers a client portal, Clio Connect, for securely communicating and sharing documents (including bills) with clients. Clio is definitely not as communication-oriented as, say, MyCase, but Clio Connect gets the job done.
If checking your email from within your practice management software is important to you, Clio probably will not work for you. However, if what you want is to be able to get your client-related emails into Clio easily, that is pretty easy to do, either with the Gmail extension or with the Email Maildrop feature. If you create an email contact for each matter using the Maildrop address, it is easy to forward communications directly to Clio.
Mobile Apps and Extensions
If Clio was a bit slow to release apps for iPhone and Android than its competitors, the beautiful, easy-to-use apps were probably worth the wait. There is no app for iPad, yet, but rest assured that Clio is working on them. (Plus, the website works just fine on a tablet, if you have an Internet connection.
Clio now has a Gmail extension for Chrome that lets you save emails to Clio with attachments, add tasks, and bill time. Clio plays well with Google Apps in general, syncing calendars, contacts, and files from Drive. You can also hook up your Dropbox, Box, or NetDocuments account to access your client files without specifically uploading them to Clio.
In addition, Clio hides a lot of extra features in the settings panel. You can sync Clio with Google Apps or Outlook, create text snippets for more efficient time (or anything else) entry, create groups of users and manage permissions, and much more.
Clio uses SSL to secure your session whenever you are logged into Clio.1 This is comparable to the level of security your bank uses. Additionally, you can secure your account with two-factor authentication and require all users to use strong passwords.
Clients (and anyone else you add to Clio Connect) get that same level of security when logging into Clio Connect to access documents or communications.
Backing Up Your Clio Data
In case you are nervous about trusting Clio to keep your account backed up (this is an appropriate level of paranoia, FYI), Clio makes it relatively easy to back up your data to Amazon S3 with its Data Escrow feature. This sounds way more complicated than it is, and Clio’s step-by-step instructions will get you set up with Data Escrow pretty quickly and easily.
If you sign up for Clio, you should absolutely set up Data Escrow. Whether or not you trust Clio in general, you can never be too redundant when it comes to backup.
It is not backup, but Clio’s Recovery Bin functions as a short-term “undo” option in case you accidentally delete something and want it back.
Evaluating Clio for Your Practice
When reading reviews of Clio — or any software — the most important thing is to try to get a feel for whether you and the reviewer are looking for the same sorts of things in practice management software. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all practice management software. What works for one reviewer might not work for you and your firm.
Here is a good example. Lawyerist reader and Lab member Avi Frisch got pretty specific in his criticisms of Clio in a report he wrote for LegalTypist in February 2014.2 In his report, he described Clio as “a simple product that is more of a basic project management database with some legal specific nomenclature.” To Frisch, that is a bad thing. But project management software with legal features is exactly what I would want to manage my clients.
That’s not to say Frisch’s criticisms are invalid. They are perfectly valid if you are looking for the same qualities in practice management software as he is. While some of his criticisms are objectively a problem for anyone considering Clio, many are just an indication that Clio is probably wrong for him, but it may be right for you.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of other Clio reviews, together with the date of the review. (Assume anything more than a few months old may not accurately represent Clio as it is today.)
- “Cloud Practice Management: Clio” on The Droid Lawyer (October 9, 2014)
- Review of Clio, Law Firm Practice Management Software for Attorneys on Aaron Hall’s YouTube channel (November 14, 2013).
- “Cloud-Based Case Management Software – Clio” on the Cyber Advocate (November 5, 2013).
- “Clio Practice Management Review: Taking Clio for a Test Drive” on JurisPage (2013, updated April 9, 2014).
- “Using Clio as Your Practice Management Software”” on Lawyerist (August 29, 2011).
- “Is Clio Right For Your Law Firm?” on Lawyerist (November 7, 2010).
Clio recently raised its price to $65/user/month (billed annually; it is $72/user/month if you way to pay monthly).3 There is no way around it: that is expensive. In fact, Clio seems to be the most expensive cloud-based practice management software on the market — that includes the offerings from Lexis (Firm Manager) and Westlaw (Firm Central).4 By contrast, one of Clio’s main competitors, MyCase, is just $39/user/month (and just $29/user/month for staff). So is Clio worth an extra $312/year?
On the one hand, $312 is not trivial, especially if you are paying for multiple users. On the other, if Clio is a better fit for your practice, $312 probably should not stop you from using it.
The important part is that you can try Clio for free to find out for yourself whether you think it is worth the price.
- 2014-04-28. Originally published.
- 2014-04-29. Clarified that Clio will migrate AR and has a bulk document uploader.
- 2014-07-31. Added information about Clio’s tasks-focused upgrade.
- 2014-09-23. Added Clio’s September 2014 updates, including Clio Next and its new Android app.
- 2014-10-21. Added Jeff Taylor’s review at The Droid Lawyer.
You can also follow our latest posts about Clio.
Sidenote: Frisch’s observation that “Clio had stopped improving” probably isn’t fair. As you can see from its product updates log, Clio is pumping out updates pretty frequently. The updates just aren’t the things Frisch wants to see from Clio. ↩
Existing users will not have to pay the new rate, however. ↩
In fairness, Firm Central starts at $35/user/month, but it is another $25/user/month for timekeeping and billing. ↩