Is Clio Right For Your Law Firm?


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

One of the great things about technology is that it allows constant experimentation with new programs, software, and ways to run your practice. A few weeks ago, the firm started using Clio on a trial basis.

It will be a few weeks before the firm reaches a final verdict, but here are my thoughts after a few weeks.

The good

Clio is web-based, so you can access it from any computer, which is a must-have for any portable office. The interface is nice, clean, and easy to find what you are looking for without having to read ten pages of a help guide.

Your home page will show you upcoming tasks for all cases, which is really nice. You can also sync Clio with your Google Apps account and the sync works both ways. In other words, add something to your Clio calendar, it will show up on your Google calendar, and vice-versa.

You can also carbon copy Clio on emails—each matter is given a specific email address—meaning that every email that you choose will also show up under communications for a particular matter. This is great for when more than one employee/attorney is working on a case.

Needs improvement

Clio can be very slow at times. I am not sure if it is a problem on their end, or the internet connection, but for two days or so, the interface was very slow to load. It has since improved, but it still has issues. For example, when entering time on a matter, there is still significant lag between hitting return and the entry showing up.

Speaking of which, I have used Clio to track time on a couple of cases and at least one occasion, a time entry disappeared. Fortunately, I noticed right away and was able to enter it again. If it was the end of the day, however, and you did not notice until the next morning, that could be problematic.

The verdict is still out

For the most part, Clio has worked well up to this point. I would like to see some improvement in terms of speed and responsiveness before giving my all-out endorsement. Stay tuned!


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  • Try Rocket Matter. I switched from Clio and I really like it.

  • Julie K

    Email support anytime you have a problem– like the slowness. They can then be alerted and work on it. Emptying the cache sometimes helps. We don’t use time tracking, but sometimes things don’t get added and you see a red error message across the top of the screen. Try again and it will work. I know when you add a calendar items you have to click on the “save the event” button or the event won’t be saved so maybe that is why it appeared to not add a time record. We have found it very reliable. We have used Clio since April and knew we liked it right away. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to ask their support if you want a feature or capability as often it is there, or if you have a problem they are quick to resolve it and offer assistance.

  • Julie K

    We also keep a quirks list-ANY program has a few of these, things you need to do a certain way or remember how the feature works. An example, Global search in the Go! window only shows search results for the logged in user’s calendar items, not others in the firm. So an assistant can not do a global search from her log in and find something on the attorney’s calendar. i.e search arbitrations and see all matters with arbitrations or type client name and arbitration in Go! window to quickly find date. You have to go to client matter>calendar>and look for arbitration event. Another example we always put the matter reference in a task, calendar or contact items so they show in the matter tab. You will see it auto fill, but you MUST select it or click on it so it actually saves in the box. For any entry you must click on the save button. These are little things, but important to know and work with.

    I like how the table interface can be easily sorted, the global filling of fields, and global search.

    We work primarily from the matter tab, and always add the matter or reference to each calendar item, task or contact. This is imperative so the items show in the matter list. Uploading documents, especially shared items like trial orders and schedules is helpful. It is also a great way to share large files securely with opposing counsel or clients. It’s like having your own extranet without a slow VPN to access files.

    The Clio Google sync is a great new feature, but we use the iCal subscription method to have Clio data on our iPhone and Mac calendars. Clio will show on the iCal iPhone calendar from the last time you had an internet connection, but does not require an internet connection. Good for when ATT data/internet is not available. We can quickly see Clio Calendar in iCal on the iPhone without even logging into Clio.

    Hope these few tips help. They are always updating and adding features-ones users request as well.

  • What is it that you like better about Rocket Matter? I’ve tried both, but I haven’t gone so in depth with Rocket Matter. Clio felt closer to our specific needs, which is why we are giving it the first in-depth trial run.

  • Tim Baland

    Hello, All:

    I’ve generally come to the conclusion that attorneys are better off with a smorgasbord of web-based applications. For example, I use both TeuxDeux, Remember the Milk, and Google calendar for scheduling and task management, but have yet to find the perfect program that rolls all the features into one application. It would be nice to have one single web-based app that did it all. I’m waiting with bated breath for the full review of Clio. I tried it several months ago and found it to be unintuitive, but then again I am not technologically savvy. Perhaps I’ll change my mind (and get one that works) after reading the full review.

  • Greta Kirkland

    I am experimenting with Highrise and Backpack in the 37Signals suite. I looked at Clio and Rocket Matters, but they weren’t for me. Cost is an issue with most of these case management-type apps.

  • I was looking into one of these programs, but they seem to be more than what I need and costly.
    I use a Mac and simply need an online program to track emails by cases, similar to what Entourage did, but an online version.
    Using Thunderbird and DropBox created too many conflicts when it was opened and not fully synced.

    Any suggestions?

  • You can’t go wrong with Google Apps, but it won’t track e-mails by case. We just make sure to include the client name or case number in the subject line, which makes it easy to find what you need, when you need it. That way, we don’t waste time sorting e-mail.

  • Mark

    I am also giving Clio a try. I hope that it works well. I would like to have a practice management solution in one program rather than alternating between different apps.

  • Hey Sam and Randall:

    My personal and completely non-biased opinion? You should go a little deeper with Rocket Matter. We tell people it’s kind of like learning to play the guitar: easy to strum a few chords and get the job done, but mastering it takes some time. But once you do, it’s very powerful.

    One thing I should probably make known, as I saw on Twitter you weren’t aware, is we now offer two-way Google Calendar synching. So now users can subscribe to an iCal feed OR do a two-way synch, extended their mobility to Droids, iPhones, Blackberries, and Windows 7!

    We also recently upgraded the iPad interface. This is part of a bunch of exciting new features we’re rolling out here in Q4.

    And thanks for the props, Laura. ;-)

    Larry Port
    Rocket Matter

  • Hi Randall,

    Thanks for the post and positive comments, and to everyone else for a great discussion here.

    Randall, regarding performance issues: we’ve been experiencing very rapid growth, and grew much faster than anticipated in the last couple of weeks of October. This is the the reason you saw a slowdown over the last couple of weeks.

    Over the last few days we’ve substantially increased the number of servers we’re using to deliver Clio, and you should note drastically improved response times. If not, let us know.

    Best regards,

  • Martin Thompson

    I love Clio! I haven’t tried any of the other web based stuff though. I used to use Time Matters. Playing with Time Matters was worse than playing for Brad Childress.

    GCal integration is awesome but I am still waiting for Clio to integrate with my other apps.

  • I used Clio exclusively for several months, from the time I started my solo practice six months ago. I picked it to start because it seemed to be more a “total solution” than Rocketmatter. But that was before RM had trust accounting, and Google Clendar sync.

    Biggest reason I am now “road testing” RM: Clio trust accounting and billing simply did not work the way I think it should. Examples: (1) There were many times when a client’s account would not balance,and I could not ascertain why. (2)There were several times during billing from retainer that money would not be applied appropriately to client balances that I could not explain. (3) You have to select the billing rate each and every time you bill, which makes billing more tedious than it needs to be. (4) Flat fee cases are not easy to bill.

    Although the fault could have been mine, I literally NEVER got my trust balance in line with my bank balance in Trust. There was always some glitch or other that prevented the “true” trust balance from being listed. Clio customer service was helpful, but some of their solutions were simply “you can’t do it that way, you have to do it this other way” but I always felt like MY WAY made more sense,and they just couldn’t make it work.

    So anyway, I have NOT fully vetted Rocketmatter yet. But I will slowly be migrating cases to it in the next few months, and running both Clio and RM side by side. If RM can handle trust accounting and billing against trust in a smoother way than CLIO, then RM will win out. Assuming of course that calendar (and dare I wish for contacts?) syncing with Google Apps eventually works its way into later releases.

  • Randall Ryder

    @ Terry—I agree with the billing rate issue, that has been driving me crazy. Billing and timekeeping issues are my biggest concern at this point.

  • If you set up and use activity descriptions, Clio will auto-fill your rate whenever you make a time entry.

    For example, I have an activity description “SJG contingent” for my contingent-fee rate. Works pretty much the same as Freshbooks, actually.

  • Seth Rowland

    The proliferation of Cloud-based applications is great for lawyers. These applications have delivered on the promise of “liberation” from “heavy-metal” servers and all the costs of maintaining and upgrading “big-metal”. You should of course look at Clio and Rocketmatter as well designed, and efficient practice management solutions. They have done a good job of responding to the market and adding enhancements.

    But you should also look at Houdini Esq. and AdvologixPM. Both share some common DNA with Time Matters: Frank Rivera of Houdini worked as a developer on Time Matters World Edition and Steve Stockstill at Advologix worked as an architect of Time Matters Enterprise Edition.

    But apart from progeny, you should consider flexibility. “One size” does not fit all; and different attorneys have different visions for their practice management. Both Advologix and Houdini are highly, almost completely, customizable. They include a wealth of features that can be configured. And both are built on robust and open platforms that allow you to “plugin” other “Apps” to enhance their features.

    By way of disclosure, we are currently consultants for AdvologixPM, in addition to Time Matters and Amicus Attorney.

  • Joe Cartwright

    I’m a very satisfied user of Clio. I love it’s ability to: (1) sync with my Google Apps calendar and contacts; (2) easily save my emails organized by case/matter; (3) Keep my critical data stored in the cloud so I don’t worry about losing my data from a computer crash or faulty backup.

    When I’ve had a question, I’ve found the tech support to be quick and responsive. I haven’t experienced any slowness issues. It just works.

  • @Seth: I’ve never used AdvologixPM, but I was unimpressed with HoudiniESQ, and I wouldn’t let Time Matters or Amicus near my computer again if you paid me.

  • Julie Kiernan

    Sam, What I like about Clio is the tabbed and linear interface, sortable by column. It just seemed to work with our workflow. We used TimeMatters on PCs and I think there was some feel that Clio replicated. That said I agree and wouldn’t go back to TimeMatters if they did come out with it for Mac. No worries-they never will. I think the desktop, big case management companies are stuck on collecting their expense annual maintenance fees and trying to get their desktop sw syncing with the users smart phones. Where SaaS- both Clio and RocketMatter,is are where the future is. They actually improve their products consistently to ensure we get value from our monthly fees. And no server or IT is required. I can update my Mac OS X without any worry of it causing my desktop software to not work. No sync required, unless you want the convenience of syncing with Google apps. Their really is a simplicity to the GUI that makes it very intuitive and easy to learn and set-up. It works for us and we do not have to accomodate it. 24/7 access is great and a program designed for law firms taking all the legal and security issues into account. It has an extranet function for sharing documents securely. Just the other day I uploaded a 9MB file in seconds and sent invites to opposing counsel, our client and the arbitrator. They create a simple login and password and can download the document in under a minute too. Much more professional and secure than email (although this wasn’t a doc we would have emailed it would have been hundreds of printed pages). Now we could work from bookmarked and searchable PDfs. We have always used case management, so it is not a matter of if, but which one and Clio has worked really well for us.

    • Honestly, I think the interface is one of the biggest differences between Clio and Rocket Matter. They’re both good, just very different.

  • I continue to have issues with Clio not recording time entries. If this problem persists, I’m not sure we can afford to use Clio.

  • Chris Tymchuck

    I’ve tried Clio, Houdini and Advologix. I also did the demonstration with RM but was put off by the fact that I had to pay up front for the trial. But I found both Houdini and Advologix to be difficult to learn.

    I decided not to use any of them and let my trials expire. But circumstances changes (namely increased clients) so I asked Clio to extend my free trial and they graciously agreed. I signed up with Clio once that trial ended. Clio is incredibly responsive with support questions (even escalating an issue up the chain in one day) even when I wasn’t a paying client.

    I use Google Apps and have created a hierarchy of labels so that I can filter “file” client communications. I also created a contact with the email address that links to a client matter in Clio so that I can easily include a BCC of all communications to and from a client that will then link to the matter in Clio.

    I agree that it is a bit of an expense to incur but was not satisfied with using a hodgepodge of different applications. I began to worry that I was missing things. I am less worried with Clio.

    The pros:

    Sharing documents with clients through Client Connect
    Google Apps integration
    Offline time tracking (I haven’t had any issues with the time but mostly use flat-fee billing so don’t use it often)
    Invoicing (also using Client Connect)
    Very responsive support team

    With that said I would like to see a few things in Clio:

    Ability to sync with more than one calendar (so I can see both home and work appointments in Clio)
    Increased number of merchant accounts supported for credit card payments
    Notification when a client uploads a document into Client Connect

  • David McLeod

    What about integrated accounting with either RM or Clio? Does the advertised Quickbooks integration work well i.e. if I write a check out of Quickbooks, it will automatically post to the appropriate Clio matter? I am trying to get away from PCLaw but, the one write system for checks and integrated accounting are a big deal to me. With Clio and RM, must you write checks out of a different program and then re-post the info. to the client account? Thanks.
    This website has been very helpful to me. Thanks to all who contribute.

  • I’m experimenting with Clio for my practice management.

    Should deadlines be put down as Tasks or Calendar events?

    Curious about your thoughts.

  • Calendaring deadlines is a preference no matter what software you use. I like Basecamp’s approach: milestones are “special” tasks that also show up on your calendar.

    In Clio (or Remember the Milk, Nozbe, etc.), I set up deadlines as tasks.

  • Jen

    Hello, Thanks for your reviews – they are very helpful! Do you know if any of the case management systems you discuss in your blog provide court bundling?

    • What is court bundling and why would I want it?