I had a chance to use Clio over the weekend and wanted to share my initial thoughts on the product. I begin with my usual caveat: I only used this product as a demo, only for a few hours and with limited data. I have not used it for any real length of time. If you are a former or current user of Clio, we welcome your thoughts in the comments.
Themis Solutions Inc., the company that owns Clio, is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. With cooperation from the Law Society of British Columbia, the company has developed its flagship product Clio which is a web-based SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) practice management system. The program is, of course, available to Mac and PC users alike. Much like its cousins, Clio seeks to fill the niche market of small and medium size firms.
Christy Burke was my contact for Clio and I was unable to attend the scheduled demo that I had set up with her. After my apologies were sent off, Christy made a test server with demo data pre-populated. After spending a day tinkering around, I am impressed. If I were to describe Clio in one word, I would say, “complete.”
The Usual Suspects
Here are the features you would expect: A pleasant user interface that takes it cues from the “Keep it Simple” mantra, matter/case management, time tracking, billing and reporting with customized invoices bill reminders, client/contact management that looks intuitive, task scheduling with all the drag/move and drop functionality of a desk top program. One can export from Google, Outlook or iCal calendars into Clio. Also integrated is Trust Accounting that allows one to maintain trust and bank transaction records. This is the big package. What most would be looking for in a Practice Management System.
But the one feature that made this an exciting release for me: Document Management. We have heard the document management rumbling before. We want something that allows secure access to documents online, save unlimited document versions, and does everything else. It appears Clio was listening and integrated this feature before the launch.
This is interesting to some folks, so I include it: Practice Performance Metrics allow one to track current, expected, and target billing figures daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. For some firms, I am sure this will be a welcome bonus.
So many times on the listserve, I hear the cry, “I just want a program that will handle everything. That has accounting integrated. That has a solid calendaring system. That allows me to track clients documents. Is it so much to ask that it does everything?” Perhaps your time has come. I, for one, have not seen a program so close to fully integrated.
If A, Then B
The single criticism to Clio is that overall interface is a bit busy. It isn’t deafening. Just a little busy. This would stand to reason, given the amount of features included. This is also the issue with ruling by committee. When so many voices clamor for one thing, it gets included. It might not be useful to the criminal defense lawyer, but the family law attorney can’t live without it. So often, the SaaS company gets this statement, if you include X, I will sign up today. You hear enough people ask for X, and sales folks are at the programmers door asking why we can’t include X now?
Clio is being offered at the introductory price of 50 dollars a month for an attorney and 25 dollars a month for support staff.
I Still Worry
I know who you are. You don’t trust cloud computing. You remember Red Gorrilla and all those angry customers. To you I say, go back to your parchment paper and feather quill pen and trust no one. Seriously though, I understand that certain folks cannot trust a company to hold such valuable data. They alone are the best person to protect that data. I would assume, as a reader of this blog you surf the net. As such, your computer is fire-walled, encrypted with password protection and that you perform multiple redundancy back-ups throughout the day. That you then do test on the back-ups, ensuring they are consistently mirroring your data. That you do not allow anyone into your office unless they have been fully authorized (and you ran a background check on the lady that empties the trash, because sometimes she gives you the stink-eye).
My point is, these are concerns you can outsource. Per my discussion with all the SaaS companies I have reviewed, Clio follows the same policies, Clio uses password protection with bank-grade 256-bit SSL encryption. Data is backed up daily to a secure, offsite data center, and daily third-party audits are performed to ensure data security. Clio can restrict access to confidential files or client records by individual or by group via rights-managed security. And, most importantly, if you wish to download all your data back to your hard-drive, Clio provides a way to do this as well.
I doubt that last paragraph convinced any of you that truly distrust internet software. I understand. For those of you on the fence, you should visit Clio’s website and set up a demo. This SaaS is one of the most promising releases of the year.