First things first: Zola is pretty. Really pretty. Designed-by-designers-not-lawyers level of pretty. And that makes sense, given that the team behind Zola are the folks at Amicus Creative, a web-design company. Pretty does not always mean powerful, however, as is evident from another recent newcomer, Ciinch. Zola occupies some of the same territory as Ciinch, such as having a clean one-screen dashboard interface, but adds a few key things that are missing.
The dashboard page is basically a bunch of widgets: email, events, activity list, recent matters, and a timer. From the dashboard, you can also hop over to everything: accounting, documents, matters, calendar… you get the picture. It’s a pleasing and efficient way to maneuver.
The email section does two things well. First, it actually looks like an email inbox you are familiar with, rather than a hobbled and truncated version.
Next, Zola recognizes that you probably already have email that you are perfectly happy with, so its email is just a front end, set up via IMAP, for whatever email you are already using. In this day and age, no one should have to keep a separate email account that only lives inside your practice management software. Zola will also import all of your Google contacts if that is how you roll. There are apps for both iOS and Android (although the iOS appears to only be in beta at this point).
Besides the things that I would argue are a bare minimum for modern practice management software—calendars, matter management, timekeeping, invoicing, and a client portal—Zola offers double entry accounting and escrow fund tracking. There is also a robust document management component that has version tracking and keeps an audit trail. However, one thing that is missing at this point, document management-wise, is integration with cloud storage. Zola says that will be coming in the future and, to be frank, that is something that needs to happen soon. We have rightly gotten used to the idea that we don’t just store stuff locally, we store data everywhere, be that via Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox.
Invoices look like invoices everywhere, but with a nice design touch: your imported logo will scale beautifully and look good even on the fanciest Retina screen.
This may seem like a little thing, but if you are moving towards sending out invoices via email or portal (and why wouldn’t you be?), you want your logo to look as nice as it would if you had ordered up some letterhead.
Zola also boasts a few things that are useful if you are a Getting Things Done sort of person. There’s a fairly high-powered and good-looking Notepad built in for when you just want to jot something down.
The Tasks section gives you the standard ability to create a task list, but GTDs it up with two extra features: the ability to assign things to other people on the fly and the ability to do a quick task brain dump at the end of each day.
- The ability to assign things to other people on the fly.
- To do a quick task brain dump at the end of each day.
Zola will likely work well for a solo attorney and could scale up to about a 20-person firm, maximum.
The pricing looks odd at first until you realize that it is essentially set up to differentiate between solo and multi-attorney firms. Solo with no support staff? $49/month. Solo with a couple support staff that need access? $99/month. Multi-attorney and multi-support staff? Priced out per person and per role, with support staff billed at half the attorney rate.
Bottom line: if aesthetics and productivity hacks appeal to you, you will likely enjoy the clean interface and the relatively low cost. If you have already wedded yourself to a certain form of cloud storage, you may want to wait until that gets fully integrated.