Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Nutmeg Lawyer Reviews Clio's Online Law Practice Management

If you were an insomniac in the late nineties, you may remember seeing  Youree Dell Harris on your television screen. Born in L.A.,the self proclaimed psychic and shaman earned an estimated $13.5 million dollars as her persona;  Jamaican pyschic "Miss Cleo."   In order to settle a bet that she really wasn't born in Jamaica, I had recently searched the internet to find information on the infamous fortune teller. In my search, I stumbled across the future of my own law practice.  I discovered "Clio", an online law office management practice program.  The company offered a free 30 day trial.  Not a bad deal considering Miss Cleo was charging around five bucks a minute.  I decided to give Clio a shot.

For years my firm had played around with a variety of law practice programs including Amicus Attorney, Time Slips, and Practice Master.  Many had features I liked, but some were cost prohibitive for a small practice like mine.  Did I really want to plunk down several hundred dollars for a program I could only have on one computer?  Did I want to pay an additional three hundred dollars for each additional user?  Did I want to constantly have to pay for tech support.  I started feeling that some legal software companies were charging to the hilt just because their customers were lawyers.  After all, lawyers make the big bucks.  Let's fleece them.  That money could be better spent in other areas of my law practice like advertising or a chocolate fountain.   

Another problem I encountered was more basic. Some offered too many features.  I know that sounds odd, but it just made using the programs too complex and time consuming for some of my staff members. They seemed to be designed by "computer guys" and not lawyers who used them in daily practice.  I didn't want to hire an IT guy just to run the program.  I didn't want to waste time inputting information.  I wanted something that "Delores" the secretary could use with relative ease.   Trying to get Delores to upload billing information and cross reference it with an accounting program was a nightmare.  I didn't pay her enough.  Manually entering our in house case numbers became a chore.  What was our last case?  Was it 124534SA-CR 12301 or   124534SA-CR 12302?  We were a small firm.  I really didn't need all the bells and whistles.  I  just wanted something affordable that was easy for my staff to use.  If I could access the program from home......well, that would be the bee's knees.  (I apologize for using the term bee's knees, I've been doing several of wills for people born in the 1920s.)  I gave Clio a test run.

Creating a Client
Creating a new client or contact on the program couldn't be easier. Existing contact lists can be imported from most standard contact management applications and from programs like Amicus Attorney.  To create a new contact, you simply click "new person" and input your basic information like name, address and telephone number. I found the information you could input a little limited. I would like to be able to add more information including birth dates, drivers license numbers, etc.It would also be great if I could upload a photo of the client (I often scan the client's driver's license).   Of course you can add this information with a little creativity.  You can added unlimited notes to each client.  You can input your clients birthdate into the calendar and simply select to have it repeat it annually.  Want a photo of your client or an accident scene?
Simply upload the image to the related documents tab on each case.   

Creating a File
Creating a new matter was just as easy.  Simply click "new matter."  You are then presented with several default practice areas.  They can easily be modified to suit your needs.  One of my practice areas is "annoying relatives."   You can manually enter a case number or let Clio automatically assign a number to your matter.  You can also add the responsible attorney and a brief description of the matter.  Once you create a case, all relevant information can be linked to it including financial transactions, upcoming dates, tasks, notes, time, expenses and documents.  I particularly liked the set up of the program.  For example, if you click on a client name you can immediately see contact information and a list of matters associated with the client including when the file was opened.

Billing for Your Time
Clio makes billing for your time rather easy.  When you input an event into your calendar, you can simply click the box for "Generate a Time Entry for This Event"  You then select your activity description and enter your customized rate.  The program also allows you to customize a nice invoice billing template that can include your firm logo, discounts, and any additional notes for your client. By inputting your trust account or operational account information, I have also found Clio extremely helpful in keeping my Iolta accounts in check.  I use it in conjunction with Chrometa which tracks my time in the background.  (Review to follow)  Clio can also export to Quickbooks.  Another cool feature is Clio's Client Connect.  You can send your client a link to an outstanding invoice and they can pay online.  The program also tracks the health of your firm.  You can input your desired financial goals and it will let you know how you are doing in your quest to be a billionaire.

Even though Clio lacked a few of the bells and whistles of other programs, I found online access far outweighed any perceived deficiencies.  The program is constantly improving on itself and invites feedback from users.  After a few days of using Clio, I was hooked.  The fact that it was online was a bonus for me. When out of the office, I loved being able to access the program from a court service center computer, my Samsung tablet, or even my smartphone.  Being able to open client specific information and documents from a remote location has been tremendous.  

The design of the program was basic and easy to view.  When I logged on, I could see my list of daily "to-do" tasks and my agenda for the day.   I have gotten better organized.  And at around $50 dollars a month, the price was right.   If you are a small or solo law practice, Clio might be the answer to your prayers.   Of course, don't take my word for it.  You can take it for a test drive yourself.  The company offers a complimentary 30 day trial run.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

(Editor's note:  Unfortunately, the Nutmeg Lawyer received no compensation for this review.)


Anonymous said...

Thank you attorney Baron. I can't believe I have never heard of this program until now. It is exactly what I was looking for... Signed up today.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review. I've been looking for this kind of software and will give it a spin.

Have you tried HoudiniESQ by any chance? (

I believe it is a similar type of software as Clio. Given that you have tried out Clio, it would be great to hear your thoughts on HoudiniESQ, and which software you think is better.

Anonymous said...

Clio sounds good for Practice Management. For easy to use and afforadable legal billing, try

Ron Murphy said...

I tried Clio for a bit and overall thought it had a good approach. One thing lacking however was the ability to have billing "lookups" where you could predefine things that you do over and over again to speed up billing entries. So ultimately I took a pass.

Janet Saladino said...


Great post. I like how you weave humor into your writing. You are definitely one of my top 5 favorite blogs.

Joshua Smith said...

Thank you for sharing with useful, good survey. It important to know that application load testing will protect software solutions from unexpected expenses.

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Scott said...

Here is a referral link to try it out.

ShawnaV said...

Two things. First, I recommend that you ask Clio for a referral link and start getting compensated for the customers you are sending them. Second, I LOVE your writing style. You have a new fan :)

Matthew said...

For anyone who is interested in trying Clio practice management software for two full FREE months use the referral code "Lawintheclouds" at signup. I have used it myself for over 2 years with no complaints!!

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