Part I in my series reviewing three of the top cloud-based case management software services available to attorneys.
Part I: Clio
Part II: Rocket Matter
Part III: MyCase
Part IV: Review & Comparison
My reviews will focus on how effectively the services provide case- and matter-management. My reviews will not discuss the accounting/timekeeping/billing aspects of the services. Instead, I will focus on the accessibility/presentation of case information, contacts, calendar & tasks, documents, document assembly, and unique features each service provides.
by Themis Solutions
Price: $49/month for lawyers, $25/month for support staff.
Clio advertises itself as a cloud-based “practice management, time & billing and client collaboration platform for small- to mid-sized law firms.” Advertising bank-grade security for your information and a fully-functional iPhone app, Clio offers all the basic aspects required to serve as case management software for lawyers.
One of the biggest strengths of the Clio case management software is the matter display tab. The design is simple, and allows for easy organization of your cases. However, the true beauty of Clio’s system comes when you open one of those matters.
Without scrolling (unless you’ve added an obscene number of custom fields), all of the basic information for your matter is displayed on screen. Just beneath the case information section is a series of tabs: Client, Transactions, Contacts, Tasks, Calendar, Notes, Time, Expenses, Documents, and Communications. Each tab allows one-click access to a summary page for the respected area. Want to see which of your contacts are linked to the case (and for what role)? Just click on the contacts tab, and they’re displayed without your having to leave the page. Need more detailed information, just click on the contact to be brought to their individual page.
Among the benefits of Clio’s setup is that you’re able to designate roles for each of your contacts that are case-specific. In one case, a contact can be designated as “opposing counsel” in one case, and “arbitrator” in another, depending on their case-specific role. Further, you are able to enter a new item into any of the tabbed categories directly from the case screen instead of being redirected to a different page.
There are a few drawbacks, though. The categories on the main “Matters” page are not customizable at present, preventing you from sorting by information like upcoming deadlines or most recent communication. The system is also not ideal for multi-party litigation, meaning that you will likely need to set up several firm-wide custom options to allow for multiple clients, multiple attorneys, etc. Another significant drawback is that the matters cannot be customized by practice area, so any customization will have to be firm-wide (custom groups can help with this problem).
The contacts page of Clio’s system contains most of the general information you would expect. A key feature is that Clio syncs directly with your Outlook contacts and, with a couple minor bugs, brings your contacts into the system quite well.
Each individual contact page, similar to the Matters pages, contains an information card with the contact’s stored information, and a series of tabs immediately below. Directly from each contact’s page, you can view a summary of Matters (cases in which the contact is listed as the “Client”), Related Matters (cases in which the contact is linked to the case in any other capacity), Transactions, Notes, and Communications. From that page, new entries can be added to each category without having to navigate away from the contact’s screen.
Clio also has a dedicated template for companies, allowing you to view all individual contacts connected to the company via the “Connected Contacts” tab.
Clio’s contacts section is not without its drawbacks. The information for each contact is somewhat limited (e.g. no middle name or initial), and there is no built-in ability to link to an assistant or paralegal without using a custom field. Furthermore, the individual address options are somewhat limited, only allowing for designations of Work, Home, Billing or Other. No option exists to include a specific “Mailing” address, and there is no option to designate one of several addresses as primary.
Clio makes it very easy to add an item to your calendar or tasks list for any particular matter. All you need to do is enter the descriptive information about the entry, and the time of the appointment or due date of the task. To attach it to a specific matter, Clio doesn’t require you to have any assigned matter number memorized, simply begin typing the case name, and a list of cases will be brought up based on predictive text.
Clio’s mobile app works nicely with this feature too, providing the option to receive reminders about upcoming appointments or tasks via email or via popup. When a calendar appointment begins, you can receive a notification on your iPhone just like an instant message, always keeping you up-to-date.
However, Clio’s calendar misses out on a huge opportunity by failing to link in any way to a mapping service (such as Google Maps or MapQuest). Reportedly, adding such a feature is a priority for a future update. Another drawback is that there is no way to link a calendar entry or task to a contact other than who it is assigned to. So a task to call a certain attorney, it doesn’t just let me click on the attorney’s name to get his phone number, or even link to his contact page. An opportunity missed, in my opinion. Also, there is no functionality available to assign tasks to more than one attorney.
Clio’s online document management is one of their strong points. You are able to sync your documents via Dropbox, Google Drive, or Net Documents, allowing for considerable versatility. Even if you don’t use one of those cloud-based storage options, adding documents to Clio is phenomenally easy and intuitive. When you add a new document, simply type in its title, select its category (from a customizable list), and use the predictive text to attach it to a particular matter. Choose your document’s category from a large (and customizable) list of options. Save multiple versions, giving you the ability to access a version history of what you upload.
Clio’s greatest weakness when it comes to document management is the inability to link documents together (e.g. linking summons & complaint) unless you store them as one document. You are also unable to view multiple categories together unless you’re willing to view them all. If you want to view ONLY the Pleadings and Discovery at the same time, you’re out of luck (although reportedly being addressed in a future update). I would also love to see document grouping as well (motion + brief in support + brief in opposition + order).
Clio allows you to set up document automation of templates in several different formats: .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, and .xls. Clio has a considerable list of merge fields for setting up your templates, including a significant number of fields available for customized entries. If you add a custom field to either your matters or your contacts and designate that field as a person/business, you will be able to include full contact information for that entry in a template.
However, the options related to custom fields are also a drawback. Without creating a considerable number of custom fields, your options for merge fields based on the standard entry are fairly limited (e.g. the only case contact you’re initially able to include in merge fields is the single contact designated as “client”). Want to send a letter to anyone else related to the matter? They need to have their own custom field.
Easily the most unique feature for Clio is its fully-functional iPhone app. Instead of having to rely on your phone’s web browser to bring up your case information, Clio’s app provides access in a tool that’s designed to work optimally on your iPhone. Free with your Clio account, no other cloud-based case management software can claim to have better mobile access than Clio.
4.5 out of 5.
Clio’s strengths are in its presentation and accessibility of case information. By designing an interface that places the important information of each case in the prime real estate, you’ll never have to search for the information again. Also, the ability to access information for each case through the tabs on the screen without having to navigate to another page is huge. However, Clio misses some huge opportunities by offering a slimmed-down contact page option. The customizable entries are nice, but there should always be an option for middle name/initial, and the omission of primary vs. mailing address is pretty significant. On the other hand, the document management options are quite impressive.
Did you find this review helpful? Have a question about my methods? Disagree? Leave a comment below!
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