Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clio Practice Management Software

I am always on the prowl for new software. During one of my frequent surfs around the internet I came across the website for Clio. Clio is practice management software. Think Amicus Attorney, Abacus, Needles, etc. What's different about it is the fact that it is web based. Rather than installing the software on your own computer(s), the program resides on Clio's company servers and you access it by logging on via the internet. Instead of buying the software you pay a monthly access fee. In theory this type of product has appeal for several reasons. First, you have access to the program from anywhere you have access to the internet. Second, in theory, you always have the latest, greatest version of the software because updates, patches, fixes are installed on the server side by the vendor. The down side would be the cost. $49 per user. In my office that would be $200 per month, $2400 per year, to utilize the software. At that price point it becomes roughly double the annual cost that I pay to be continually frustrated with Amicus Attorney. Another concern, what if the company goes out of business?

I took a look at the demo at www.goclio.com. Things look good, but the website doesn't really give a great look at the actual program. It appears that a sign-up for a free 30 day evaluation is required before you get a good look under the hood. However, as fate would have it, I recently engaged in an e-mail exchange with Jack Newton, one of the thinkers behind the Clio software. I asked him for insight regarding the product, and in particular how us family law lawyers would benefit. Below are Jack's thoughts:
In terms of features that would most strongly benefit a family lawyer, I think Clio's "go-anywhere accessibility" is a major boon to the typical family lawyer. Perhaps even more so than most lawyers, family lawyers have to access their practice information from a wide variety of locations, including their office, their home, one the road, maybe even their client's home. With Clio's web-based nature, getting to key matter and contact information can be done easily and securely anywhere there's an internet connection (or even from a mobile device, such as an iPhone).

We also have integrated document management, which we've received a lot of positive feedback on. This allows lawyers to attach documents (up to 50MB in size) to a matter, and access this document from anywhere they have access to Clio. The document management system also has an integrated versioning system, so keeping track of multiple document edits is easy.

The third thing we've done with Clio (which, admittedly, is important to all lawyers, not just family lawyers) is put a strong emphasis on security. We've posted a three-part blog series (Part I , Part II, Part III) outlining what we're doing on this front.
I am intrigued by Clio. A few questions come to mind as I measure this web based software. I will let Jack know of this blog post and perhaps he can provide answers in the form of comments?

First, how would I transfer, synchronize, move the megabytes/kilobytes of Amicus Attorney data to Clio?

Second, does the time and billing module of Clio include attorney-client trust fund management? I think it does, but wanted to make sure?

Third, will Clio work for a law firm with multiple lawyers, or is it designed more so for the solo?

Fourth, my office converts every document (letters, discovery, pleadings, etc.) to .pdf format. Is this paperless system fully available on Clio? The website only mentions "correspondence."

Fifth, does Clio have e-mail integration?

Sixth, does Clio synchronize with PDA, smartphones, etc.?

Seventh, is Themis Solutions, Inc. (the company behind Clio) going to be around for a while? Is it a sustained growth compay, or does the mission statement include a sell off/acquisition goal? In other words, the last thing I want to do is start writing another check to Lexis/Nexis for software I didn't originally buy from them....

You can take a good hard look at this intriguing product by visiting the Clio website at www.goclio.com.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

5 comments:

Jack Newton said...

Hi John,

Thanks very much for the post, and for taking a look at Clio. You raise some interesting questions about our product and the SaaS model in general, and I’ve done my best to address each of them below.

One issue you mention is pricing. While the math outlining the annual cost for Clio is correct, I think that, from a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) perspective, traditional solutions like Amicus Attorney are burdened with additional expenses that are often overlooked. While the direct costs for software licensing might be less for Amicus, once the costs of the supporting hardware ecosystem have been factored in, the TCO of a traditional solution can be thousands more than the “off the shelf” price (servers, backups, higher-powered workstatios, on-site IT support at $75-150/hour, etc.). Finally, with traditional desktop solutions there is frequently the hassle of downtime resulting from software crashes, software updates, and other issues that can rob users of billable hours, again potentially adding hundreds or thousands of dollars to the annual TCO equation. With Clio, the $600/attorney/year (300/support staff/year) is inclusive of all support, all software updates, etc. – and best yet, none of our software updates cause are accompanied with downtime – users just log in each Monday morning to a better, faster, improved, and more feature-rich version of Clio.

While the above analysis is more qualitative than quantitative, at Clio we’re working on a white paper that details the overall TCO equation for legal SaaS in a more scientific way. I’ll send a link when it’s ready.

On to your other questions:

First, how would I transfer, synchronize, move the megabytes/kilobytes of Amicus Attorney data to Clio?


We’ve received a tremendous amount of interest in Clio from Amicus Attorney users. To help make the transition from Amicus Attorney to Clio as smooth as possible, we’ve written software to automatically convert Amicus Attorney data to Clio. All that an Amicus Attorney user needs to do is run a few export commands, and send us the resulting files; the next day they can be up and running with Clio.


Second, does the time and billing module of Clio include attorney-client trust fund management? I think it does, but wanted to make sure?


Yes, Clio has a fully integrated trust accounting module. One of our main design objectives with Clio was to aid lawyers in not only making their practice more efficient, but also to help them remain compliant with their state bar ethics guidelines. We recently gave a presentation on this topic at the Nevada State Bar Association, and published it online here: http://www.slideshare.net/goclio.com/ethics-and-practice-management-presentation


Third, will Clio work for a law firm with multiple lawyers, or is it designed more so for the solo?


Yep! Clio was designed to provide a fully integrated environment for sharing matters, contacts, calendars, tasks, and other firm data. Clio is optimized for use in smaller firms (1-10 lawyers), but there are no technical reasons it couldn’t be used in a larger firm. We find that the “wins” of the SaaS model are greatest to solos/small firms, as they don’t have the in-house IT support mid-size and large firms typically have to manage traditional desktop software products.


Fourth, my office converts every document (letters, discovery, pleadings, etc.) to .pdf format. Is this paperless system fully available on Clio? The website only mentions "correspondence."


Yes, every document type (Word, Excel, PDF, and anything else you could attach to an e-mail) can be attached to a matter in Clio.


Fifth, does Clio have e-mail integration?


We allow e-mails to be included in the “Notes” section for a matter, and are working on improved client-side e-mail integration.


Sixth, does Clio synchronize with PDA, smartphones, etc.?


Clio provides a web interface for the iPhone. Additionally, we provide “feeds” of key aspects of data in Clio, such as the Calendar, that can be synced with various mobile devices (such as the BlackBerry) and software packages (such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple iCal).


Seventh, is Themis Solutions, Inc. (the company behind Clio) going to be around for a while? Is it a sustained growth company, or does the mission statement include a sell off/acquisition goal? In other words, the last thing I want to do is start writing another check to Lexis/Nexis for software I didn't originally buy from them....


Themis Solutions is going to be around for the long haul. We’ve got strong financial backing, and are already experiencing tremendous successes in terms of user growth rate. Our goal is to build a long-term, financially successful independent company that provides very customer-centric development and support.

Our mission statement is to become a leading provider of web-based practice management software, and we will achieve this goal by developing the most comprehensive, easy-to-use product backed by world-class customer support.

Now, despite the best of intentions, businesses fail every day – just claiming you’re in it for the long haul doesn’t necessarily guarantee you will be. Lawyers have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure their data is secure and will be recoverable in the event of a disaster, whether it’s a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, or a business continuity event, such as the insolvency of a service provide. With a view to protecting our users against both these scenarios, we’ve put a Data Escrow policy into effect. The Data Escrow policy means that your data on Clio will be securely and privately archived to a completely independent, bonded third party on a regular basis. If Clio should experience a natural or business continuity disaster, your data will remain available through the completely independent data escrow provider.

Thanks for the great questions John – I look forward to continuing the dialogue!

John E. Harding, JD, CFLS said...

Thanks Jack. Can the Amicus version be completed as part of the trial download? Also, e-mail integration is essential for my practice. Any idea of the actual timeline?

Chris Monaghan said...

John, I'd like to recommend Time59 (www.time59.com) as a time and billing solution. Not at comprehensive as Clio but priced accordingly and it does handle trust accounting. It also works in the iPhone web browser.

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