Clio is a very popular, and rightfully so, cloud-based practice management (PM) tool. I have been working with Clio as a consultant for a few years now and thought it was time to share my experiences in a few specific areas. Those areas are customization, support, and ease of use. Let me start by defining these terms so my evaluation can be understood.
- Customization: The degree to which users can utilize custom information, like tasks lists and custom fields.
- Support: The documentation, videos, webinars, chat/email/phone support, and the company’s responsiveness to product feedback.
- Ease of Use: The ability to start using basic features of the application with no training.
I realize some of these items, specifically ease of use, is somewhat subjective. However, I hope by laying out a definition, my definition; we can remove some of the subjectivity.
I’ll get right to the point. Clio offers lots of customization. It’s easy to setup and can be in use quickly. But it has room for improvement. Allow me to explain.
Firms can create custom fields to capture any data necessary. This data can be required or not, specific to a practice area, and added on the fly as need. What’s even better, is that custom fields can be grouped and added in bulk, or individually! However, improvements could be made to some aspects.
Let’s assume an estate plan where a couple has four children. Usually, users can add children using custom fields. You would expect that we could add children to the matter as required. But you can’t accomplish this as quickly one may think.
First, you need to create the field sets (Name, DOB, SNN), this is normal. However, you can’t COPY a field set. So the firm would need to create all three items (Name, DOB, SSN) for each child (one through four) individually. That’s 12 fields total, grouped into four sets.
Then those sets would need to be added to the matter one at a time depending on the number of children. Not a big problem here, but what happens when a firm encounters a couple with five children? Now you need to make set five. Now what if the firm needs to collect additional data, not in the original set, say minor status, well they need to add a field to each set. (Keep in mind the new field, minor status, will not appear on existing matters. Clio, or any other software for that matter, does not update fields retroactively.)
Custom fields sets can be used to merge documents, which allows the firm to pull specific information from Clio and place it in a particular location within a document. Document merging makes drafting a breeze. However, if we look at the situation above, then the firm would need to have a document template for a will with no children, one child, two children, three, and so on. It would be much nicer if there were a way to have one template and append information as needed. Keep in mind there are some technical limitations here that may be outside of Clio’s control.
In situations where there are multiple custom fields merged, for example, a couple with three children creating an estate plan, you can not specify which child goes where in the merge document. Therefore you need a document template with an alternate version(s) to cover each possibility.
Finally, if the firm collects a lot of information in the custom fields, as most firms do, there is no way on the matter dashboard to sort, organize, or filter this wall of info.
As far as custom fields go, Clio has a good start. But, it could be polished a bit more.
When it comes to support, Clio is easily among the best. Their documentation is excellent, easy to find, and up to date. They often include screenshots, with callouts to specific buttons or features. The language is easy to understand and direct. What makes it even better is they often include videos that are short, direct and easy to follow.
Perhaps the best part is the weekly webinars they hold to get users up to speed. Every week there is an introductory session and a second session. That second session changes to focus on different features of Clio.
Clio support is available via chat, email, or phone. Every time I have called, I received answers usually on the first call. I’ve had minimal wait times, and have yet to encounter a representative that has been anything other than polite, knowledgeable, and helpful. In my experience the worst situations for any support team involves integration. Integrations usually play out in a blame game that leaves me herding cats. When working with Clio support, they have never referred me back to the vendor without providing a significant effort to assist me. Trust me; I’ve tested the waters.
My only complaint is that tickets opened through email, seem to receive less urgent attention than a call. In other words, if users open a ticket through email, the response will likely be slower than a call. I have not used the chat tool.
The last area of support is their ability to receive customer feedback. Their score here is off the charts. I have never met a company that listens to feedback so well. They listen to their client’s needs and understand the context around the feedback. Such willingness to listen lets them provide a better solution than even the client expected.
In summary, their support is fantastic. If you used the chat tool, please let me know how that worked out in the comments below.
Ease of Use
Clio is easy to use. Well, the basics are. With zero training people can figure out how to set up a new matter, client, or send out bills. The only assumption I’m making here is that the firm in question is willing to try something, or act, before giving up. For example, sending out bills looks difficult, but if users create a test client and the user goes slow and follows along, this task can be quickly figured out. When paired with their support documentation, videos, and webinars, it’s easy for firms to grow, assuming they spend a little time to learn.
However, some of the more advanced features are less clear. Custom fields, as described above, have some particular aspects that are difficult to figure out. The same is true for merge documents.
But bouncing back in the other direction again, Clio’s ability to listen and incorporate feedback means that adjustments to these items will come. It’s only a matter of time.
To be honest, the real problem with most practice management systems is usually firm adoption or enforcement. When firms implement a solution like Clio, in many cases once the excitement dies, firms go back to old habits, and Clio becomes a time tracking too. Don’t let this happen to you.
What This Means for Users
In summary, Clio is an excellent practice management solution. But, if the firm is looking to make extensive customizations to Clio, make sure to do some planning or take advantage of their trial period. However, if you are looking for an application with fantastic support and a bright future, I bet you’ll be happy with Clio. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share your experiences or idea in the comments below. Also for those Clio employees reading this, you can comment too!