I’m at the Clio Cloud Conference today and tomorrow, where Clio kicked things off by announcing a brand-new (and long-overdue, to be honest) iPhone app.
Clio’s new iPhone app is beautiful, with clean, uncluttered design, and sharp typography. Seriously, I wish Clio looked this good in my browser, and I really hope Clio plans to carry over the app’s design language to the web app  (good news: that is the plan, it sounds like). Design-wise, the Clio app is right up there with the best iPhone apps, period. It feels like the team agonized over the details in a similar way to design geeks like John Gruber and his Vesper co-developers. [Edit] I don’t know how to give the app higher praise than that. It’s beautiful, and one of the best-designed iOS apps I have seen.
The new app also does just about everything you would want it to. It syncs up all the information about your matters and clients, and lets you track time, see your to-do lists, and access documents. You will still have to use the web app for some things, like sending bills and balancing your accounts, but those are probably not tasks you’d want to do from your phone, anyway.
The only big thing that seems to be missing is Clio Connect, Clio’s document-sharing portal. That’s a shame (so is the lack of a secure communication portal in Clio in the first place), because managing and sharing documents is exactly the sort of thing I would like to do with a mobile app. If you’ve plugged Clio into Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box, you can probably do without it, but it’s still a pain.
Within the app, interaction with documents is actually limited to viewing. You can only add documents or share them from the web app. Maybe that is because there is no easy way to move a PDF around in iOS (other practice management software apps have the same limitation), but the ability to manage documents is something I would love to see.
Some minor features also feel like they are missing, too. Or maybe just overlooked in the first release. For example, you can add a contact to a matter and specify a relationship, but you cannot edit it. So if you misspell “Cheating husband” or “Opposing counsel,” you have to make a note to fix it when you are back at your computer. It’s a small thing, but it will irritate you if you often find yourself trying to manage your practice from your phone (which, after all, is the point of having a mobile app).
Related to that, Jack Newton, Clio’s CEO, says that Clio developed the app in-house. That means there are 6 full-time developers whose job description includes working on the app. The advantage to that may not be obvious, but it means Clio can keep the updates coming. In talking with the developer, it sounds like there’s a lot of stuff on the road map. Clio users can expect the app to keep getting better and better.
[Edit] More information on that road map. Clio believes that more and more lawyers are going to want to manage their practice from phones and tablets, so the goal is to make the mobile app as powerful as the web app. You should soon be able to do everything you need to do in Clio on your phone or your tablet.
So, now all of the Big Three (or Four, depending on which ones you count) cloud-based practice management software packages has an iPhone app. They are not all quite equal, though. First, if things besides your iPhone are important to you, other apps offer greater flexibility. The apps for MyCase and Total Attorneys are also built for iPad, and Rocket Matter is alone in having an Android app. Clio stands out as the clear winner on design, but the apps from MyCase and Total Attorneys are not short on features. However, the apps from Total Attorneys and Rocket Matter are in need of updates.
Clio’s iPhone app shows that great legal software can be great-looking, too. If you are a Clio user, get it now, and start keeping track of your practice from your phone.