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.


This is probably the item you are most curious about, so we start here.

Clio has three tiers, a Starter, Boutique, and Elite tier. The Starter tier has all of the essential features many law firms need to streamline their practice including keeping track of matters and tasks, calendaring, timekeeping, and invoicing.

Up one level, the Boutique tier is geared towards law firms that want to further automate their practices and integrate with other software that they use every day. This tier allows you to do things like integrate with accounting platforms like Quickbooks and Xero (a must for a lot of law firms), and also add alternative fee arrangements. This tier also includes every feature of the Starter tier.

The step up from this tier is the Elite tier, which gets you priority support, court calendaring rules, and allows you to set matter budgets. And, this tier includes all the features from the other tiers as well.

Initially, I was hesitant about the $59 per month per user price point for the Boutique tier (the tier that most interested me). It seemed that $295 a month for 5 attorneys was a bit much for software, just on principle. But, if your attorneys are worth their salt, hopefully they’re worth this 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 and then some.

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 the trial is up and I’ve fallen in love with their service.

So, I’ve signed up.

There used to be a somewhat-annoying required walkthrough when you first log in, but that’s now gone (possibly because we complained about it in our earlier review). Instead, you get the Clio dashboard and a couple of unintrusive pop-ups directing you where to go to set up your profile.

Aside from that, the user interface is pretty intuitive. The main dashboard gives a nice overview of your firm with tasks, your calendar and daily agenda, and your firm’s financial situation.

The first thing I’m going to want to do now is set up my firm name and set my billable hour, before I start importing my contacts and check out the rest.


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 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, Google Drive, and now Microsoft OneDrive. 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.

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 initially 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.

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.


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 an attorney and co-founder of JurisPage, an online marketing agency for law firms, now part of Uptime Legal. Andrew has given many lectures and CLEs on website design and Internet marketing to legal professionals. He is the author of Search Engine Optimization for Lawyers and The Complete Guide to Attorney PPC. Follow Andrew on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

11 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!

    • Jack, Does PayPanther allow for trust account accounting? We currently use TimeMatters and PCLaw and I dislike both. Very cumbersome programs with tons of bugs. We are shopping for a replacement and realized that, as a small firm, we don’t need many bells and whistles. We would be interested to know how PayPanther works for you.

  • 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.

  • We are a small litigation firm using Clio now for over 3 years. Here is a list of our pros and cons about Clio:
    *Conflict checking is very easy.
    *User friendly. Not a lot of time goes into learning Clio.
    *We like how Clio works with Dropbox so that you do not have to upload into Clio.
    *Fast search feature.
    *Document automation works well.
    *Tracking billable time is easy.
    *We like how Clio’s billing and invoicing comes together.
    *Clio’s tracking of productivity is a nice feature as well.

    *You cannot have more than one client in a matter. This is a problem when you have several clients with different addresses related to one matter. This also affects template generation. It can be worked around somewhat but does not keep the record/matter clear.
    *Clio has a feature that you can hide a matter from all users. This is great for keeping a case in a confidential status in your firm. However, this feature does not work when using other cloud base software with Clio, like Dropbox. Clio does not give you a warning about this either.
    *Calendaring is probably where we feel Clio is really lacking. We are a litigation firm that relies highly on a good calendaring system. Honestly, Clio’s calendaring does not rise to the legal standard. Event entry is very time consuming and really is not reliable.
    *At first Clio seemed to be very responsive to issues. I’m not seeing that so much. They like to send out their “standard generic email” that they are working on this issue or your request has been put on a list. We have been requesting changes to the event entry feature for over 3 years. We assume we are just on the very long list because that is what we were told.
    *Document templates have to be in Word. You cannot use WordPerfect to build your templates.

    We do not use Clio with Quickbooks so we have to make some double entries. We have heard from our accountant that it is a lot of work setting it up. We would like to get feedback from other firms that use Quickbooks with Clio.

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