A year ago, my firm was a solo practice. Now, I have an employee and three independent contractors working with me. I hope to add another employee in the fall, so we will have six people who need to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate. It is all part of my master plan, but our current systems can feel a bit unwieldy, at times.

For example, if I want to assign a task to Randall, or if my virtual assistant, Erica, wants to send me  a request to follow up on a client intake, we do it by e-mail. It works, but it would be nice to attach the task to a contact or case. For practice management, we use Google Apps, plus Freshbooks for timekeeping and billing. Everything works really well, just not together.

So I am considering practice management software. Most of the options out there are so clumsy and archaic that they aren’t worth considering. Besides, we need simple remote access, which means the cloud.

The two best options for cloud-based practice management software seem to be Rocket Matter and Clio, but I have some concerns, so I asked Rocket Matter’s Larry Port to talk me into his product on Lawyerist. Below are the concerns I passed along to Larry. His guest post about why I should sign up for Rocket Matter will follow soon.

Here are the concerns I passed along to Larry Port:

Why I am hesitant

. . .

Price is a big one. For my firm, Rocket Matter would be [over $3,700] per year. That is significantly more than what we are using now, and also more than many other PM solutions, including some that include e-mail, accounting, etc., for a full-service solution.

On the other hand, I know how much IT costs, either in money or time. I am not interested in keeping servers up-to-date and functioning. I estimate the cost of keeping a server going at about $500-1,000 per year if I hire someone, and I am not willing to do it myself.

It looks like trust accounting is taken care of.

Syncing contacts, calendars, and tasks is a concern I mentioned. I have an Android phone, and Randall has an iPhone. [And one of my contractors has a Blackberry.] At a minimum, we need to be able to access our PM software information from our phones. I think you have that covered. But we would both prefer to be able to sync contacts, calendars, and tasks with our phones. Over-the-air would be nice, but otherwise, we need a way to get those things onto our phones and keep them updated.

And since we can’t use RM for e-mail, how to we get our contacts out into Gmail, which is probably what we will continue using?

Oh, and to start with, how do I get all my stuff into RM in the first place?

(photo: Sanjay Parekh)

31 responses to “Rocket Matter: Is It The Right Software for My Law Firm?”

  1. Doug Howard says:

    I’m testing AdvologixPM.com as a cloud based practice management software. It’s a little more expensive than Clio, but it offers document automation, whereas Clio and Rocket Matter do not.

    I haven’t figured out yet if I like it or not, but am continuing to test it.


  2. Jim S. says:

    Don’t even think about using Gmail contacts in a group environment. I love Gmail and use it myself, but the contacts module in Gmail is very weak. I would never want to use it in a group setting. Better to use the contacts management module of whatever software you end up going with. BTW, have you checked out Houdini? It is a bit rough around the edges, but very promising, especially in a distributed small group setting.

  3. josh friedman says:

    I did the free trial of advologix as well and am impressed. Unlike RM and Clio, it provides offline access (only through PC’s I believe, not MACs), it has a real and very nice iphone app (unlike Clio and RM, which are just web optimized and are available if you have no internet) and very tight integration with Outlook and Google. Its billing and document management functions are much more robust. It is a lot more expensive than RM and Clio, and very complicated, at least at first. You should definitely try out the 30-day free trial.

  4. Terry Lawson says:

    I am in the process of choosing a SaaS PM product myself. I have started a 30 day trial of Clio. I hope you will have the same kind of interaction with the folks at Clio coming soon, with a direct comparison with RM. This process is a HUGE leap of faith for me. But I have to believe that a cleaner interface, less maintenance, and anywhere access will be worth it.

  5. Frank Rivera says:


    I doubt you will print this, well, maybe you will since your ego seems to be pretty big, as is mine. If you refuse to print it I can see that at least some of our largest clients will.

    Hey, you found your PMS of choice. We are pleased, we really are.

    Not every practice management system fits every practice. That is why choice is good. But to be fair, we don’t see Rocket Matter or Clio as our competitors. But you seem to bring us up on your blog often when Rocket Matter is mentioned. Rocket Matter and Clio are fine products and we suggest those products to some folks because our product just isn’t a good fit for all. The products are worlds apart. This will probably upset those who love their present system but our clients are firms that are growing, too busy for a solo firm or are poised to expand in the very near future. This is not to say that Solos aren’t successful, it just means their needs are different. We have many Solos and as several have already attested to they have grown their practice as a result. In most cases our clients can’t get by with just storing notes, events and capturing time.

    Now since you puffed out your chest and spoke without thinking, I will ask you again. Why didn’t you take us up on our invitation to have Layerist do a in depth study of some of the firms currently implementing HoudiniESQ. As I recall and I have the Email, you ignored the idea. I told you that we would provide you what you need to have complete access to some of the largest firms in the country who are using HoudiniESQ. You would have access to senior partners in these law firms, but you turned down the offer. I find that odd since it would have given your readers some really good information on the modern problems large law offices face today. Why turn it down? Because I wouldn’t pay you to do it and such a story would probably impact your advertising revenue, correct?

    You have taken stabs at our product on numerous occasions whenever Rocket Matter is mentioned and I think your readers should know why.

    If I remember correctly you couldn’t manage to get it installed. You did claim to be competent though. You did mention several times that you can install Linux and manage a web server. Impressive. Bravo, your technical expertise must be stellar. it was funny that all your assumptions about our product was wrong. You asked why not use HTML5. This was the first red flag. Buzz word use to impress and hide your real lack of understanding and use of technology. We had a good laugh. Honestly, 1,100 registered users who never installed linux in their lives don’t seem to have a problem though, hmm, we don’t even provide a manual.

    Lets cut to the chase. You are a bias blogger. Probably the most. Don’t deny it! I have our email correspondence. Why do you fail to mention that you asked for our patronage and I turned you down? Why do you fail to mention that you asked us why we provide interviews for TechnoLawyer reviews and not others. Why do you fail to mention that you thought TechnoLawyer wasn’t a good choice for us and that Layerist would be better since TechnoLawyer only distributes to its members? Search engines can’t find the post you said.

    You don’t recall me saying that TechnoLawyer provides unbiased reviews by peers and has never asked us for a thing? You don’t recall us telling you that we have no desire to advertise with you or anyone who operates a blog for profit? But of course you do. You made it a point to state that fact in one of your earlier post “Houdini tends to let their product speak for itself but…” but left out the reason why we won’t advertise.

    Look, its easy. We challenge any product in a shootout, any. Any firm with 10 or more employees utilizing a fully integrated practice management system to PRACTICE LAW, from soup to nuts. Scheduling, task assignment, document management, additional data collection, correspondence, document automation, electronic filing, etc.

    I know you would like to continue to feed the uninformed the CRM is a PMS bull but I call you on it. How is a CRM a PMS Sam? Tell us enlightened one. So you can store notes, tag documents, view a calendar. How is that any different then a CRM such as Soho or HighRise? Which BTW cost just 5 bucks a month per seat? Tell us?

    A practice management challenge. On the merits of productivity , GTD. Any product, anytime. Choose your weapon. Time Matters (they already turned us down), Amicus (they cower in the corner), ProLaw, RocketMatter, AdvoLogixPM, or Clio. Our product isn’t perfect but if you are going to spend 50 bucks a month, well you fill in the blanks…

    I’m curious. Do you really think any of us think you have the technical expertise to give advise on what PMS is best for a law practice? Much less give me advise on what technology I should use? The majority of the contributors to TechnoLawyer are qualified to give said advise. How many staff members have you ever had using a PMS in a practice at one time? How many different PMS products have you used in day-to-day operations of a successful law practice? Yes we have all heard your Time Matters war stories. Unlike you, the writers in TechnoLawyer are some of the most respected contributors to the legal community. That is why we provide interviews to TechnoLawyer reviewers. Your blog has lots of readers but it is no TechnoLawyer, not even close. Unbiased opinion by leading experts that do not ask to get paid to form their opinion. That is why I respect that publication and don’t advertise on blogs.

    If you really think anyone cares how much technical knowledge you posses (after all, you have installed Linux and manage a web server) my intern would gladly take you on. You probably call yourself a architect too. Anyone who calls themselves a software architect better have the credentials to prove it. I’m willing to bet I can expose how little you really know. You up for it? Any boob can install Linux and manage a web server. Any boob can create a collection of webpages and a database. You may have a blog and a opinion but that is all you have Sam my boy.

    There is a reason we don’t advertise, we don’t have to.

    • Aaron Street says:


      I’m fascinated that you think this kind of diatribe will improve your company’s standing in the legal community. One the one hand, you come darn-near calling Sam names, on the other hand, you seem hurt that he doesn’t take you seriously. No wonder.

      Best of luck to you.

    • Wadadli says:


      Sam also thinks he can run office IT on a budget that I spend on dog food “I estimate the cost of keeping a server going at about $500-1,000 per year if I hire someone, and I am not willing to do it myself” and has not discovered the Google Apps API integrations if things are just “not together.” I think you probably over-reacted to the wrong expert, the guy is a little out of touch with technology.


      • Sam Glover says:

        If I’ve underestimated the expense, it just makes my point stronger.

        In any case, how much do you think it should cost to hire someone to keep a simple file server running?

    • Aaron Robbins says:

      I just called HoudiniEsq to speak to someone in sales. Apparently Frank is answering his own phones now. When I asked if he was interested in selling me the software he said that it maybe. He bragged how he was the founder of the company and when i told him that he was a poor salesperson he hung up on me. I don’t think they advertise because I don’t think they understand their customer.

  6. Frank Rivera says:

    You apparently think I’m some new comer to the community. Those who can’t, teach. Isn’t that right Aaron.

  7. Sam Glover says:

    Frank, I’m sorry I didn’t think much of your software, while I admire what Rocket Matter (and Clio, for that matter) are doing with theirs.

    Also, I was just looking at the e-mails we exchanged, and I don’t see any of the things you mentioned. For example, I never mentioned HTML5, and you never offered “complete access to some of the largest firms in the country who are using HoudiniESQ.”

    As for your accusations of bias, Rocket Matter has not paid us for anything. I have a law firm that needs software, and I write about my experiences trying to find the right stuff. That’s pretty much it. I gave HoudiniESQ a try and concluded that it was a bad choice for my firm for various reasons. I could always do a full post on why that is, but I didn’t think that would be worthwhile.

    Instead, I thought I would try to figure out whether I could actually work with Rocket Matter, despite my misgivings. That’s what this post is for.

  8. Marty Johnson says:

    Aaron has obviously never seen “School of Rock.”

  9. @Frank: Thanks for your comments. HoudiniESQ was on my radar prior to this posting, as I’ve been debating about whether to use a practice management system as a solo. I was interested in learning more about the product and blocked off some time on my calendar this week to check into your service. Then I read your comments. I thought they were rather obnoxious, but decided to check out your site anyway. What works or doesn’t work for Sam is one person’s experience, and we have different needs. I drink the cloud computing Kool-Aid because it keeps my practice mobile, but I don’t drink any one person’s Kool-Aid. So I checked out your site and the service, and was indeed interested. I suppose you could call me a prospect. But then I read your blog about picking a fight on Lawyerist as a way to get free publicity and drive traffic to your website. To be quite honest, it was even more obnoxious than your comments above. Your mantra that there’s no such thing as bad publicity if you have a solid product or service is incorrect, at least with me. I’m sure your “social media experiment” will work with many Lawyerist readers, as you’ve boasted on your blog about how traffic greatly increased after the comments on this post were tossed about online. It didn’t work with me, however, as I don’t do business with @ssholes. I’m not a fan of Yodle, but I respect the Yodle guy who comments on Lawyerist. You, on the other hand, haven’t earned anyone’s respect and don’t deserve my business. Then again, that wasn’t exactly your goal.

  10. Herb Wilson says:

    Getting into this a bit late, but I want to chime in about HoudiniESQ. I finally tried it a few weeks ago. It sucked.

    That’s my review.

  11. William Chuang says:

    Frank, I am a solo attorney trying to find a good piece of software that can grow with me and my firm. I have considered Clio, Rocketmatter, and HoudiniESQ. I am one of the guys you should be targeting, but I can’t help but feel your disdain because I’m not a super-duper techie who can outdo one of your interns in a tech shootout. But that’s bizarre because I would be paying you to do the techie job so why the hell should I be able to outgun your intern?

    Frank: Please spend some money on a PR firm, and let them do your talking. Please don’t take that personally. Let’s ignore your misplaced diatribe for the moment. LogicBIT’s web presence is haphazard, with multiple domain names, and pretty rough-looking pages. When selling a Web-based product, your website should look good. There should be one web site that gives all the selling points of the product without a bunch of technobabble and paradigmspeak.

    On to your diatribe. You have no idea how it looks when you treat your customers with palpable disdain. You say you have more than enough customers to satisfy your business model so you don’t have to advertise. That’s weird because I would have thought that any business would be happy to grow no matter how busy they were. Anyway, if you keep treating your potential customers in such an abusive manner, you will soon find out if your no-growth business plan will hold water.

    I will still consider the upcoming HoudiniESQ 1.7. It looks like an interesting product, and I will give it a fair shot. However, if it’s even close between Clio (whose Jack Newton is very reserved, considerate, and informative/thoughtful) and HoudiniESQ, there’s no question where my money would be going.

  12. FWARNER says:

    I have been taking a moment here and there to look into cloud computing. This is the second time I have run across Rivera’s rants. I have given HoudiniESQ some thought, but never again. Under no circumstance whatsoever would I do business with such a jerk.

  13. William Chuang says:

    I spoke very briefly to Frank and he seemed like a nice person. I guess he just resents differently on the Internet.

    HoudiniESQ 1.7 just doesn’t seem ready for prime time. I downloaded the Windows version, installed it, got the license, and still can’t get it to work. I cut and paste the license file where prompted but it doesn’t work. Oh, well. By the way, the Linux version of the Solo is unavailable; you have to buy an Elite license for over a thousand dollars to get Linux functionality.

    Anyway, I’ve been waiting for months to try HoudiniESQ 1.7 just because of the Word plugin. I’ll give them another month to tighten things up (and deliver a working product) before my Clio subscription becomes permanent.

  14. Eric Jacobs says:

    Wow. I was really considering HoudiniEsq and was getting ready for a trial but after reading that incredibly unprofessional rant, I can only imagine what would happen if I was a subscriber calling to discuss an issue….Good Luck HoudiniEsq I had no dog in your fight but you obviously haven’t a clue how to handle an argument. That’s a real communications problem if your marketing to lawyers.

  15. ploogman says:

    I just downloaded Houdini Esq. today (version 1.8) for Mac.

    price = free
    Good price so far, but here is my review:

    It is a web-based application. So on your own Mac/PC, it becomes the server and you connect into it using your own web browser. Ok, fine. No big deal.

    For you technical readers, it uses Apache Tomcat to power a Java server-based application. It is not PHP web pages, or something like that. It even installs Apache Tomcat during install for you behind the scenes.

    Hey, don’t they need to provide source code for open source software that is part of their software? Uh, I think so. They need to reread the Apache Tomcat license. ASAP.

    Ok, finally installed. Went to log in, it asked for a serial number/license code – even though I downloaded the “free” single user version. I gave my name and email info. Nothing came back. Still waiting – it’s several hours later. That is weird. They must be busy. Can’t even try it without the license code.

    I wonder if there really is a good application hiding here? I don’t know because I can’t really use it. Are they scamming everyone with a lot of hoopla and yet no real program actually exists? I apologize – too much conspiracy theory.

    I can say one thing that is not good about Houdini Esq.: it’s goofy name. And it’s marketing. Rabbit in the hat logo? What about the really lame and long 1990s style Adobe Flash intros with dramatic music on their website and after installing? Come on. Who are they marketing to? They need a real marketing department. And nobody really wants so much Adobe Flash in the application itself anymore either.

    What about their instructional videos? Well, if you make a video try not to talk for a minute or more with nothing changing on the screen. And try to use a pro quality recording system with pro quality audio. Jazz it up. Is this professional software or not?

    I suspect the primary developer is also doing all the graphic design and marketing and video. That’s probably part of the problem. Maybe he has made a great system but it is hindered with the associated material, some of which is now outdated. Looking through their FAQ and support web pages, some links go nowhere and some are wrong.

    What about all support for Outlook, Word, Excel, etc.? I hate Outlook, Word and Excel. I use a Mac. I like Pages and Numbers. Will Houdini Esq. connect into those? Doesn’t look like it will. Will it connect into Mac versions of the Microsoft dream team? Doesn’t exactly say.

    What about Linux? Where is the Linux download?

    Oh well, I guess I’ll wait until tomorrow to see if their automated licensing system is able to issue a license. It must be pretty busy.

    Only then can I even try the system even though I spent all morning reading about it and installing it.

  16. David says:

    I have a Mac also. But I am still using HoudiniEsq. The first license is free and you cannot beat that. Secondly, apparently you can load all your word processor templates into Houdini and skip merging with Word, Pages, etc. Try doing that with TimeMatters (which I hate and its merge link gets screwed up constantly as does its database link).

    The guys attitude may be New Yorkish (though they are in Cali I think), but who cares. Sometimes you have to make an aggressive argument to get the point across. If it works, it works. So far Houdini works better than Clio or RocketMatter (which don’t do document assembly and Houdini does). This is a huge PLUSSSSS! AdvologixPM is done by the same company as SalesForce.com and you might as well hand over your bank account if you do business with AdvologixPM if they charge like SalesForce.com does.

    HoudiniEsq = 1) Document Assembly, 2) Supports the start-up attorney with a free first license, 3) Actually have support if you call, 4) Does billing

  17. Greg Bourne says:

    Frank is a jerk and his product sucks. I am telling every attorney I know to avoid it. I downloaded the software and un-installed it 2 weeks later because of the glitching and freezing. Was flash really intended to develop business applications? I think not.

    As you can imagine Houdini’s support was the worst I’ve ever encountered.

  18. Jared Cohen says:

    Frank, I was intrigued by Houdini, and I downloaded it.

    I just read your angry rant here, and now I’ve deleted Houdini, before even logging in once. Good job.

  19. MD Lawyer says:

    I’ve been looking for a really great, reasonably affordable practice management solution for Macs for several years (been about 5 years since my small firm switched to macs).

    Like Jared, I was interested enough in the Houdini app to download it before doing additional reading (hey, integration with Outlook, QB, MS Word for Mac – sounds great; fully functional software to try and use free for one user, even better). Like Jared, I too deleted the app before getting further. Sometimes you really do get more flies with honey…

  20. Lorien says:

    @Frank: I came across HoudiniESQ while looking for a web-based (I think the new term is cloud-based) PMS. The price was good and I thought I might give it a try. But before I went ahead with it, I ran a Google search for ‘HoudiniESQ vs Clio’ and ‘HoudiniESQ vs Rocket Matter’. It appears that my first impression may be wrong.

    There’s more to buying a product than the product itself. The iPhone was a great new device and I might have purchased it when it first came out. But everyone I spoke to said that AT&T’s service was absolutely horrible. I decided to go with an Android based phone, simply because I heard other people say that the service provider (AT&T) sucked. It’s that simple.

    After seeing your posts, I sure don’t feel comfortable doing business with you now. If you act so callously in public, I’d hate to see how you act if I call with a problem caused by my stupidity or ineptness. I want to work with a company that’s courteous and professional. I think that’s important. You don’t seem to care about that.

    So here’s yet another lost opportunity. I think I’ll go with Clio.

  21. Jacob Chang says:

    Aside from Frank’s long comment, which I suppose may be considered rude unless the points he make are true, I find the latest version of HoudiniESQ to be pretty good so far. I haven’t delved deeply into it yet, but there’s a whole series of tutorial videos (59 as of today) on youtube. The support page looks well put together as well. As a solo, this is the best free option I’ve encountered to date. Let’s just see how it performs under load.

  22. BK Lawyer says:

    I guess I was cutting edge when I used Time Matters in 2000. TM set the standard and Frank came from there. But TM got unwieldy as it got bigger and the database conversion proved almost too much. However there is much to love about TM that Clio and Rocketmatter don’t have. We run a volume business and the ability to establish chain events is amazing. We NEVER lose a file when the event sequence comes up. Adviologix does allow chains, but even though I consider myself a techie, it proved too much. It was too customizable. I think Houdiniesq has the best features of TM (Chains and triggers) but is not as difficult as Adviologix. I haven’t tried it yet, but will be playing with it next week.

    I could go on and on about triggers as well. When we put in the 341 meeting date in that field it automatically brings up the generated letter that we send to clients. It completely removes human thought from the process. Can’t forget to send the letter when the thing is staring at you. Rules for field entries, etc….I even force my staff to ask the new client how they heard about us (thus creating a pretty robust marketing report) but not letting them close the record without entering data into that field. Oh and that field ONLY has drop down box selections. I know my marketing sources….I don’t want made up ones.

    A practice management software has to be THE place where ALL the data is stored. It has to all ow you to be many times more efficient. It has to save you money and by tracking time on all tasks, it has to make you money. The best platforms give your clients the ability to view their records with documents generated and dates and times of hearings. Do you know how many calls that cuts down? Those are the questions you need to ask when looking at this software. If you don’t have any of these platforms you are WAY behind the curve. These are all part of the future. Some work better for transactional attorneys, some work better for us volume firms.

  23. I’m on the boat with those who aren’t doing business with Frank b/c he doesn’t know how to conduct himself. As I read the posts, I was hoping he was just one of many sales people for the co. But the character of the owner will be reflected in how clients are treated. (That’s why I take potential new employees out to lunch…to see how they treat the waitstaff among other things.)

    On to bigger and better things. I like what the HArry Houdini for Attorneys (HAHA) software promises. Are there any SaaS/cloud programs out their with plugins for email…it could be Outlook or GMail? How about Word plug-ins?

    Thank you!

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