For round one of our Battle Of The Cloud-Based Practice Management Software series, we’re settling in with Clio. In order to get a real feel for their software I created a simulated client and ran it from intake through termination.
As I stated in the introduction, my experiences so far with Clio, Rocket Matter, and MyCase suggest that each of the three pieces of software are excellent options. However, they each offer slightly different user experiences, different price points, and compatibility with different popular pieces of third party software. Don’t expect an easy knockout in this fight. In fact, at this point I don’t anticipate recommending any one of the three pieces of software specifically against their competitors. Instead I think a better approach is to provide you with enough information to help you decide which is the right choice for your practice. However, when/if I choose one for my own practice, I’ll let you know which one I choose.
Relative to Rocket Matter and MyCase, Clio is the mid-range option. Priced at $49 per month per attorney and $25 per month per support staff, it’s more expensive than MyCase which is $39 per month per attorney and $29 a month for paralegals and support staff. However, it’s also cheaper than Rocket Matter which charges a standard $59.99 per user regardless of the user’s position (discounts are available if you are willing to pre-pay instead of going month to month). Like their competitors Clio offers a free 30-day trial. Clio and MyCase do not require a credit card in order to enjoy the free trial, but Rocket Matter does.
After signing up for an account with Clio I received an email welcoming me to Clio and recommending that I sign up for one of their free one-hour training live webinars. The webinars were scheduled to occur regularly on most Wednesdays and each Friday of the month at various times and were conducted by a live person. I found it to be easy to sign up for a webinar that worked with my schedule. However, it’s worth contrasting that against both MyCase and Rocket Matter who each called me to schedule a one-on-one training session that worked with my schedule. The difference wasn’t an issue for me due to the number of training sessions provided by Clio. In addition to the introductory webinar, Clio also offers a whole series of further training webinars and training sessions.
User Experience & Functionality
Like each of its competitors that we are examining, Clio is operated through your browser. It’s optimized for use in IE, Safari, Firefox, or Chrome. In recognition of the sensitivity of your legal documents, Clio offers impressive security credentials including the fact that it is Verisign Secured, McAfee Secured, and TRUSTe certified.
When you log-in to Clio you begin on your Agenda tab which features your “Tasks” (your “to do list”) and your “Schedule”. Your tasks are the items you’ve added to your agenda or those added by others in your firm. Your schedule is just your normal calendar which syncs seamlessly with your Outlook or Google Calendar. These syncs are bi-directional which means that new entries you create on your Google Calendar (for example) will appear on your Clio calendar, and vice versa. You can also export your calendar to iCal or Outlook. However, exporting your calendar does not include the bi-directional sync.
The basic user-interface is pretty straight forward and clean. In fact, the user-interface is relatively Google-esque and will look familiar to anyone who has used Google Docs, Gmail, etc. A yellow navigation bar runs across the top of the screen that includes tabs for “Practice” (which includes your default “Agenda” page), “Calendar”, “Tasks”, “Matters”, “Contacts”, “Activites”, “Bills”, “Accounts”, “Documents”, and “Reports”.
For me, the most obvious place to start was by syncing my Google Calendar and uploading my contacts. Both tasks were very easy, although it wasn’t immediately obvious how to accomplish the sync. For example, when I clicked on “Settings” under my Calendar tab, the Sync options were nowhere to be found. When I clicked on my general account Settings (located in the uppermost right hand corner next to the search bar after clicking on my name) I was able to easily navigate to the area for syncing both my contacts and calendar. Personally, I’d have liked to have had those options easily accessible under the Calendar/Contact tabs so that I didn’t have to search for them.
After importing my calendar and contacts, I created a new matter. This was very easy and intuitive. After clicking on the “Matters” tab on the navigation bar you are presented with your current open matters if you’ve already created any. Creating a new matter is straight-forward. You begin by providing basic information including a description of the matter, an open date, a client reference number, a matter client (which can created new or can be pulled from your contacts), whether or not the matter is billable, and other optional pieces of information.
Clicking on a matter brings you to that matter’s page where you can view its details, relevant contacts, assigned tasks, documents, notes and all other information you’ve added to the matter. Document management through Clio is also easy. You can drag and drop multiple documents at a time directly in to the client folder through your browser. There is no limit to the amount of storage Clio provides aside from a 100MB limit on the size of any individual document. Clio also offers convenient Box.com and Dropbox integration if you’ve already stored documents on either of those two services. Additionally, Clio also offers the ability to bcc your emails directly to a matter through use of matter-specific email addresses. As a result you can include all documents related to a case, including pictures and video, online and accessible through Clio.
The rest of the basic functionality of Clio is pretty easy too. To enter billable time you need to create a task through the task tab. You can manually enter in the time spent on the project or use the timer feature to capture your time. If you’ve set a default rate for a matter, it will default to that rate. However, it’s easy to override that rate with a custom rate when necessary. In fact, you can set task specific rates, client specific rates, matter specific rates, custom rates, and overrides. Completed tasks can then be easily billed for by clicking “New Bill” under the Bills tab. Bills can be created in PDF format and/or exported to Quickbooks.
Additionally, like its competitors, Clio offers automated document assembly. It’s a neat feature, but does require a little time to learn and setup. Frankly it’s not a feature I’d anticipate using frequently because of the time it would require to create templates and set up each of the necessary merge fields. If you don’t take the time to set up each field, then you’ll still have to go in and carefully edit the document anyways, which would somewhat defeat the purpose of using automated document assembly in the first place. I don’t feel this way about Clio’s document assembly specifically. I feel the same way about this functionality in their competitors’ software.
In terms of mobile functionality, Clio offers Clio Mobile for use on mobile devices such as Droid, Palm, iPhone, etc. You can access most of Clio’s primary features through Clio Mobile.
Clio is an excellent option for attorneys seeing excellent cloud-based practice management software for their practice. It’s attractive, intuitive, and easy to use. It’s price places it directly in the middle between its competitors Rocket Matter and MyCase. Clio also offers straight-forward integration with Google Apps, Box, Dropbox, RightSignature, and Quickbooks.