Clio Practice Management Review: Taking Clio for a Test Drive

In my last post, I looked to do an in-depth comparison of different law firm practice management software. Today, we’re going for an in-depth review of one of the more popular practice management software applications out there, Clio.

I’ve been meaning to try different law practice management software applications out there. In forums like/r/Lawyers on Reddit I’ve come across practicing attorneys who give glowing recommendations of Clio and other web-based practice management software.

Cloud-Based Law Practice Management

Here’s where I try to convince you (if you’re not convinced yet), that cloud-based law firm practice management software is the way to go. I am a big proponent of cloud-based software. While I consider myself paranoid about data privacy ever since having taken an information privacy course in law school, I believe that certain web apps have reliable data security and that your information might be more secure with them than having your data stored locally on a machine that may be just as vulnerable to get hacked or corrupted. The difference with information being stored on the cloud is that it will not likely go missing. With cloud-based software, it means you can access it from any computer or mobile device and you’re not just tied to one piece of equipment. I know too many people who have had their laptops either stolen or die on them and lose precious data.

Pricing

Clio offered a 7-day free trial, so I took them up on it. Initially, I was averse to the $65 per month per user price point. It seemed that $650 a month for 10 attorneys was a bit much for software, just on principle. But, if your attorneys are worth their salt, hopefully they’re worth this $780 per year administrative expense.

Update: After comparing Clio with its competitors’ pricing (check out our other reviews) and seeing what Clio can do in terms of saving its users time, especially with the document merging feature, it’s well worth the cost. If I save 1 billable hour of time that would otherwise be spent on tedious invoicing and billing or pulling documents together, I’ve paid for Clio for the month.

Free Trial: Get a 7-day free trial of Clio. Check it out for yourself and let us know what you think.

Getting Started

The free sign-up is a good draw for Clio. You don’t have to give them a credit card to sign up, which normally turns me away automatically. When I come across those sites that ask for a credit card but still offer a free trial, my thought is, “I am going to forget about this and you are going to charge me in a month and I will not be happy.” But, Clio isn’t even giving me the impression they’re going to charge me until 7 days are up and I’ve fallen in love with their service.

So, I’ve signed up. There’s a walkthrough of how to use the product. Good concept. Poor execution. It could use a little work. The walkthrough points you to where on Clio you can create new matters, client contacts, keep time, and bill, but going through the walkthrough is painful. With each step completed, an annoying pop-up stops you from moving forward to congratulate you on doing the right thing. 5 minutes in and I’m frustrated. I feel like I would have rather figured it out for myself than go through the walkthrough if the walkthrough was going to be such a bother. That being said, great, now I know how to use Clio and I will never forget it (so maybe it was worth it after all).

Functionality

Creating new matters and contacts is extremely easy. It’s also easy to merge client contacts from Outlook or Google to Clio. No complaints there. As I test this I get hesitant that as I add my contacts and start creating new matters in Clio I’ll get attached to Clio and never leave. I guess that’s what keeps them in business, offering 7-day free trials.

After testing several other competitor products and coming back to Clio, I have to say that Clio’s integration / merging of client contacts from Outlook and Google is seamless and perfect. Clio handles it the best.

Okay, so this is extremely easy to use. Some of the more appealing features include getting reports by client or revenue and tracking my bank account activity. I can even create a report that tracks my productivity by client.

As for documents, Clio lets you upload your own documents and assign them by matter, integrating with third-party online storage sites like Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive. It also lets you create auto-forms so if you have a lot of cases that require the same type of document, you can quickly fill it in and send it. Clio also works with revision history, so you can have multiple versions of a document and see the changes made from one version to another (a necessity, I think).

I personally am a big fan of Dropbox and Google Drive. The fact that Clio integrates with both of them is a big plus for me, and completely unheard of. None of the other competitors in the space integrate with both Dropbox and Google Drive.

Clio has some features for e-mail correspondence, allowing you to have outgoing e-mails BCCing Clio and then have them automatically sorted into matter folders. But, to get to that point I needed assistance, as it wasn’t clearly spelled out how to do it.

Document Automation

This is one of my favorite features, and a must for law firm practice management software. Say you have a document / form that you use over and over again – for example, a real estate closing form, a summons, or a particular type of agreement, where everything is the same except for the client’s name and contact information. Clio can automate this for you. Clio lets you upload a form / template document and create fields in the document. So, later, when you want to use the form document for a specific client, the document is automatically created with the data fields populated from your client’s stored contact information. It’s so easy to do and a huge time-saver. This one feature alone can be worth the entire package.

Support

Support is one of those overlooked features: You assume that customer support should be good; and, you assume that you should probably not have to need to use customer support. However, while tinkering with Clio, I didn’t know everything there was to know about Clio, so I gave their support line a call. They took my call immediately and walked me through how to use Clio. Really excellent customer service. Very patient and friendly. They wanted to help me out.

What's Missing

It wasn’t immediately apparent that Clio even had any features involving e-mail accounts. It took awhile of chatting with a rep to learn that. Same goes for Dropbox integration. I’m not sure if I missed that in the tutorial though.

I previously used Time Matters and appreciated that I could draft and send e-mails from the Time Matters software and Time Matters would log my correspondence with each client, separated by matter. Other competitor software does this. Clio needs to get on this. Overall, not a huge problem though.

Overall

Clio is a useful law practice management tool. It has many great features a law firm can use to maintain its clients and matters. At the end of the day, it’s a database of your clients, matters, acts as a timekeeper, and bills. It’s a decent offering, possibly the best available in the market, but it does have room for improvement (as do all of Clio’s competitors).

Clio is currently the most widely-used law practice management tool for good reason: it is very easy to use, the interface is clean, the pricing is affordable, and their support is fantastic.

If you are interested, you can take a 7-Day Free Trial with Clio with no credit card required.

Andrew Cabasso
About the Author: Andrew Cabasso
Andrew Cabasso is a practicing attorney and co-founder of JurisPage, an Internet Marketing firm specializing in online presence solutions for law firms including website design, SEO, and search marketing. He has given many lectures and CLEs on website design and Internet marketing to legal professionals. He is on the Committee for Information Technology in the New York City Bar. Follow Andrew on Google+ or Twitter.

8 comments on “Clio Practice Management Review: Taking Clio for a Test Drive”

  • I see you rave about Clio. We have PC Law and would like to know if you feel it would be better to move to a cloud based system. Between Clio and Rocket Matter, do you have a basis to prefer Clio over Rocket Matter. I understand that both Clio and Rocket Matter are the leading cloud based systems.

    Thanks for any comments.

    Paul E. Peldyak

  • Thanks for all your research and reporting on practice management systems. We have used Juris for time and billing for years, and I understand it has components that purport to constitute a practice management system. Have you examined Juris, or are you aware of any reviews or comparisons of it? Thanks again.

    • Software to help you get clients? Software for managing your client-getting process? Non-software methods for helping you get clients?

      For web-based software that helps you get clients, there are companies like Lawdingo, LawTrades, and Priori Legal that connect lawyers with clients. I wrote a few articles on them. If you check out the “Law Tech Startups” post category, you can read more.

      In terms of software to manage your sales pipeline, there are CRM companies like SalesForce, Nimble, and Pipedrive, and maybe that’s for another more in-depth post.

      For non-software client-getting, usually I recommend utilizing a combination of search engine optimization and Google Adwords (disclosure: it’s what I do).

      Hope this helps!

  • I have been using Clio since June of 2011. I loved the earlier version of the program. I tried Rocketmatter at some point in the middle of the things as Rocketmatter had document automation but Clio did not. It wasn’t worth the hassle to move over to Rocketmatter and now Clio has document automation so no big deal. I have liked that Clio does small improvements along the way that has major operational improvements for my practice. It helps me streamline things and basically make more money. BUT Starting in February of 2014 Clio has been rolling out an “upgrade” or whatever they want to call it. It’s basically a major redesign of the website and its functionality. This has been nothing short of a headache. They created more unnecessary steps to do the same thing. Enough complaining has caused them to undo some of them, but not all. The ease of use in some respects has gone away. More clicks to accomplish something is simply more time. More time = less profit. It’s frustrating. Now due to some changes other functions aren’t working at all. I’m very frustrated and it appears that with all of the new upgrades their normally responsive customer service has dropped off too. I’m seriously considering dropping them as I think they have taken a great product and moved backwards. I’m hoping this is just some technical issues they’ll work past this month but I’m very concerned about the direction they are headed.

  • Couldn’t agree more with W. Andrew. We signed up for a free trial at the end of last year and experienced a lot of the same frustration. Creating matters, tasks and followup ticklers was cumbersome. It involved so many clicks that by the time you had everything set, it felt like a huge waste of time. Given that we are a small office and have no designated person to manage all the data entry, we decided to abandon Cleo. Hopefully, this gets resolved soon as our overall experience with the Cleo sales and support staff was great.

  • W. Andrew couldn’t have said it better! We used to work with almost every program on here and here’s my personal feedback:

    Clio – Was getting the job done for the first 2 months, then they redesigned and it all went downhill after that. We canceled a month later.

    RocketMatter – Decent at best. They were missing some key features and had terrible reporting and information tracking. Canceled within the first 30 days to get our money back.

    SalesForce – Used them for 4 years with another company in another field so naturally we tried them first. One of the best CRM programs on the market, but way too cumbersome to integrate time tracking, invoicing, billing, and accounting with so many different integration’s and plugins.

    We’re a small boutique firm with only 2 partners and 1 paralegal so $65/user/month for 3 users was a little much for us ($2,340/year!). We ended up switching to PayPanther in April and are relatively happy thus far. They don’t have every single feature the others do, but for the $15/month price point we really can’t complain. They are rolling out new features every month and seem to be heading in the right direction.

    To Lawrence and Andrew – it’s quite easy to gain more traffic and visitors to your site since there usually isn’t much local competition within your city and 25 mile radius. I would recommend:
    1. Optimizing your website as best possible with the keywords people are searching for to find you. This means that if you are a family law attorney in Las Vegas, Nevada, the title of your website should be “Family Law Attorney in Las Vegas, Nevada”, as well as be displayed in as large font as possible on your homepage, and a smaller version of the font in your footer (bottom of your site) across every page on your site.
    2. Write 3 articles on your blog (you do have a blog, right?) with similar titles all referencing your keyword.
    3. Read the book “Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords” by Perry Marshall and pay per click with extremely targeted keywords on Google.
    4. Have contact forms on every major page on your site.
    5. Pay an SEO company $300-$500/month to generate high quality (high pagerank) backlinks every month for you but play it safe or you may end up on Google’s bad side, so get someone you can trust.

    All of this would be useless of course if your website isn’t up to par. If this is all above your head, it also looks like this website (JurisPage) offers mostly everything I spoke about at a reasonable price and they seem to know what they’re doing based on their own site.

    Hope this info helps others out there!

  • CLIO did not work for me. It would not work when you had a retainer which you wanted replenished each month. You had to type a note at the bottom of the bill. It was slow going between screens and would take you back to the wrong place. Extra staff time of 15-20 hours per month per billing.

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