For the last few years I have spent a lot of time marketing for law firms. As I have been successful in gaining them more clients, I have witnessed some shocking business practices. When it comes to tracking clients and ensuring they receive effective counsel, many law firms are using outdated legal software and methods. Amongst a litany of legal software programs on the market I recently learned about a solution called Clio that should make all lawyers and law firms pay attention.
From managing contact information to billing time and expenses to sharing documents and collaborating with peers and clients, traditional software is cumbersome and expensive to use. This means that in many cases, even after a firm has implemented a desktop based system they are not using it effectively or at all. I have one firm who doesn’t let its lawyers access the system at all!
Head in the Clouds
Having worked with online tools for over a decade now I assume everyone else is equally as comfortable as I am with logging into a website and getting to work. To me software is a tool that I access to get things done. If that tool doesn’t have to be loaded onto my computer then all the better. With online software or Software As A Service (SAAS) you don’t have to install any software which eliminates needing a server and the costs that come along with one. Instead you simply create an account and get to work. When the company makes updates to the system they simply roll them out and when you log into your account they are there, working, and tested to ensure they are working properly. Additionally if you want to work from home or the beach you just need a computer or device with an internet connection. Then you just log into your account and all of your work is right there.
Getting on board the Clio train
In June of 2013 one of my clients invited me to an event being held by a software company I had never heard of. I glanced at their website before arriving so I had some idea of what they would be pitching to us. From the quick review I was impressed by their marketing acumen with good calls to action, clear cut sales pitch, and lack of industry lingo. While sales prowess isn’t the most important thing it does give a good indication of a company if they have thought past just making a good product.
Once we arrived at the event I sat down with Rian Gauvreau one of the co-founders, and started peppering him with specific questions about the functionality of the product. He was incredibly forthcoming with his answers and quite humble about the products capabilities.
Own your data
One of the major things that stuck out to me was their take on data portability. As a user of online services you should understand that for the most part the data you are entering is not yours. A major example of this is Facebook. If you wanted to download all of the entries and photos you have ever posted into Facebook you would be searching for a while. With Facebook that might not be a huge deal since we are posting seemingly inconsequential information, but with a business service like Clio data portability is a huge deal, or it should be.
The simple answer to whether a service has data portability is if there is an Export button. An Export button does exactly what it says and gives you all of your data into some form of file format that can be accessed by other programs. In Clio’s case it exports in CSV and Quickbooks file formats.
One step further with Automation
However, Clio takes things to another level and will help you setup an automated backup of your data to your own Amazon S3 instance. Clio already does their own backups of your data hourly but this automation creates a system that you own and operate which sends your data every Saturday. This means that if you want to move to another software system or simply shut down your Clio account while maintaining all of your work you can.
As a veteran of internet businesses for over 15 years I have rarely seen a company that is this comfortable about letting you leave them so easily. Personally this is how I work with all of my clients so that if I were hit by a truck, went rogue, or their brother in law started making websites tomorrow, they would still be able to operate their marketing functions. This should tell you that Clio is a company interested in keeping you because their service is good rather than because changing away from them would be too much of a pain (subtle hint, it’s how I operate as well).
Matters and Contacts
The foundation of the Clio system is broken down into Matters and Contacts. When you get a new client you create a Contact and then add them to the Matter or case that you are working on for them. From here you enter any time or expense billings for their Matter and when you are ready to get paid generate a bill for the Contact.
You can also create specific billing on a Contact or Matter basis giving you maximum flexibility in how you handle different people and cases.
Customize the Field
Different law firms operate in different ways based on their jurisdictions and types of law practiced. With Clio you can customize the fields for both Contacts and Matters and create groups for quick addition of multiple fields to a Contact or Matter. This feature makes it really easy to quickly modify Clio to fit your firm’s needs.
Time keeps on slipping into the future
As a lawyer it is critical that you track how much time you are spending on projects and tasks. Clio makes this easier than ever to do with their own built in solution but also by integrating various external services that you may already be using.
One neat feature I like is the ability to have a calendar event automatically create a timed billing entry after the event occurs. You simply create the event and after it happens it will show up the next time you run the bill for the Matter.
Automate Document Creation and Revolutionize your Practice
Creating documents is arguably what a law firm spends the majority of their time doing. With Clio you can upload all of your documents into their system for quick and easy access by all members of the firm. You can take this one step further and create document templates, so creating specific documents for a Contact or Matter is as simple as clicking one button and then sending or printing it out.
Think about this for a moment. Rather than having to hand type in all relevant information to create a document with the cases specific information you simply setup a template one time and from then the creationg of the document is automated. This is the true power of computers: automating repetitive tasks.
I have been sold on the Internet since I first logged into a Netscape browser at my dorm’s computer lab in CU Boulder. To me, collaborating online is second nature because it is fast and much more effective than the phone, especially when it comes to reviewing documents or invoices. As a 36 year old this means I am not alone in operating this way. Even if you aren’t comfortable with working online, your clients are, and will be more and more.
With Clio you can use their Clio Connect Service from within your account to share documents, bills, and secure messages. This means you don’t have to wait for the mailman to deliver your package, wonder if they have opened and reviewed your bill, or if their email account has been hacked into and their spouse or boss is reading client-attorney privileged information.
You can even accept payment via Clio Connect using PayPal or one of two currently authorized merchants: LawPay and LawCharge.
Support, Support, and did I mention Support?
In addition to the openness of their data portability approach, Clio has created a huge library of information to ensure you can figure out how to use every aspect of their system. From text documents to screencasts, you can learn pretty much everything you need to know to use Clio to its fullest extent.
In addition to documentation, Clio also has live support available, from 8a-8p ET Mon-Fri via Support Tickets, Phone, Email, or Twitter.
Clio Certified Consultants
Finally, Clio has built an extensive network of Certified Consultants who have been tested on all aspects of operating an account to ensure they can answer questions and help you get everything setup and rocking.
The really cool thing about getting a certification means I can do something of consequence in business. In this case, I am very excited about being a Clio Certified Consultant as it means I can help small and medium sized law firms handle more business while delivering a better service to their clients.
After meeting Rian and learning more about Clio, I was so convinced that all of my clients would benefit from using the system that I immediately signed up to begin the 13 hours of testing required to become a Certified Clio Consultant.
Free to Try
Getting back to my initial impression of Clio and their excellent sales and marketing acumen is their 30 day free trial. This is truly a free trial as you do not have to give them a credit card to sign up and they give you a fully functioning account.
Once again Clio is so confident in their product that they know once you start using it to manage your practice you will keep using it after 30 days.
Here is a link to get started with a Free 30 day Clio Trial.
If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me via the comments below or to setup a free consultation call me at 602-380-2692.